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San Diego serving more zero emission cars with second hydrogen fuel cell filling station

The hydrogen pump is one of four that just opened at a Mission Valley Mobil station, so owners of hydrogen fuel cell cars can come to fill up. May 11, 2023
Thomas Fudge
The hydrogen pump is one of four that just opened at a Mission Valley Mobil station, so owners of hydrogen fuel cell cars can come to fill up. May 11, 2023

Mira Mesa resident Pramod Patil locks a hydrogen pump onto his fuel cell car for a fill up. It’s just like using a gas pump and only takes a couple minutes to refuel.

Patil said the car is comfortable and its only emission is water.

“We are all concerned about global warming and we have seen the impact it makes into the environment,” Patil said. “So the tiny things you make toward making things environmentally friendly — it’s good to have that feeling also.”


Patil came to a Mobil station on Mission Center Road, which has four hydrogen pumps. It has become the second hydrogen fuel station available to San Diego's hydrogen car drivers. It opened last Tuesday.

California’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Partnership estimates there are 15,000 hydrogen fuel cell cars on California roads. Why decide to drive hydrogen?

“First off, they are damn fun cars to drive,” said Keith Malone, a spokesman for the Fuel Cell Partnership.

Most of those cars, and most of the hydrogen stations, are found in Orange and LA Counties and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Malone said the California Air Resources Board (CARB) definitely sees a future for this kind of electric vehicle as the state strives toward its zero-emission mandate.

What are we gonna need to get to 100% zero-emission cars by 2035? And (CARB) realized that probably about 20-to-25% of the market is going to be fuel cell cars,” Malone said.


Malone often gets the question, which is better? A battery-powered electric car or a hydrogen fuel cell car? He says it depends where you live and what you want.

Patil said, environmentally, a hydrogen car has no 1,000 pound toxic battery you have to dispose of at the end of the car’s life. But there are definitely challenges to filling up with hydrogen.

In San Diego, buying a hydrogen car is a hard choice to make. Aside from the Mission Valley Mobil station there is only one other place to buy hydrogen fuel: A station in Carmel Valley that only has one pump.

“You know, without the infrastructure it’s a ’chicken-and-egg’ question. Without that, it’s really hard to purchase a zero-emission vehicle that’s hydrogen fueled if you don’t have access to multiple stations, like people are used to with gas stations,” said Susan Freedman, a climate planning manager with San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Freedman said SANDAG has a goal of creating just under 50 hydrogen fuel stations in San Diego County by 2030. Malone said the Fuel Cell Partnership hopes to have 1,000 hydrogen filling stations in California by 2035.

Thomas Fudge
Steve Thorne gets ready to fill up his Honda Clarity with hydrogen fuel at a new hydrogen filling station in Mission Valley. May 12, 2023

Producing hydrogen fuel in a renewable manner is done by separating hydrogen and oxygen in water by use of an electric charge, a process called electrolysis. Malone said there are places where that is happening.

“We have a new plant in North Las Vegas by Air Liquide that came on line just last year that is producing renewable hydrogen. Another company called Linde has a plant in Ontario, California and they’ve been expanding their renewable capacity with electrolysis,” Malone said.

Right now, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota are making hydrogen fuel cell cars that are available in the U.S.