'Uncertain demand' | Canadian city quietly shelves plans for hydrogen refuelling station




Edmonton also rejects request from local transit authority for US$47m splurge on 40 H2 buses


The Canadian city of Edmonton has shelved plans to contract out the construction of a hydrogen refuelling station, it emerged yesterday (Tuesday), with officials citing uncertain demand for the fuel in the short term.


The request for proposals (RFP) for a private company to build and operate the filling station in the Centennial bus station run by publicly-owned Edmonton Transit Services (ETS), was cancelled on 6 September 2023, one day after the tender closed.


The tender received four responses, a spokesperson for the city of Edmonton told Hydrogen Insight. However, the province of Alberta’s tendering page gives no further details about the contract that had been on offer.


City officials told local newspaper the Edmonton Journal (EJ) that the project has been “paused” rather than cancelled, because short-term demand projections for H2 have changed.


“Given the evolving nature of these emerging technologies, we have taken an incremental approach to the adoption of hydrogen propulsion technologies into the city’s fleet,” a spokesperson for the city of Edmonton confirmed to Hydrogen Insight.


“Projected demands fluctuate and guaranteeing a minimum demand is difficult at this time. Construction of a permanent fuelling station will need to be well-timed to provide maximum value for industry and the city of Edmonton.”


The city intends to relaunch the RFP, but only when “there is greater clarity and consistent demand for high volumes of hydrogen fuel” in the area.


It is not clear what data the city was using to forecast demand or how it perceives it changing, however the RFP was launched in April 2023 promising to “create demand” for hydrogen use in heavy-duty transport applications.


As of October 2023, ETS is operating two hydrogen buses in Edmonton as part of a pilot programme financed by Alberta’s C$4.6m (US$3.4m) Zero Emission Hydrogen Transit initiative, the outcome of which will be used to determine the next steps for the H2 refuelling station.


The city also plans to retrofit two existing diesel buses with hydrogen fuel cell technology, while Edmonton’s regional airport also bought 100 hydrogen-powered passenger vehicles — Toyota Mirai models — for use in its ground operations.


However, the city of Edmonton recently rejected a request by ETS to buy 40 hydrogen fuel cell buses for around C$64m (US$47m), opting to sanction the purchase of 20 diesel models instead.


A spokesman for Edmonton told Hydrogen Insight that the decision was due to “fiscal realities”, but also because it needed the diesel buses to fill the gaps in its current fleet.


At least some of officials’ anxiety about investing in new technology appears to be related to the poor performance of the city’s 60 battery-electric buses, half of which are reportedly out of service due to technical issues.


“These are new technologies, and we need to be responsible in a way that whatever we end up doing, we do not repeat the mistakes of the electric vehicle purchases that we saw the previous council made the decision on,” Arjan Sharma, a branch manager in charge of the city's fleet and facilities, told the EJ.


“Any new technology we embrace — I’m excited about hydrogen, but we also need to proceed with caution.”


The city of Edmonton is currently suing the manufacturer of the battery-electric models, Proterra, for C$82m for alleged breaches of contract and negligence. Proterra filed for bankruptcy last summer and has since been sold to another electric vehicle company, Phoenix Motor.




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