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In California, nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation. Transitioning to cleaner Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) will provide important air quality and climate benefits to our communities. These hydrogen-fueled vehicles produce 30 to 60 percent fewer GHG emissions than conventional gasoline-powered automobiles, and emit no harmful air pollutants.

The Vehicles
FCEVs use compressed hydrogen gas for fuel. When hydrogen is combined with air in the vehicle’s fuel cell, electricity is created and used to power the car’s electric motor. The most recent FCEVs can travel over 250 miles on a single tank of hydrogen. FCEVs can also be refueled in 3 to 5 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes to fill up with gasoline or diesel. Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Hyundai are already offering FCEVs for lease and sale. Audi, Chevy, Nissan, and Honda have announced plans for new hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the coming years.

How a Fuel Cell Works

How do FCEVs Compare?
FCEVs are much cleaner than gasoline- and diesel-powered automobiles. When gasoline or diesel fuels are burned in a car or truck, smog and GHG emissions are created. FCEVs are a “zero-emission vehicle”, which means that they generate no tailpipe emissions of harmful air pollutants or GHGs. FCEVs currently achieve slightly lower reductions in climate pollution than pure Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) that use California’s clean electricity. CEC encourages new car buyers to carefully consider their day-to-day driving needs and the performance of BEVs and FCEVs before moving forward with the purchase of the vehicle.


Zero Emission Vehicles

Combustion Engine

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

Battery Electric Vehicle

Fuel Type




Average Fuel Economy

60 MPGe

110 MPGe

23 MPG

Annual Fuel Cost 1

$0 – $1,400 *



Starting Price




Incentives 2

Federal Tax Credit:
up to $8,000

California State Rebate:
$5,000 – $7,000

Federal Tax Credit:
up to $7,500

California State Rebate:
$2,500 – $4,500

None Available

After-Incentive Price Range

$42,500 – $53,500

$18,700 – $25,700

Not Applicable

Average Driving Range

314 miles

110 miles

418 miles

Fueling time

3 to 5 min

20-30 minutes
(w/ DC Fast Charging)

3.5 to 12 hours
(w/ Level 2 Charging)

3 to 5 minutes

1 Based on EPA annual fuel cost estimates from

2 Federal tax credits amounts depend on an individual’s tax liability and vehicle attributes; updated income eligibility requirements for the rebates from the State of California came into effect on November 1, 2016. Please go to for more information.

* Toyota is covering the fuel costs for drivers of their fuel cell electric vehicles for the first three years (up to $15,000).

Sources: Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak, University of Michigan;

Hydrogen Fuel
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in our universe and is pretty much everywhere: in water, natural gas, and organic materials like tree bark and food. But herein lies the challenge: hydrogen binds to pretty much anything. To get pure hydrogen that can be used as a fuel, it has to be separated and purified. Energy, such as electricity or heat, must be used to separate hydrogen out.

Most hydrogen is currently made from the reformation of non-renewable natural gas, using high pressure steam. Research has shown that hydrogen produced from natural gas is still much cleaner than gasoline and diesel and is almost as clean as California’s electricity. Replacing traditional fossil fuels with hydrogen will achieve a net reduction in climate pollutants and improve air quality in local communities.

Under California state law, at least 33% of the energy used to produce hydrogen fuel has to come from renewable sources. Hydrogen producers in the state currently meet meet this requirement with the purchase of carbon credits, which is less ideal than using direct inputs of renewable energy to create the fuel. However, efforts are underway to develop new production pathways that will increase the amount of renewable energy going directly into hydrogen production. This could reduce reliance on carbon credits in the future.


Helping Launch the Central Coast’s First Hydrogen Fueling Station:
CEC and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District worked together to usher in the opening of our region’s first hydrogen fueling station, located just off of La Cumbre Road in Santa Barbara. The State of California’s has committed to building a strong, well-connected hydrogen fueling network by funding construction of 100 hydrogen stations. There are already 21 stations operating in California, and 50 stations are expected to be in operation by the end of 2017.

Hydrogen Readiness Planning:
CEC is working closely with partners to produce a “Hydrogen Readiness Plan” for the Tri-Counties, which will provide a crucial foundation for siting and constructing additional hydrogen fueling stations in the region. The project is led by the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD), with support from UC Irvine’s Advanced Energy and Power Program, the Ventura County and San Luis Obispo County APCDs, Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition, and Energy Independence Now. The final Hydrogen Readiness Plan for the region will be completed in early 2017.

Helping Community Members Access Incentives:
Beyond building fueling infrastructure, the higher cost of FCEVs is the largest challenge for consumers – an issue that the state, federal government, and automobile manufacturers are all working to address. Drivers who purchase an FCEV may be eligible for federal tax incentives of up to $8,000 (depending on tax liability). California currently offers a rebate of $5,000, and lower-income consumers in the state can receive an increased rebate amount. Some manufactures also cover fueling costs for FCEV drivers as an additional incentive.


Learn more about FCEVs and how they compare with EVs and internal combustion engine vehicles:
If you are in the market for a new car or truck, our team is here to help find a cleaner vehicle that will meet your transportation needs, without the pressure of a sales person. Please call us if you have questions about the vehicle that can best fit your lifestyle.

Join Us at Our Events:
Attend one of CEC’s many green car shows to get a first-hand look at FCEVs. These events are a great way to learn more about clean vehicle technologies and to talk one-on-one with FCEV owners.

Spread the Word:
Help us share information about driving clean on social media and by word of mouth. Be a powerful agent for change by talking with friends and leading by example.

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