Where is the Middle East’s first Hydrogen Fuel Station?

19 November 2017

Lab Chat

Like much of the rest of the world, the Middle East is beginning a transition towards alternatively fuelled vehicles. They reached a landmark moment in that transition last month, when the first station for refuelling hydrogen fuel cell vehicles was opened. Read on to see how the development came about and what it means for the region’s roads.

The Rise of Hydrogen

The new station was opened in Dubai’s Festival City, in the Toyota Al Badia showroom. Starting in May, the construction was a collaboration between Al Futtaim Motors and French gas technology company Air Liquide. It comes as Al Futtaim – exclusive distributors of Toyota in the UAE – look to push Toyota’s new hydrogen-powered model.

Toyota’s Mirai model is a revolution for the auto world. It has no internal combustion engine, meaning it relies on hydrogen fuel for power. The car provides emissions-free driving, as well as using a nickel-metal hydride battery that stores energy while the car is in use and assists the car when it needs more power for acceleration. It can also be refilled in less than five minutes.

One small problem

So, with the first fuel station for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), it looks like the hydrogen revolution is firmly underway in the Middle East… Not quite. It will still be several years until any hydrogen-powered vehicles will be available to UAE residents.

So far, Toyota has tested just three of their hydrogen-powered cars, and admits sales are not an immediate target. “We’ve got several years minimum before we actually put an FCV on sale [in the UAE],” explains Al Futtaim’s sales manager Matthew Clark.

Why so long?

The longevity of Toyota’s plans is partly down to the need for more FCV fuel stations. Having one is a promising sign, but the UAE would require around ten for proper coverage, Clark suggests. It’s estimated that each of these stations cost around 2 million US dollars, compared to around a sixth of that cost for a conventional petrol station.

At the moment, we’re also seeing a push for electric vehicles, with fast developing infrastructure and a range of incentives like toll exemptions and free public charging in the UAE. That could make funding for FCV fuel stations harder to come by, but both signal at positive shift at a time when dirty fuel is plaguing air quality in places like Delhi.

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