The Road Beyond Early Adopters: An Analysis of the Experiences of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Drivers in California
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This thesis focuses on hydrogen fuel cell vehicle (FCV) drivers experiences with the refueling infrastructure and vehicle, after initial adoption, to provide insight into their potential continued use of the vehicles. The recent growth in the California FCV market offers the opportunity to analyze how stations that drivers use after some experience compare to those they initially intended to use. The first part of this thesis uses data collected from an online survey completed by 124 FCV adopters in California in early 2019. Respondents listed stations they initially planned to use, stations that they later used, reasons for using them, and important travel destinations. Results show that 40% of respondents changed refueling stations, and in these cases their primary station was farther from home, work, and/or their commuting route than for those who did not change stations. Results indicate differing reasons for FCV divers to add stations over time, and that a mixture of geographic and station-level characteristics influence this outcome. Building from this study, the second part of this thesis assesses the varied nature of drivers' experiences and if this sample of FCV drivers would be willing to continue using their vehicles. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 of the drivers who previously took the online survey. This research helps to understand how U.S. FCV drivers’ opinions of the vehicles and their supporting infrastructure have changed since adoption. Drivers revealed that they are willing to re-adopt an FCV but many have concerns about the growing congestion at stations due to the growth in FCV sales. Additional reliable stations that are located in a safe area and are easily accessible would be beneficial for these FCV drivers and may also help incentivize others to adopt the vehicles and advance this pathway towards a more sustainable transportation future.