Shell has permanently closed six of its seven hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) for passenger cars in California, citing “supply complications and other external market factors”.

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This leaves the oil major only operating three H2 filling stations for heavy-duty vehicles in the state, as well as one light-duty station, in the city of Torrance, a Los Angeles suburb, which remains open for the time being while Shell “is exploring options to divest”, a spokesman told Hydrogen Insight on 14 February.

Shell had last September told Hydrogen Insight that it had “discontinued its plan to build and operate additional light-duty vehicle fueling stations in California”, effectively scrapping the 48 new sites it had previously announced it would build.

At the time, the oil major had also “temporarily” shut down five of its hydrogen stations, with a note to customers that was unable to confirm a date when these sites would reopen.

A Shell spokesman told Hydrogen Insight on 9 February: “Shell discontinued the build out of its light-duty hydrogen station network in California in 2023, and after temporary closure of five of its seven light-duty stations, made the decision to permanently close its light duty station network in California in early 2024. This was due to a number of market factors.”

Shell previously told Hydrogen Insight in December that it would prioritise hydrogen for heavy-duty mobility, while investing in EV charging to decarbonise light-duty vehicles.

This decision could also reflect a lack of demand. While California was one of the few markets for hydrogen-powered vehicles to grow this year, only 3,143 were registered in 2023 — less than 1% of battery-electric cars in the same period, according to the most recent figures from the California Energy Commission.

The oil major had in 2022 closed down all three of its hydrogen filling stations in the UK, with the company and its partner Motive citing a similar focus on serving heavy-duty trucks, which the sites would not be able to accommodate.

While Shell has not given any further reasons for its decision to close down its California sites, the oil major had also used filling station equipment supplied by Norway’s Nel — currently at the centre of a lawsuit by industrial gas company Iwatani, which alleges major defects in its H2Station range.

This article was updated on 9 February to add a new quote from Shell, and on 14 February to note that the Torrance station has remained open while Shell is seeking a buyer for it