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Is the Opportunity to Make Money From Hydrogen Refueling Real?

There is a comparatively small but growing interest in vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel. Automakers released a few cars to the consumer market in the United States, and parties are exploring the possibilities of hydrogen-fueled buses.

One of the main obstacles to adoption relates to refueling. People driving along a highway may need to do a small amount of planning to ensure they can fuel up when required, but it’s not so easy for a hydrogen car owner.

If a landlord or property manager has the real estate available, could they make money by offering people somewhere to refuel their hydrogen vehicles?

A Relatively Small Number of Stations

The Alternative Fuels Data Center maintains a map of these refueling stations in the United States and Canada. There are currently 48 publicly accessible locations in those places and two other non-retail stations. California has a higher than average number compared to other states.

There is also a worldwide station map hosted elsewhere. It provides details such as each location’s name and lets people see which continents or areas have the most options. That resource could be useful for people who want to increase their income by offering a public station outside the United States.

Hyundai offers three years or $13,000 worth of free fuel to consumers who lease its NEXO hydrogen vehicle. People avail of that perk by using a preloaded card valid at certified hydrogen stations in California. A potential way for real estate owners to make money and drive traffic to refueling stations is to advertise that people can use that fuel card on their property. That’s particularly convenient if a person lives in an apartment building with a fuel point on the premises.

Hyundai did not specify the cut that operators get when owners use their fuel cards at the locations. However, this option gets people in the habit of choosing a particular place, even once their free allotment runs out.

Users may also spread the word to friends who own hydrogen cars. A property manager could start a program where residents of buildings with fueling points get one coupon each month to distribute to people beyond the complex. Those people might pay a higher base rate, but anyone with a coupon could avail of that discount.

Timeframes Cut Into Profit Potential

An analysis published several years ago showed that it cost $2 million to build a hydrogen fuel station in California. The expenses breakdown also pointed out that each station built in the state had a maximum capacity of 180 kilograms of the gas per day — enough to fill 36 Toyota Mirai vehicles. The refueling process is relatively quick and takes less than 10 minutes per car. The vast majority of time goes to generating and compressing hydrogen.

Setting up an appointment-booking system could let operators ensure that people only arrive when resources are available. However, anyone hoping to make money this way must understand they could not do that 24/7. Many property managers have registration systems for other amenities, such as if a person wants to book a party in a clubhouse or schedule a maintenance appointment.
If real estate professionals had a fuel station, building a system to display open slots could be relatively straightforward. Moreover, this scenario provides income generation if a tenant must pay a certain amount extra per year or month to access the booking system and reserve a spot.

Using the Eco-Friendly Aspect as a Real Estate Selling Point

The real-world potential for landlords to install fueling infrastructure and receive rent has not yet been explored. However, people frequently look for property features that align with their Earth-conscious mindsets. Real estate developers increasingly promote sustainability by designing structures with integrated features that help the planet. How might hydrogen fit into that trend?

A 2019 survey found 61% of residents would pay more to live in green communities. If a landlord or property manager had a complex with a refueling point, they could advertise it as a marketplace differentiation perk — particularly if hydrogen vehicles gained popularity. Many commercial office buildings and apartment complexes have electric car charging points, so offering another vehicle energy source is not a major leap.

If real estate brands and landlords are not ready to take the plunge into refueling stations, they could investigate another approach to going green. they could convert their work vehicles to function with hydrogen. A project that adapted 11 urban trucks and vans that way saved more than 14 tons of CO2 during a two-year trial. The effort cut diesel emissions and improved local air quality.

That outcome gives a glimpse of the possibilities. It also lets real estate brands show through their actions that they’re serious about protecting the planet and making thoughtful changes.

Profitability May Exist for the Forward-Thinking and Fearless

Getting involved with a hydrogen fuel station for car owners is not a path to a quick, nearly guaranteed profit. More companies in the U.S. are working on vehicles to release soon. If people buy them, that consumer trend creates a need for more refueling options.

However, these cars are not widespread across the country yet, and it’s not common to install the infrastructure as a money-making venture. It may be worth pursuing, but real estate professionals should be aware of the possible pitfalls.

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