I perform my second refuel because I want to be topped up before the holiday tomorrow. I’ve gone 115 miles and used about 2/3 of a tank. This refuel goes better than the last one, because I remember the proper sequence of steps: connect the communication cord to the receptacle behind the old-school, flip-down license plate; remove the filler cap; key in the PIN code on the pump; hit the F12 button; choose the 700-bar hose (the 350-bar hose would only fill the tank halfway); hit F12 again; connect the hose to the car. It’s different than pumping gas, and I’m told the procedure varies a bit from site to site, but it’s not so other-worldly that drivers would never get the hang of it.
A fill-up takes almost 10 minutes, as the compressed gaseous hydrogen is further compressed on its way into the car. While I’m waiting for the fill, some idiot wearing a City of White Plains Events Staff shirt wanders back and forth smoking a cigarette. Apparently, seeing “No Smoking” signs at filling stations for the past few decades has yet to have an effect on the duller members of the population.
At this point, one might be reminded of the Hindenburg – the hydrogen-powered zeppelin that we’ve all seen burn to a crisp in old newsreels – but I have been assured that gaseous hydrogen is in fact less flammable than gasoline vapors. But just in case, the station has an infrared flame detector and a camera. The proper course of action for a hydrogen fire, I’ve been advised, is not to use an extinguisher, but to just shut off the source of hydrogen (by hitting a big red button on the pump) and let the fire burn off, which it quickly does because hydrogen is lighter than air and dissipates readily. Still, this is one aspect of hydrogen fuel cell experience that I hope not to encounter.