'Wake Up the Federal Government,' California Governor Says
The language is changing in hydrogen and fuel cell circles these days. That was evident at the NHA Hydrogen Conference & Expo held May 3 - 6 in Long Beach California, where "ifs" were largely replaced by "whens" as industry stakeholders and visionaries painted a clearly positive picture of the future of hydrogen energy, and the brightest minds in the industry offered concrete projections and timelines for making hydrogen available to consumers on a massive scale.
Globally, Germany is leading the charge to bring fuel-cell technology into the mainstream, conference participants learned during one Keynote session. A full-scale rollout of infrastructure is in progress now as the country prepares for the planned delivery of 100,000 hydrogen-fueled vehicles by 2015. Canada and Norway have also committed to rolling out hydrogen infrastructures, and in the U.S., California is at the forefront of the movement, with new fueling stations scheduled to open near San Francisco and Los Angeles. Underscoring the point that already, some auto manufacturers know they can offer hydrogen vehicles at a price competitive with gasoline vehicles, Toyota's managing director for advanced autos, Yoshihiko Masuda said, "Our target is, we don't lose money with introduction of the vehicle. Production cost should be covered within the price of the vehicle." Masuda announced that Toyota has cut the cost of making fuel cell vehicles by about 90 percent over the last 5 years and may offer its first retail model at a price of about $50,000.
In addition to new reports from the industry's global movers and shakers, participants who toured the show floor saw a variety of hydrogen products already on the market and got a first look at the newest innovations currently in the pipeline. The Expo featured more than 90 leading-edge exhibits—a 20 percent increase from the previous year. At the popular "Ride and Drive," an interactive display of 7 different hydrogen vehicles, hydrogen professionals along with the general public, for the first time in the U.S., had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL, the Mazda RX-8 hydrogen rotary and the big-rig fuel cell truck from Vision Industries.
But for all the impressive progress on display, keynoters, seminar presenters and stakeholders alike sounded a recurring theme: to bring hydrogen truly into the mainstream requires that the industry work in partnership with government. Making that point with considerable effectiveness was California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who surprised Conference-goers with an unannounced appearance on Wednesday morning. "We are creating the roadmap for energy security and sustainability for the whole country," said Schwarzenegger. "We are proving that these technologies are viable and they are marketable. We have already come a long way, but of course, we know that we still have a lot of work ahead of us. And that includes waking up the federal government. We need to get hydrogen cars into the hands of more everyday drivers. With the help of the federal government and with the help of car manufacturers, we can do that."
Governor Schwarzenegger wasn't the only surprise at the NHA Hydrogen Conference. Entrepreneur Tom Sullivan, owner of Proton Energy Systems, astonished everyone during the announcement of the winner of the Proton Energy Scholarship when he awarded a total of $1 million undergraduate scholarships to ten high school seniors--ten times the expected amount. "They are all truly exceptional individuals," Sullivan said. "It was impossible to give away only one [$100,000 scholarship], so we awarded all the students the grand prize." The Proton Energy Scholarship, which is administered by the Hydrogen Education Foundation (HEF), recognizes and awards high school seniors who demonstrate outstanding achievement, excellence and promise in the fields of science and technology. "This is another important investment in the future of the industry," said Jeffrey Serfass, HEF President. "As we invest in hydrogen technologies, we must also invest in our future leaders."
Paving the way for more hydrogen and fuel cell development was the underlying message of the Conference, which drew more than 900 attendees from across all sectors of the hydrogen and fuel cell marketplace who are looking for ways to stake their claims in the evolving industry. "I think it's critical to have a presence at this expo," conference attendee William Mays of Ovonic Materials said, "not just to keep pace, but to make the business connections that you need. The new developments, the investors, the government people—they're the most important factors in moving the technology forward—and this conference brings them all together, to really make hydrogen a commercially viable technology."
The 2011 NHA Hydrogen Conference and Expo will be held in Washington, DC at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, February 13-16, 2011. http://www.hydrogenconference.org/2011
# # #
For over 21 years, the NHA Hydrogen Conference and Expo has been the largest hydrogen conference in the US and the longest-running annual hydrogen conference in the world. It attracts business professionals and members of the public who gather to learn about the latest advances, network with colleagues and exchange ideas. More information may be obtained at www.HydrogenConference.org
1211 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 600 • Washington, DC 20036 • 202-223-5547 • www.hydrogenassociation.org