October 03, 2012

North East Groups Explore Prospects for Fuel Cells, Regional H2 Infrastructures

By: The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter

Source: The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter

ALBANY, NY - Underscoring the growing impatience of regional groups to push hydrogen infrastructure development in the absence of any federal plans so far, representatives from the northeastern states got together here last month to discuss just that:

"Ticket to Ride: A Regional Roadmap for Hydrogen Infrastructure and Fuel Cells," was the title of the one-day Sept. 11 meeting, complete with a ride-and-drive session (two fuel cell Toyotas, a fuel cell Honda and a fuel cell powered forklift truck) at the splendidly modernist College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering on the outskirts of New York’s capital, Albany.

Some 100-plus folks from clean energy and hydrogen organizations in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Vermont listened to and debated the presentations from three panels on automotive deployment plans; hydrogen production, infrastructure and economics, planning and strategy; and stationary and fork lift applications; and a workshop broken out into various working groups. (A similar meeting with somewhat smaller attendance was held the previous day, “Staying Charged Up: Battery Longevity and Life Cycle,” part of the total “Powering our Future: Batteries and Fuel Cells” program. It was put together by the College, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Northeast Electrochemical and Energy Storage Cluster (NEESC) and New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology (NY-BEST)).

NY Legislator Morelle Pushes Effort

Last year, a New York state legislator, Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle (D-Irondequit) launched an effort to jump start hydrogen energy and fuel cell development in the Empire State, including a white paper proposal for a New York hydrogen economy, by bringing four fuel cell cars to the state capital with members of an informal consortium of energy producers, business leaders and car manufacturers (H&FCL July 11).

Morelle was the opening speaker at last month’s meeting. He again called for hydrogen fueling centers, adding he hoped to convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo to mention the need for hydrogen energy and infrastructure in his annual State of- the-State speech in January.

But the principal purpose was to unite state groups into a united front to promote hydrogen and fuel cell technologies throughout the region. "The key difference from earlier workshops here is that we are creating a Northeast Cluster," Prof. Pradeep Haldar, of the College’s Nanoengineering Department and one of the meeting’s organizers, wrote in an e-mail to H&FCL. "This is not just a New York activity any more."

"Purpose of the workshop in the pm was to begin the assembly of a Northeast initiative,” wrote Matt Fronk, a consultant and former General Motors fuel cell research executive, in another e-mail to H&FCL. “It will make it easier than trying to do it at one state at a time.” He added he hopes to report on any progress at the next meeting of DoE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee in November.

Fronk moderated the first panel discussion on automotive plans, with participants from General Motors, Toyota, Hyundai and Honda; Daimler/Mercedes and BMW which had been scheduled to participate, were no-shows.

Kevin Kinnaw, Toyota Motor Sales national manager of regulatory affairs, repeated the frequently heard view that Germany “seems to be way ahead of everybody else in terms of putting infrastructure in place.” The “Peoples’ Republic of California,” as he put it jokingly, “is doing a lot of things” and is trying to put more infrastructure in place, and Toyota has a “big fleet” there, the U.S. home base for the company.

Hyundai’s Ahn: “Great Expectations” for NY

Byung Ki Ahn, general manager for Hyundai Motor Group’s Fuel Cell Vehicle Team 1, said the company has been focusing more on Europe but has “great expectations” for New York. The company is operating about 100 fuel cell vehicles in Seoul’s capital area, Ahn said, and it will participate in several major upcoming events in Europe.

Ahn said his company can produce now about 1,000 fuel cell cars a year (H&FCL May 12), but "can’t find a market because there is no infrastructure." Asked what the three biggest obstacles are to widespread introduction of fuel cell cars, Ahn listed cost, infrastructure and durability, with infrastructure being the biggest issue.

As to cost, Ahn cited a little-known rough rule of thumb in the automotive business: Adding one zero to the total number of cars produced cuts cost by half.

Alluding to the occasional hiccups in infrastructure planning - building fueling stations that are closed again when there aren’t enough users - Michael Beckman, vice president of hydrogen fueling and industrial applications for Linde North America, noted that consistency in planning is essential. "Funding in general is difficult," he observed. "Funding shouldn’t be just one shot. It’s difficult to justify spending money on a station if it goes down again."

In the final q&a session, Sunita Satyapal, the Energy Department’s Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Program/Fuel Cell Technologies Program manager, reiterated that DoE is supportive of hydrogen and fuel cells, but stressed the importance of and need for better communication. There is good communication within the community but "we don’t see much" outside the community. In Washington, there is too little communication with Capitol Hill and other agencies, she believes.

The second main point, she said, was that more needs to be done in terms of codes and standards, and in education. "We’d would like to get more ideas from all of you," said Satyapal.

Contact: Emily Behnke, Energy and Environmental Technology Applications Center, 518/956-7364, [email protected].