August 2008

8.24.2008
SC among states looking to hydrogen-powered cars
(view article)

8.18.2008
Columbia could lead the way for cars of the future
(view article)

8.17.2008
Upstate gets a look at fuel of future
(view article)

8.16.2008
Hydrogen Road Tour coming to Upstate
(view article)

8.16.2008
Hydrogen Road Tour to cruise through Aiken
(view article)

8.16.2008
SC to get a glimpse of hydrogen cars of the future
(view article)

8.15.2008
Fill'er up...with hydrogen
(view article)

8.14.2008
Hydrogen vehicle tour motoring into South Carolina
(view article)

8.13.2008
Hydrogen Road Tour to make stop in SC
(view article)

8.13.2008
Don't miss Hydrogen Road Tour Saturday
(view article)

8.13.2008
SC out front in developing hydrogen tech
(view article)

8.12.2008
Hydrogen Road Tour to visit Upstate Saturday
(view article)

8.11.2008
South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance announces the Hydrogen Road Tour 2008
(view article)

8.7.2008
Graham says plan would boost state
(view article)

8.4.2008
Hydrogen research on the rise
(view article) 


August 18, 2008
(view original article)
(watch video, courtesy of WLTX)

Columbia could lead the way for cars of the future

Columbia (WLTX) - It wasn't the day after Thanksgiving, but it sure looked like it outside Midlands Technical College this weekend. Hundreds of people lined up outside waiting for their chance at getting a peak into the future. "It feels like Columbia is really important. People are really paying attention to South Carolina because of fuel cells," said test driver Roddrick Fuentes.

The state is considered a leader in hydrogen technology and was a stop on an 18-state tour promoting the new technology. Hydrogen cars and SUVS by top automakers were available for test drives. The automakers at the tour say the hydrogen cars are the answer to America's dependence on foreign oil. "The intentions are that they will replace what we drive today. Fuel cells take hydrogen and combines it with oxygen from the outside air. That produces water and in the process of doing that we end up creating electricity," said one engineer. The cars still need some fine tuning, but the main reason they aren't available yet is there aren't hydrogen stations for people to fuel them. "If there's not hydrogen stations then it makes it difficult for us to release many cars," said another engineer.

Yet in 2009 Columbia will open its first station. Advocate Shannon Baxter-Clemmons believes hydrogen cars in South Carolina would mean not only better vehicles, but a better economy. "It means a lot of things, and that means better jobs," said Baxter-Clemmons.

Most everyone that rode in the vehicles for the first time Saturday were very impressed. "It feels really great, very smooth, and quiet. I'd give it an "A," said Fuentes. The tour is sponsored by the National Hydrogen Association and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It features cars made by BMW, Honda, Toyota, GM and other automakers.

-AP


August 24, 2008

SC among states looking at hydrogen-powered cars

By GRAHAM LOVE 
Index-Journal staff writer

With high gas prices, environmental concerns and the United States’ dependence on foreign oil all hot issues during this year’s presidential election, something that has started to make its way to the mainstream is the hydrogen-powered car. These cars are fueled with hydrogen, which is placed into a fuel cell tank, mixes with oxygen from the air to produce electricity and power the car’s electric motor.

The use of the fuel cell has also given these cars the name “fuel cell cars.” The mixing of the hydrogen and oxygen produce water — the car’s only emission — which makes for a much cleaner byproduct than CO2 emissions produced by gasoline fueled cars. While these cars may be more environmentally friendly when it comes to their emissions, they still have not advanced to the point of being massed produced in the U.S. That could take a while, as proper research, equipment, and costs do not allow for an abundance of fuel cell cars to hit the highways just yet.

But research is being done to make this a reality, and one of the leading areas for hydrogen fuel research is South Carolina. The state’s hydrogen research efforts received a boost in January 2006 when The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance was formed by The Center for Hydrogen Research, Clemson University, Savannah River National Laboratory, South Carolina Department of Commerce, South Carolina State University and the University of South Carolina. Since that time, awards and honors have been given to the organization, the state and some of its politicians for their work in hydrogen energy. In May, the city of Columbia signed a contract with the S.C. Center for Transportation and the Environment to lead a project that will install and commission a hydrogen fueling station in downtown Columbia.

 “We want to be the next Silicon Valley with hydrogen technology,” Columbia Mayor Bob Coble told The State when the station was announced. “You can’t be a hydrogen city without a hydrogen station.” Columbia is also taking part in the Federal Transit Administration’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program which will provide the city with a hybrid battery, fuel cell bus for use later this year. Hydrogen fuel has started to take off in the U.S. with southern California becoming the largest market for fuel cell cars in the nation. With hydrogen equipped fueling stations throughout that area, Honda released the FCX Clarity, a fuel cell car, for the public to lease, in June.

Three dealerships in the Los Angeles area are currently able to lease the cars, and the company plans to produce 200 of the cars, which lease for $600 a month and can go about 217 miles on a full tank of fuel, over the next three years.

“The FCX Clarity program is one more step toward meeting the societal goals of climate stability, renewable energy supplies and zero-emissions transportation,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of Honda America, in a release about the car.

Chevy in 2007 released the largest hydrogen fuel test market with their “ Project Driveway,” where the company gave over 100 selected consumers in the Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C. areas a fuel celled Chevy Equinox to drive for a year.

American automakers Ford and General Motors have also joined in the development of a fleet of fuel cell fueled cars, with both companies hoping to release a hydrogen powered car to the public by 2010.

Fuel stations that also offer hydrogen fuel are starting to pop up across the Midwest and several major U.S. cities are taking part in experimental hydrogen powered buses for public transportation projects.

Other places around the world have also jumped aboard the hydrogen bandwagon.

Iceland, which has been one of the world leaders in clean energy for the last 50 years, has been able to use its geological resources (volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls and hotsprings) to produce most of the nation’s electricity. The only areas Iceland is still dependent on oil is powering its vehicles and large commercial fishing fleet, but it is taking steps toward curbing its dependence in those areas as well.

Fuel cell buses have already been introduced as modes of public transportation in some places in Iceland, where isolated location oil prices are as much as four times the European average. Hydrogen filling stations have already been established and fuel cell vehicles are expected to be mass produced and sold to the public by 2010.

After it is able to eliminate oil as the primary fuel for powering cars, Iceland will then turn its efforts to powering its large fishing fleet via hydrogen. Currently, there are issues with storing large quantities of hydrogen to power ships. Iceland has set a goal of being fossil fuel free by 2050.

London debuted England’s first all-hydrogen fueled service station earlier this year, with plans for that number to be as many as ten by the end of the year. Most European capitals have a station that is equipped for fueling hydrogen powered cars and German automakers Volkswagen, BMW, DaimlerChrysler and Mercedes are all doing research to produce fuel cell vehicles for the public.

In Japan, Honda has also made the FCX Clarity available to the public in certain areas, while Japanese automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda, along with South Korean automaker Hyundai, hope to unveil fuel cell cars for public use by 2010. Toyota currently has the Prius Plug-In that is powered by electricity rather than oil.

However, several concerns do exist about hydrogen-powered cars. Currently 95 percent of the hydrogen produced in the U.S. is done by using oil and coal, both fossil fuels that would eliminate the clean energy hydrogen produces. By using fossil fuels to create hydrogen, the U.S. would not reduce the net amount of carbon dioxide emissions.

Another issue is fueling the cars. Hydrogen equipped filling stations are currently only located in certain areas and the conversion process could prove costly. A General Motors study suggested that to equip 12,000 stations within two miles of the top 100 most populous cities in the U.S. alone would cost $10-15 billion.

Cost is also an issue when it comes to producing fuel cell cars, as currently it cost over $100,000 for Honda to produce just one FCX Clarity. Although the company has stated it expects that number to decrease in the future. With money needed for research to develop more eco-friendly ways of generating hydrogen, converting filling stations and developing more fuel cell cars, experts suggest one of the only ways to see hydrogen cars take over the roadway is with financial help from the government, which may be a possibility.

During President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, he called for $1.2 billion dollars to be spent on developing a pollution free automobile. And it looks as both major party 2008 presidential candidates are making zero-emissions transportation a priority.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called for a $5,000 tax credit for individuals who purchase zero-emissions vehicles and a $300 million prize for any company or individual that can create a battery package for fuel cell cars with greater capabilities than those currently used in plug-in and hybrid cars.

Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) plan calls for a windfall tax on major oil companies to fund $150 billion to be spent over the next 10 years to develop alternative fuel sources, which included hydrogen power, a $7,000 tax credit for individuals who drive fuel cell vehicles and a $1,000 tax credit to help pay for fueling hydrogen cars.

Obama has also said he thinks hydrogen cars could hit the roadways throughout the U.S. by the year 2015. Many experts think the date is more around 2020, but admit the date could be moved forward with more money spent on research. And if that research is to occur and produce a major switch to hydrogen powered cars, a report by The National Research Council of the National Academies states that the U.S. alone could cut their oil use and carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent.


August 17, 2008
(view original article)

Upstate gets a look at fuel of future

GREER -- Don Rubenstein, a Simpsonville resident, said he'd be the first in line to buy a hydrogen-powered automobile when they go on sale to the public.

He and his son Preston attended the Hydrogen Road Tour stop at the BMW Zentrum on Saturday. The stop lasted for a couple of hours before the tour cars refueled and left for Columbia and Aiken later in the day. The event attracted more than 100 people.

"We're here because we love the idea of people conserving energy," Rubenstein said, adding he has driven a hybrid for about 18 months. And he said he believes hydrogen is "a logical choice" for a fuel of the future.

The Hydrogen Road Tour is driving from Maine to California to raise awareness of hydrogen as an automotive fuel option and the need for a fueling infrastructure. The tour, which has driven about 1,000 miles so far, will make 31 stops in 18 states over 13 days.

The 10 cars -- the liquid hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine BMW Hydrogen 7 and various hydrogen fuel-cell cars -- are refueling at existing stations when they can. But a mobile fueling rig goes with them.

"We had to bring our fuel with us," said Chris White of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. "One day a trip across the country won't be such a big deal."

While at the stop, members of the public were allowed to drive or ride in the hydrogen-fueled cars.

Candice Yount, who came down from Asheville, N.C., with her family, said the ride in a Nissan 7CV "was very quiet. We did not have any surges. It was smooth, silky smooth."

She said her family would buy such a car, probably for short trips.

"We would be willing to pay more in order to help this effort," she said. "We have a crisis with energy. This coming together is wonderful."

Preston Rubenstein, 10, said, "I think it's good because we don't need to use gas as much. We don't to pay that much."

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis was pleased with the crowd. "I see a bunch of people willing to change, willing to see the future, not be threatened by but embrace it," he said. "How long before this happens? Some change happens really fast."

White predicted hydrogen fueled cars would be in the showroom around 2015, some a little earlier and some a little later.

"I think this is the beginning of another American century," he said of the technology. "Let's take a swing at it."

BMW's Hydrogen 7 is the sole car on the tour using a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine.

Jason Perron, project leader of BMW CleanEnergy Program North America, said BMW believes "hydrogen is essential to our long-term sustainability. BMW's corporate mantra is sustainability."

He said both hydrogen technologies are strong, but BMW "believes our customers appreciate the characteristics of an internal combustion engine."

In the next few years, "I think you will see the world change from a digital view -- gasoline or nothing," he said, adding numerous alternate fuels are possible.

Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, executive director of the South Carolina Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Alliance, said the hydrogen industry is important to the state. A move toward hydrogen as an automotive fuel in the state would enhance economic growth, limit the state's environmental footprint and improve the nation's energy security.

Currently, South Carolina is the site of $26 million in both private and government investment in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, she said.

Karl Garant and Keith Lindgren, graduate students in the first automotive energy program at Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research, are enthusiastic about hydrogen.

"I think it's a very reasonable fuel," Lindgren said. "It can be expected to be a long-term solution."

Garant said, "The technology is there. It's expensive now. It's the infrastructure."

Although they expect both internal combustion engines and fuel cells to be part of the early hydrogen mix, they believe one will eventually win out.

Cheryl McQueary, deputy administration of the Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, said the United States now produces 9 million tons of hydrogen annually -- enough to fuel 34 million of the 250 million vehicles on the road.

More hydrogen fueling stations are being built -- some as stand-alone units and others that also provide gasoline and diesel, White said.

Inglis suggested stations be built in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles. That would give carmakers the necessary market to begin building hydrogen-fueled vehicles



August 16, 2008
(view original article) 

Hydrogen Road Tour coming to Upstate

For a peek at what could be the future of transportation, Upstate residents can see hydrogen-fueled cars touring the United States at the BMW Zentrum today.

The Hydrogen Road Tour will be at the Zentrum from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and then will drive to Columbia and Aiken on its way from Maine to California.

In addition to learning about hydrogen as a transportation fuel, the public will be able to take a car for a short spin on the BMW campus.

Among the 10 cars making the tour is a BMW Hydrogen 7, a production hybrid vehicle that runs on liquid hydrogen. It is the only vehicle on the tour that stores liquid hydrogen to power an internal combustion engine.

Although the car on the tour will run exclusively on hydrogen, most of the Hydrogen 7s built so far are hybrids running on either hydrogen or gasoline.

"BMW has already logged nearly 2 million miles in our fleet of 100 BMW Hydrogen 7s," said Tom Baloga, BMW vice president of engineering, US. "Being on this tour will show more people that hydrogen is truly the best alternative transportation fuel. An internal combustion engine, powered by hydrogen, should play an important role in the future of sustainable mobility."

The Hydrogen Road Tour is a partnership of the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the National Hydrogen Association.

Besides BMW, other participants providing hydrogen-powered vehicles are Daimler, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. Also, hydrogen fuel providers Linde and Air Products are participating in the tour.

The goal of the tour is to call on congressional leaders to support the creation of a nationwide hydrogen fueling station infrastructure.

Anyone interested can follow the Tour online at www.hydrogenroadtour.com.


August 16, 2008
(view original article)

Hydrogen Road Tour cruises through Aiken

By RACHEL JOHNSON
Staff writer

This Saturday, South Carolina residents have the opportunity to join the Hydrogen Road Tour as it passes through the state on a cross-country journey to raise awareness about commercially viable emissions-free hydrogen vehicles. The tour features 10 hydrogen vehicles traveling across the United States from Maine to California, making 31 stops in 18 states.

At two of the Hydrogen Road Tour stops on Saturday, the public is invited to get behind the wheel and take a short drive along a designated course. South Carolina's first hydrogen vehicle, a 2007 Chevy Silverado with an eTec/Roush Industries Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (HICE) owned by the Center for Hydrogen Research in Aiken, will join the tour throughout South Carolina.

The first stop in South Carolina will be in the Upstate at BMW Zentrum at 10:30 a.m. This stop includes a ride and drive, as well as the showcasing of the BMW Hydrogen 7, the world's first luxury performance sedan with hydrogen drive. Rep. Bob Inglis will be on hand for the event.

Next the tour will stop in Columbia at Midlands Technical College at 2 p.m. Midlands Technical College is home to the Fuel Cell Technician Program.

During this stop, an educational area will be set up to allow the public the opportunity to learn more about hydrogen technologies and the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance (SCHFCA) through educational displays, videos and literature.

The tour will finish the day in Aiken at the Bridgestone-Firestone plant from 5:30 until 7 p.m. where it will refuel using Bridgestone's on-site hydrogen fueling station. The station supports a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts operating at the facility. During this stop, the public is invited to learn more about the hydrogen fueling process and will be able to take a closer look under the hood of a hydrogen vehicle.

On Sunday, the tour will begin its cross-country trek to California. The tour comes as a frontrunner to the 2009 National Hydrogen Association Conference and Hydrogen Expo to be held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia March 30 through April 3, 2009.
For more information on the Hydrogen Road Tour, visit www.hydrogenroadtour.com.




August 16, 2008
(view original article)

SC gets a glimpse of hydrogen cars of the future

South Carolinians get a chance to test drive the vehicles of the future this weekend. The state is considered a leader in hydrogen technology and is a stop on an 18-state tour promoting the new technology.

The Charleston Post and Courier reports hydrogen cars and SUVs made by top automakers were to be available for test drives Saturday in Greer, Columbia and Graniteville.

The tour is sponsored by the National Hydrogen Association and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It features cars made by BMW, Honda, Toyota, GM and other automakers.

The first hydrogen filling station in the state is being built in Columbia, which also hosts the industry's annual convention next year.

Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.charleston.net


  August 15, 2008
(view original article)

Fill'er up...with hydrogen

If you want to drive the car of the future, you’ll get your chance today at Midlands Tech on Beltline when the Hydrogen Road Tour visits. But don’t forget to bring your driver’s license if you plan to get behind the wheel.

Patrick Serfass, spokesman for the National Hydrogen Association, answers three questions about the tour that is visiting 31 cities in 13 days:

What can visitors expect at the event?

There will be hydrogen-fueled cars from nine automakers on display and available for test driving — from a minivan to a luxury Mercedes. The cars aren’t for sale yet but are being tested for the market.

“The idea is to bring the vehicles to places where people don’t normally get a chance to see them,” Serfass said. The tour is designed to increase awareness about the benefits of hydrogen fuel. Americans in general are more familiar with hybrid technology, he said.

“Hydrogen still isn’t very well-known by most people, even though long-term it can probably provide the best alternative (to gasoline),” Serfass said, because it can be produced without the use of any biofuels.

The event also will feature a hydrogen-fueled Segway and an educational movie about the use of hydrogen power.

When will hydrogen cars be on the market and in the mainstream?

“That’s certainly the million-dollar question,” Serfass said. Different automakers have different timelines, but most are targeting between 2010 and 2015 for having vehicles available for sale. Some are loaning or leasing the cars currently to the general public and celebrities for testing in places where hydrogen fuel stations are available.

How quickly the cars catch on also will be determined by how quickly fueling stations are built, Serfass said. He would not estimate how long it will take to build that infrastructure. He said there are 62 fueling stations in the United States currently with more on the way.

“We need many more than that and we need them especially to be more concentrated,” he said.

Work started in May on a hydrogen fueling station at Huger and Laurel streets in Columbia. It will be open in February, in time for the National Hydrogen Association’s annual conference to be held here in March.

How do you put fuel in a hydrogen car and how do the costs compare with gasoline-powered cars?

Serfass said the cars are fueled much like a gasoline-powered car, but with a different nozzle.

A tank of hydrogen fuel can be produced for about the equivalent of $3 a gallon if enough volume is being produced. That tank will take you about 300 miles, which is comparable to many of today’s cars, he said.

Serfass said Honda is currently leasing a hydrogen-fueled car in select markets for $600 a month. Prices will vary based on the manufacturers, he said, but should be comparable to cars on the market now.

Reach Rupon at (803) 771-8622.


August 14, 2008
(view original article)

Hydrogen vehicle tour motoring into South Carolina

Curious or skeptical about the promise of hydrogen- fueled vehicles? Test drive the green technology Saturday when several of the world's largest automakers roll into South Carolina with their hydrogen-powered cars and SUVs.

South Carolina, considered a national leader in the emerging industry, is one of 18 states on the promotional tour and will host stops in the Upstate, Columbia and Aiken County.

The two-week tour kicked off Monday in Portland, Maine, and will head down the East Coast before going west. The trip concludes Aug. 23 in Los Angeles.

The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance is organizing the visit to promote the benefits of clean-burning hydrogen and to highlight the state's hydrogen research and development efforts, said Mark Sieckman, alliance communications director.

The state's first permanent hydrogen fuel station is being built in Columbia, and the capital city will host the industry's annual convention in March.

For the tour, the National Hydrogen Association and U.S. Department of Transportation teamed with the likes of BMW, Honda, Toyota, GM and other automakers to highlight the fact that the technology already exists to power cars with the most abundant element on Earth.

Sieckman said the fact that every major car company is represented on the tour demonstrates a commitment to push hydrogen as a realistic solution to pollution and reliance on foreign oil.

Russ Keller, who focuses on alternative energy as a senior director at the South Carolina Research Authority, said the more automakers invest in hydrogen vehicles, the easier it will be to develop the fueling infrastructure to support them.

The authority is part of several ongoing public-private partnerships around the state aimed at giving South Carolina a leg up in a hydrogen economy.

So far, there's been little hydrogen activity in the Charleston area. But Keller said the Charleston Air Force Base and Port of Charleston present prime opportunities for hydrogen-powered work trucks and small utility vehicles. "I've been drumming that quietly in the background. I hope we can get that technology down here."

Reach Ron Menchaca at rmenchaca@postandcourier.com or 937-5724.


  August 13, 2008
(view original article)

Hydrogen Road Tour to make stop in SC

Nine automakers, the U.S. Department of Energy, California Fuel Cell Partnership, National Hydrogen Association and the U.S. DOT are sponsoring the Hydrogen Road Tour to show that hydrogen vehicles are approaching commercial availability.

Columbians can check out the cars between 2 and 4 p.m. Saturday at Midlands Technical College, North Beltline Boulevard.

The tour is making 31 stops in 18 states, including visits to BMW in Greer and Bridgestone/Firestone in Aiken.

Vehicles from BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen are part of the tour.


August 13, 2008
(view original article)

Don't miss Hydrogen Road Tour Saturday

Ladies and gentlemen, start your fuel cells! As the date for the National Hydrogen Association’s 2009 conference in Columbia draws near, spring training has arrived. On Saturday, Columbians will get a chance to preview the technology that some say will change the future of the automotive industry.

The National Hydrogen Association, the U.S. departments of Energy and Transportation, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance are bringing the Hydrogen Road Tour to the Midlands Technical College Beltline campus, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The public will be invited to get behind the wheel of a hydrogen-powered car and learn more about this exciting technology that is reshaping the Midlands. Midlands Technical College is home to the fuel cell technician program and is a recipient of a Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge award.

The Hydrogen Road Tour is a two-week series of events throughout the country that demonstrates our nation’s progress and commitment toward commercially viable, emissions-free hydrogen vehicles. It features 10 vehicles traveling from Maine to California with 33 stops in 19 states. The stop here will highlight some of the real-life applications that have come out of Columbia, such as fuel cell-powered cameras and a hybrid fuel cell Segway.

Columbia has been working hard to transition our city into a world-class hydrogen and fuel cell destination, and 2009 will be our coming-out party. With projects under way such as the state’s first permanent hydrogen fueling station and a fuel cell-powered bus and fuel cell manufacturing slated for 2009, our region is taking this technology out of the lab and into our community.

ROBERT D. COBLE

Mayor of Columbia, SC


August 13, 2008
(view original article)

SC out in front in developing hydrogen make stop in SC

OUR OPINION: Tour will put public spotlight on S.C. efforts

South Carolina has moved itself to the forefront of research and development of hydrogen fuel technology as an alternative to the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The Center for Hydrogen Research, located near the former nuclear weapons complex the Savannah River Site, opened a $9 million research facility in 2006.

With a goal of developing cost-effective hydrogen technology for powering vehicles, the center combines existing efforts from the Savannah River National Lab, private industry and the state’s research universities.

It is part of a concentrated South Carolina effort to be on the cutting edge of developing an effective alternative to oil and other energy sources that have the nation so reliant on foreign sources.

Under the auspices of South Carolina’s Hydrogen Fuel and Cell Alliance, a private organization housed in the S.C. Department of Commerce, the Center for Hydrogen Research and the Savannah River National Lab join with three other regional organizations in heading the research.

Orangeburg plays a role. South Carolina State University’s Clyburn Transportation Center in conducting research on linking different modes of transportation using advanced technology.

At the University of South Carolina, the focus is fuel cells.

Clemson University is home to the International Center for Automotive Research. Hydrogen-related research includes thermo-chemical hydrogen production.

On Saturday, the state puts emphasis on its hydrogen connection when the alliance welcomes 10 hydrogen vehicles to South Carolina as part of the Hydrogen Road Tour, a two-week series of media, VIP and public events throughout the country that demonstrates progress and commitment toward commercially viable, emissions-free hydrogen vehicles. The tour features the 10 hydrogen vehicles traveling across the United States from Maine to California with 31 stops in 18 states.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about the Hydrogen Road Tour coming to South Carolina,” said Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, executive director of the SCHFCA. “This tour is a perfect opportunity for South Carolina’s citizens to learn more about the technologies that are reshaping our state’s view of energy through an exciting hands-on experience.”

South Carolina’s first hydrogen vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado with an eTec/Roush Industries Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine, will join the tour at every stop in the state. The truck is owned by the Center for Hydrogen Research in Aiken.

The first stop will be in the Upstate at BMW Zentrum. BMW will showcase the BMW Hydrogen 7, the world’s first luxury performance sedan with hydrogen drive.

In Columbia, the tour will visit Midlands Technical College, home to the Fuel Cell Technician Program. In Aiken, the tour will refuel using Bridgestone’s hydrogen fueling station on-site, which supports their fleet of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts operating at the facility.

“The tour’s timing couldn’t be better,” Baxter-Clemmons said. “The public will get a small preview of what they can expect when the National Hydrogen Association’s annual conference comes to Columbia next spring and offers an entire day of public ride-and-drive opportunities.”

By coordinating research efforts and putting the state on the cutting edge of successful hydrogen development, South Carolina stands to win in a big way.

The effort can be lucrative as the state becomes a leader in producing hydrogen-powered vehicles.


August 12, 2008
(view original article)

Hydrogen Road Tour to visit Upstate Saturday

Nationwide journey intended to promote hydrogen-powered cars

Upstate residents soon will have a chance to see hydrogen-fueled cars -- some with hydrogen fuel cells and others using hydrogen as the fuel in internal combustion engines -- and maybe even drive one.

The Hydrogen Road Tour, which started in Maine and will end in California, will visit three South Carolina locations on Saturday, according to the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.

South Carolina's first stop will be at the BMW Zentrum at BMW Manufacturing Co. in Greer. It then will move to Midlands Technical College in Columbia and will end the day at the Bridgestone Firestone Plant in Aiken, where the vehicles will refuel using Bridgestone's hydrogen fueling station.

The tour, featuring 10 hydrogen-fueled vehicles, will stop in 31 locations in 18 states on its cross-continental journey.

"We will have the BMW Hydrogen 7 on the journey," said Bobby Hitt, manager of public relations for BMW. "Some of our crew will be along on the trip."

"There will be some time for people to drive one," he said, although the time will be limited. The tour will stop at the Zentrum from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Hydrogen Association and the California Fuel Cell Partnership organized the event, designed to showcase clean, efficient hydrogen-powered cars.

The Hydrogen 7 is a hybrid vehicle, fueled by either liquid hydrogen or gasoline. BMW Group had distributed Hydrogen 7 vehicles to various business, political and entertainment leaders -- with about 2 million miles put on the U.S. fleet, he said.

More than 60 hydrogen fueling stations, including one in Charlotte, are available in the United States and mobile fueling stations also are available.


August 11, 2008
(view original article)

South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance announces the Hydrogen Road Tour

Media and the public will have the three opportunities to learn about hydrogen cars with hands-on experiences on Saturday, August 16

Columbia, S.C. The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance (SCHFCA) will welcome ten hydrogen vehicles to South Carolina this Saturday when the Hydrogen Road Tour travels through our state on a cross-country education and publicity tour.

The Hydrogen Road Tour is a two-week series of media, VIP and public events throughout the country that demonstrates progress and commitment toward commercially viable, emissions-free hydrogen vehicles. The Tour will feature ten hydrogen vehicles traveling across the United States from Maine to California with 33 stops in 18 states. The SCHFCA will host three stops in South Carolina on Saturday, August 16 in the Upstate, Columbia and Aiken.

We couldn’t be more thrilled about the Hydrogen Road Tour coming to South Carolina,” said Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, Executive Director of the SCHFCA.This Tour is a perfect opportunity for South Carolina’s citizens to learn more about the technologies that are reshaping our state’s economy through an exciting hands-on experience.”

At two of the Hydrogen Road Tour’s stops, the public will be able to get behind the wheel of some of the world’s top hydrogen vehicles and take a short drive on a designated course.

The Tour’s first stop in South Carolina will be in the Upstate at BMW Zentrum on Saturday August 16 from 10:30am – 12:30pm. The stop will provide the media, invited VIPs and the public with a unique experience where they will be able to take part in a public ride-and-drive on a closed course. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) will be in attendance at the event where BMW will showcase the BMW Hydrogen 7, the world’s first luxury performance sedan with hydrogen drive.

The Tour’s second stop will be in Columbia at Midlands Technical College from 2 – 4pm when VIPs, media and the public will again be invited to get behind the wheel of a hydrogen-powered car. Midlands Technical College is home to the Fuel Cell Technician Program and recently received a $62,000 award from the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge to expand its fuel cell program. An educational area will be set up that will allow the public the opportunity to learn more about hydrogen technologies and the SCHFCA through educational displays, videos and literature.

Finally, the Tour will stop in Aiken at the Bridgestone Firestone plant from 5:30 – 7:00 pm and will refuel using Bridgestone’s hydrogen fueling station on-site, which supports their fleet of hydrogen fuel cell forklifts operating at the facility.The public will also be invited to learn more about the hydrogen fueling process and will be able to take a closer look under the hood of a hydrogen vehicle

On Sunday, August 17, the Hydrogen Road Tour will begin its trek westward to California.

 "The Tour’s timing couldn’t be better,” said Baxter-Clemmons."The public will get a small preview of what they can expect when the National Hydrogen Association’s annual conference comes to Columbia next Spring and offers an entire day of public ride-and-drive opportunities."

The 2009 National Hydrogen Association Conference and Hydrogen Expo will be held March 30 through April 3 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, SC.

For more information about the Hydrogen Road Tour, please visit www.hydrogenraodtour.com

About the South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance
The SCHFCA is a public-private collaboration for cooperative and coordinated utilization of resources in the state used to advance the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Founded in January 2006, the SCHFCA was created by six core organizations devoted to hydrogen and fuel cell initiatives: The Center for Hydrogen Research, Clemson University, Savannah River National Laboratory, the S.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. State University and the University of South Carolina. For more information about the SCHFCA, its members and their activities, please visit www.schydrogen.org.

About the Hydrogen Road
Tour The Hydrogen Road Tour is a two-week trip across the U.S. with more than 30 planned stops beginning on August 11 to showcase clean, efficient, hydrogen powered cars.  The tour, organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Energy, National Hydrogen Association, and California Fuel Cell Partnership, seeks to highlight progress made with the development of hydrogen vehicle and fueling technologies.  Hydrogen, in addition to biofuels and hybrids, is one of many options that can play an important role in our future energy portfolio.  Among these options, hydrogen can make the greatest long-term impact on reducing pollution and fuel imports from vehicles


  August 7, 2008
(view original article)

Graham says plan would boost state

An energy plan that centers around offshore oil drilling, nuclear power plants and hydrogen fuel cells would be a cash cow for South Carolina, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday.  

South Carolina is poised to benefit from all three components of the plan, Graham said at a luncheon sponsored by the North Charleston Rotary Club.

Graham, R-S.C., was pitching a compromise energy plan unveiled Friday by five Republican and five Democratic senators, who have been dubbed the Gang of 10.

"From the South Carolina perspective, the coast of South Carolina is a cash cow," Graham said of the proposal to allow oil drilling 50 miles offshore. "Out there in American-controlled waters is a lot of oil and gas. So let's go get it."

The fact that no oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico leaked during Hurricane Katrina proves it can be done without environmental risks, he said.

Constituents are hammering him daily to do something about gasoline prices hovering around $4 a gallon, and further increases are inevitable as China and India increase demand, he said. The first step to lower prices is to open up more American oil reserves, including those off the coast of South Carolina, he said.

The second step is to reduce demand, and South Carolina could also take the lead there in two key areas, he said. The first is to move ahead with nuclear power, which includes recycling spent fuel rods, as France has done, he said.

"Surely we can be as bold as the French," Graham said.

The bipartisan bill calls for building a nuclear recycling center in the United States within a year. The Savannah River Site in Aiken would be ideal for the job, he said.

The bill also calls for tax credits to stimulate production and sales of hydrogen-fuel vehicles. Again, South Carolina is poised to take the lead, with nationally recognized hydrogen-fuel research programs in place, he said. Hydrogen fuel research is ongoing at the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, South Carolina State University and Savannah River National Laboratory.

"What we have going on in our backyard is really revolutionary," Graham said. "I would like to be the hydrogen center for the country. I would like South Carolina to be the Detroit of hydrogen without the crime."

Reach Dave Munday at 745-5862 or dmunday@ postandcourier.com.


  August 4, 2008
(view original article)

Hydrogen research on the rise

State makes name for self in emerging technology

While foreign oil prices remain at record highs and Americans increasingly look to take better care of the planet, scientists and entrepreneurs across South Carolina are quietly working to develop a new, cleaner alternative to gasoline.

South Carolina might seem a surprising hub for efforts to revolutionize the nation's transportation system, but there are signs that the state is making a name for itself in the creation of a hydrogen economy.

Next year, for example, some of the brightest minds and deepest pockets in hydrogen fuel research and technology will converge on Columbia for the emerging industry's premier convention. Organizers expect the National Hydrogen Association's conference in March to boost the state's green credentials and promote clean-burning hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels.

South Carolina already has made inroads into the hydrogen market by forming partnerships among various public and private interests. The University of South Carolina, Clemson University, South Carolina State University and Savannah River National Laboratory are among the higher profile institutions with hydrogen-related research programs.

Bridgestone Firestone in Graniteville uses hydrogen-powered forklifts in its production facility.

That combination of public and private interests have helped place South Carolina among the top five states in the country for hydrogen research, said Patrick Serfass, the national association's director of technology and communication.

Just four years ago, the state's hydrogen work was barely a blip on the national scene, said Neil McLean, executive director of EngenuitySC, a public-private partnership trying to nurture a knowledge-based economy. "The reaction of most folks is why South Carolina? Now, we are on the radar. South Carolina could be to hydrogen what Houston was to oil. We think we can be a significant player." 

Though hydrogen fuel cell technology still faces significant hurdles to becoming an affordable and efficient alternative to gasoline, high gas prices are helping reshape perceptions about hydrogen, once dismissed as the stuff of science fiction or too dangerous for consumer use.

But as hydrogen gains converts and other states, notably California, invest public money in its development, is South Carolina doing enough to stake a claim? And is such spending a good bet?

Hydrogen fuel

The chief benefit of hydrogen is obvious: Hydrogen-powered vehicles generate zero emissions because the only byproduct is water vapor so pure you can drink it.

Hydrogen can power traditional internal combustion engines or be used to generate electricity in a fuel cell. A hydrogen fuel cell works much like a battery, but instead of requiring a recharge, it can be refilled with hydrogen. Such technology has been around for decades and has been used successfully by NASA to power space craft. It's also being used in South Carolina and around the country to power everything from small electronics to forklifts.

A kilogram of hydrogen has about the same energy content as one gallon of gasoline. And though its price at the pump is estimated to be $6 to $12 for the equivalent of one gallon, that price becomes less shocking when you consider that hydrogen is two to three times more efficient than gasoline.

But hydrogen has long been dogged by concerns over its safety, partly because of lingering fears from the infamous Hindenburg disaster of 1937. Scientists later proved that the hydrogen-filled blimp caught fire because it was coated in a flammable petroleum product. Still, the notion of storing the highly flammable gas in pressurized tanks and bolting them onto fast-moving passenger cars makes some uneasy.

This challenge lies at the heart of one of hydrogen's most perplexing dilemmas: How to store enough of it in a space no larger than a current vehicle fuel tank while still powering a car a few hundred miles and not placing motorists at risk. That's one of the challenges scientists in Aiken County are trying to overcome.

Horses and hydrogen

A solution to America's fuel problems and pollution woes could spring from a region of the state better known for breeding the nation's original equine transportation system.

Aiken County also is home to the "bomb plant" where America built its nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. Yet in building those weapons, scientists at the Savannah River Site also gained valuable experience with hydrogen as part of their work with tritium. That in-house expertise is now proving valuable as South Carolina looks to cash in on hydrogen.

"We've been an expert in hydrogen for 50 years and nobody knew it," said Fred Humes, director of the Economic Development Partnership in Aiken and Edgefield counties.

Then, in 2003, President Bush pledged $1 billion to commit America to investing in hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

That allowed SRS to open its doors a bit and helped hydrogen boosters in surrounding Aiken County pitch a $10 million bond referendum to pay for the state's first stand-alone hydrogen research center, which opened in February 2006.

The center also raises money by renting its laboratories and other space for hydrogen-related research projects. Among the center's tenants are scientists and researchers from the nearby Savannah River National Laboratory and auto maker Toyota.

By converting hydrogen into a powder, the lab's scientists also hope to avoid the risks associated with using hydrogen in gas form.

"The research has to do with getting the size and weight down to what the car companies want," said Dr. William Summers, who manages the national laboratory's hydrogen programs.

To illustrate the importance of size, Humes, a Charleston native, shows off the center's hydrogen-powered 2007 Chevrolet Silverado, the state's first registered hydrogen vehicle.

The big V-8 truck revs up to highway speeds in seconds and can fly over the county's rolling hills. It looks and drives just like a gasoline-powered model. But drop the tailgate and you'll find the pick-up's bed filled with three large hydrogen cylinders that fuel the truck's internal combustion engine for up to 200 miles.

The truck's price tag also is telling of hydrogen's challenges. Converting the truck's engine and computer systems to work with hydrogen cost about $120,000 — not exactly an affordable price for the average South Carolinian.

The truck also highlights another of hydrogen's hurdles. It is fueled at a portable hydrogen station housed at the research center. The "station" must be driven to Florida to fill up on hydrogen.

While hydrogen is the most abundant element on earth, it does not exist alone in nature and must first be extracted from other sources. Most hydrogen produced in the U.S. today is made from natural gas, a process that creates emissions of carbon dioxide. Though these emissions are only about half of what's produced by gasoline-powered vehicles.

Critics of hydrogen question whether it's fair to tout its zero-emission benefits when its production from natural gas can produce some of the same harmful pollution as traditional power-generation methods, said Jack Nerad, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hybrid and Alternative Fuel Vehicles.

Nerad, a former editor of Motor Trend magazine, said most of the world's auto makers have "at least dipped a toe" into hydrogen fuel research. But so far, most of those efforts have yielded only experimental or prototype vehicles. Honda and BMW are among the latest to roll out hydrogen vehicles.

Many of these vehicles will arrive in Columbia and other parts of the state later this month as part of a national tour to promote hydrogen fuel. Tour organizers haven't said how they plan to fill up the vehicles along the way, as there are only a smattering of hydrogen stations around the country.

Developing a true hydrogen support network would take decades, Nerad said. "There are 175,000 gasoline stations in the country now. With hydrogen, you are at square one."

The state's role

All of these challenges help explain why the state's commitment to hydrogen to date has been spotty. The S.C. Hydrogen Infrastructure Development Act was supposed to set aside $15 million over three years to provide crucial seed money to fund hydrogen projects, but the state's recent budget crunch shrunk this year's amount to $2.5 million. That's still better than the state's main umbrella group for hydrogen fared. The South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on developing a hydrogen fuel cell market, received about $367,000 in state money during each of its first two years of operation. But the General Assembly nixed the group's funding this year as the state's financial picture worsened. The alliance is now scraping by on dues collected from its members such as the state universities and other partners, said Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, the alliance's executive director.

She said the cuts are particularly painful when so much of the state's budget goes toward fuel.

Still, Baxter-Clemmons, a Hanahan native who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, believes South Carolina can become a serious player in the hydrogen business. As author of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's hydrogen policy blueprint, she saw firsthand what can happen when state leaders back alternative fuel research and development. California spends about $100 million annually on hydrogen and alternative fuel efforts and has about 25 hydrogen fueling stations.

South Carolina's first permanent hydrogen fuel station in downtown Columbia is expected to come online in January as part of the city's efforts to create the nation's first "fuel cell district."

The $1.5 million station project, funded through a combination of city, state and federal funds, is needed to help fuel a hydrogen-powered passenger bus that will be on loan to the state for a year from the federal government.

The solution?

Even hydrogen's biggest supporters don't see it as the silver bullet.

If hydrogen emerges as a viable energy solution, it's likely to be among a mixture of other alternative fuel solutions such as wind, solar, natural gas, biofuels and other sources. "We have never said hydrogen is the answer," Humes said. "It's an answer."

Summers, who has been working with hydrogen for some 30 years, believes the real challenge is promoting hydrogen as a long-term solution in a culture that values the quick-fix. "We are talking about a major transformation of our energy system. If gas was four dollars a gallon a few years ago, we'd already be there."

Reach Ron Menchaca at 937-5724 or rmenchaca@post andcourier.com

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