December 2007

12.27.2007
Inglis hails H-prize passage
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12.19.2007
Millions offered for hydrogen fuel ideas
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12.19.2007
Segway's new way
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December19, 2007
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Segway's new way

THE PERSONAL TRANSPORTER MEETS THE HYDROGEN ECONOMY

USC engineering staffer Charles Holland demonstrates a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Segway. USC engineering professor John Weidner and Holland have launched a start-up company, Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility, to use hydrogen fuel cells to power forms of personal transportation such as Segways, scooters and wheelchairs.
About fuel cells

Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility is a start-up company in a niche market that gave away its first two products. Not much of a business plan.

Now, USC professor John Weidner and engineer Chuck Holland have plans for the next phase of the business that will sell their products and grow the company.

H2M modifies the standard battery-powered Segway personal transporter to run on a fuel cell that uses hydrogen stored in a canister.

The fuel cell extends the Segway’s range by several hours. One hydrogen canister increases the range by roughly a third, Weidner said.

“So if you have three of those (canisters) on board, you have double the range of the battery. Instead of being out for three or four hours, you can be out for six or eight hours,” he said.

The niche that Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility is going after is small, mobile devices, like wheelchairs or scooters. The company is part of the USC Technology Incubator, which has helped devise and refine a business plan.

The first two Segways were acquired as part of the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge to demonstrate a relatively good, low-cost way of using fuel cells for transportation, Weidner said.

With $50,000 in funding from the challenge, Weidner and Holland bought two Segways from a dealer in Greenville.

The fuel cell and the hydrogen fuel canisters were purchased from Jadoo Power Systems. Weidner and Holland integrated the two systems.

Jadoo, a California company, was already involved in the fuel cell challenge, and one of its products turned out to be a nice fit for the Segway, Weidner said. “We just had to come up with the housing to mount it and to hide the electronics,” he said. That job fell to Holland.

Their original fuel-cell-powered Segways have been donated to the Columbia Police Department and to USC. They were seen in the Columbia Christmas parade. Cocky rode USC’s Segway during the Kentucky game in October.

But donating products doesn’t make a business.

Weidner and Holland have applied to Phase 2 of the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge with a plan to build more fuel-cell-powered Segways, this time to sell. The phase 2 awards are expected to be announced in January.

They are asking for money to cover half the cost of six Segways. The sale of the machines after they are converted would cover the other half. Phase 2 also would include a marketing study to help determine potential customers.

“A preference would be that these six would stay in Columbia, but we have gotten a tremendous amount of interest from the various Segway dealers,” Weidner said.

Weidner and Holland have also been contacted by tour operators who use Segways.

“One company out of Charlotte said that if they could get hydrogen capabilities on their Segways, they could get three tours a day, instead of the normal two with battery-powered Segways,” Holland said.

Weidner would like to have similar tours in Columbia, at least during the National Hydrogen Association meeting in 2009.

Increased productivity is the selling point for companies adopting the fuel-cell-powered Segways, which are pretty pricey. Each one costs about $5,000 before it is modified for a fuel cell, Weidner said.

But recharging or changing out batteries is down time that is not productive.

Potential markets would include warehouse operators, law enforcement and airport operations, Holland said. “Any work environment where a Segway is used, the hybrid would make sense,” Weidner said.

Right now the company involves just Weidner and Holland, and the two “still like their day jobs,” Weidner said.

As Hydrogen Hybrid Mobility grows, they are going to need help. “Our company is not locked into Segways,” said Holland, a chemical engineer who works for the College of Engineering and Computing. “It is all small, portable vehicles.”

The two also want eventually to build their own fuel cell for the Segway, Weidner said.

That is a quantum step, “but if we get enough orders to justify doing it” and “ if we got some partner, that would really make an exciting fuel cell market for Columbia.”

C. Grant Jackson
Business Editor
gjackson@thestate.com
(803) 771-8376

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December19, 2007

Millions offered for hydrogen fuel ideas

Prizes seen as incentives to ease oil dependence

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis of Greenville is scheduled to attend his first presidential bill-signing ceremony today for his role in making $50 million in prize money available to inventors who advance hydrogen as a viable energy source.

The so-called H-Prize -- Inglis' top legislative priority in recent years -- was approved by the House on Tuesday as part of a huge energy bill. The Senate voted in favor of the bill last week, and President Bush is scheduled to sign it into law today during a ceremony at the Energy Department.

Inglis, a Republican, has touted the H-Prize for nearly three years as a way to help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil. The measure authorizes four $1 million prizes and one $4 million prize every two years for a decade, as well as one $10 million grand prize for a "transformational technology."

"My only disappointment is that it's not a billion-dollar prize," Inglis said during a conference call with reporters shortly after the energy bill passed by a wide margin. Joining him on the call was Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat who also sponsored the H-Prize legislation.

Inglis and Lipinski said they also were behind a different measure in the energy bill that requires federal buildings to use energy-efficient light bulbs and imposes new efficiency standards for light bulbs.

By Rudolph Bell
BUSINESS WRITER
dmbell@greenvillenews.com

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December 27, 2007
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Inglis hails H-Prize passage

WASHINGTON — The headline feature of the energy bill President Bush was to sign into law today is the first new fuel-efficiency standards for cars in a generation.

U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, invited by Bush to the bill-signing ceremony, hopes that separate provisions he crafted could have greater impact in the long run.

The energy measure, which the House passed Tuesday on a 314-100 vote, authorizes the federal government to give tens of millions of dollars to winners of a new prize aimed at speeding the development and widespread use of hydrogen-fueled cars.

South Carolina, especially Columbia, has made the pursuit of hydrogen fuel cell technology a building block for the state’s future economy. The state could be in line to claim some of that money.

“We can clean up the air, we can create jobs and we can improve the national security of the United States by reducing our energy dependency on foreign fuels,” said Inglis, a Greenville Republican completing his fifth House term.

Separate Inglis provisions, also included in the energy bill, require most federal government buildings and other installations to use energy-efficient lights.

The cost of producing and transporting has slowed the development of hydrogen-powered cars in the United States, as has the weight and size of hydrogen fuel cells for cars.

But Honda, BMW and General Motors are spending billions of dollars on hydrogen vehicle prototypes.

Inglis said his “H-Prize” idea will accelerate momentum toward such cars by establishing prestigious awards carrying large cash payments to winners.

“We want teams of entrepreneurs and inventors pushing themselves,” Inglis said.

Others in the delegation welcomed the bill’s passage.

“The fuel-efficiency authorizations in this bill are estimated to save American families close to $1,000 a year at the gas pump,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat and the House majority whip.

Rep. John Spratt, a York Democrat, joined Clyburn in voting for the energy measure Tuesday. Inglis and fellow Republican Reps. Joe Wilson of Springdale and Henry Brown of Hanahan also voted for the broader legislation.

Republican Rep. Gresham Barrett, a Westminister Republican, voted against the energy bill.

Aides to Barrett said he opposed the measure because it de-emphasizes production of power from proven sources such as oil, gas, coal, water or nuclear plants.

Inglis credited Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican, with helping to sell the H-Prize to Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, senior Republican on the Senate Energy Committee. Aides to Domenici had previously opposed the idea, Inglis said.

Bush said he would sign the broader energy measure even though it split House Republicans in half, with 95 GOP members voting for it and 96 opposing it.

Rosen covers Washington for McClatchy Newspapers in South Carolina.

By JAMES ROSEN - jrosen@mcclatchydc.com 

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