2021 ACT Expo Final Thoughts

September 15, 2021

This is a repost of a news article as featured on fuelcellsworks.com

Perhaps the clearest truth at the ACT Expo was that moving to a zero-emissions global economy is going to be a fight that will be played out over time and across the whole world.

At Shell’s press conference on 09.01, where it revealed its “Starship 2.0”, Shell tried to talk about things that have little value. The goal of Starship is to showcase how giving heavy-duty trucks some minor upgrades increases their fuel economy. However, all of the advances are artificial and none of them would result in a ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) , as discussed at the ACT Expo, given the use of an internal combustion engine.

For instance, adding solar panels to the trailer of a class-8 truck is going to help when it is a sunny day, but at night it adds a lot of dead weight to the truck. In the U.S., where people feel they have to have everything now, many truck drivers drive well into the night, and there are many of them on the road even at 3:30 am. This does not even account for things like weather or terrain that can significantly reduce the effectiveness of solar panels. Shell also talked up adding skirts to the cab of a truck, which seems like a good idea but only makes it harder for truck drivers to chain-up in icy or snowy conditions. When the time came for questions from the press, no questions were asked. It was clear that Shell’s Starship 2.0 held little to no value for anyone, perhaps because people are tired of supermajors trying to make a lie seem like the truth.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were a number of companies engaged in the hydrogen economy, with the goal of bringing a zero emissions economy to life. Ballard, Hyzon, Loop Energy, Nuvera, Symbio and Toyota all had their fuel cells on display, and supporting companies like Symbio’s parent company Faurecia SE had hydrogen storage tanks on the show floor. GenH2 also had a booth and received a lot of inquiries about purchasing its products and integrating them into setups that rely on a hydrogen production method like electrolysis. GenH2’s cryo-storage technology definitely promises to accelerate the ability of hydrogen fueling stations to significantly increase the amount of hydrogen that can be stored on-location. Even a traditional company like Capacity was in attendance and eager to talk about its new partnership with Nuvera. Bennett, another traditional company, was also at the ACT expo. However, it was clear that Bennett is eager to serve the hydrogen market. It has already been providing hydrogen fueling pumps to First Element for years, but it is continuing to work on improving its hydrogen pumps.

As any FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle) owner will tell you, most hydrogen fueling pumps are awkward and have a learning curve, but Bennett’s pumps create a much more user-friendly and seamless transition for that segment of the market from gasoline to hydrogen. Even more sedate areas of the economy, like school buses are getting electrified. Presently the future of school buses is expected to use BEV (battery electric vehicle) technology, but it is at least encouraging to see lower carbon innovations coming to school buses.

The 2021 ACT Expo clearly demonstrated that hydrogen fuel cell technology is not a possible future technology; in actuality, it is a technology that is being deployed NOW. The fact that there is a multitude of fuel cell makers only proves this and helps to create an environment conducive to fostering further innovation. Equally important is that companies that are embracing hydrogen see a need to compete and cooperate. There are definite hills to climb still for hydrogen, but hydrogen has a very real opportunity of giving humanity something it has lacked for decades: hope.

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