The only real hydrogen convergence success in the United States has occurred in the area of material handling. Both large and small businesses have been quick to invest in hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts because they can operate longer than battery powered ones and refuel faster. For those tasked with supporting sustainability, this means that the next steps for hydrogen convergence must be practical ones.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has started to gauge the interest in home hydrogen stations and the potential value of sponsoring a H-Prize (i.e. hydrogen prize) design competition. The possibility of buying a home hydrogen station will not be practical enough to entice most people to purchase a personal hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Even though most people say that they hate going to a filling station, it is doubtful they will pay for a home one.
A better use of DOE resources would be to allocate the department’s time and effort to help trucking companies see the the value in hydrogen convergence projects. For example, it is almost impossible to figure out the real-time price of hydrogen fuel unless you already have hydrogen forklifts. Placing an emphasis on developing domestic fuel cell trucking would go a long way to helping America get back into the race.
Recently, the DOE formed a partnership with automakers to help increase awareness of hydrogen convergence. Technically, not a single American automaker joined the alliance. Confounders will say that American companies will most like participate via their joint ventures and technology partnership. Unfortunately, this lack of commitment means that America companies will miss a generation of technological evolution.
Fuel cell trucking is the most logical next step given the positive level of satisfaction with hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts. American companies that operate fleets of hydrogen forklifts already have hydrogen fuel suppliers and have done the cost benefit analysis for hydrogen infrastructure. Furthermore, the DOE could empower additional hydrogen convergence if they would work the EPA to produce hydrogen from industrial waste.