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Paving the Way to the Future: The Hydrogen Highway

Posted: March 25, 2022

Imagine you have a 4 metric ton pile of waste sitting on your front lawn. Your neighbors would probably hate it. The surrounding community wouldn’t appreciate it either, and it’s hard to tell your kids to go play in the yard with literal tons of waste hanging around.

It’s tough to imagine such a thing but the reality of waste hanging around is actually closer to reality than you might think. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the typical passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of exhaust every year. It’s not exactly on our lawns but all around us, surrounding our homes, towns, neighborhoods and eventually atmosphere.

The difference between the imaginary waste heap on your lawn and the very real exhaust produced annually by cars? It’s all in the way we sense it, according to Ryan Harty, senior manager of CASE (connected, automated, shared, electric) and energy division at American Honda.

“If you could see [exhaust], it would have been banned a long time ago,” Harty said. “But, because it is an odorless, colorless, flavorless gas, it is okay to vent into the atmosphere.”

Harty will join a panel of industry experts to talk about the impact of exhaust as well as the business models, technology, and customer acceptance needed to accelerate hydrogen fuel cell adoption at SAE International’s WCX on April 7, at Huntington Place in Detroit.

For a while, it’s been apparent to the mobility industry that change is needed to make transportation more sustainable. While a heavy focus in traditional media is paid to electric vehicles (EV), Harty says it is critical for the mobility industry to look beyond EVs and at other potential energy systems that can bring us closer to net-zero.

There is a portfolio of sustainable energy solutions for vehicles that are becoming more of a reality today, such as hybrids, battery electric vehicles (BEVs), fuel cell and more. Senior engineering manager at Toyota North America, Jackie Birdsall believes we are already seeing the movement towards net zero from across both the automotive and energy industries.

Both Harty and Birdsall agree, that hydrogen is a renewable energy solution that has the potential to bring the future to net-zero.

“Hydrogen has a huge role in the decarbonization effort as a zero-carbon energy carrier and energy storage mechanism. Most of our global energy is still transported and stored as molecules, not electrons,” Birdsall said. “As we shift to more renewables, we need hydrogen as a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to store energy.”

Birdsall and Harty, along with Joana Richart of Ricardo and Dr. Wayne Eckerle of Cummins Inc. will join in a panel called The Hydrogen Highway, moderated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pete Devlin, to discuss the capabilities of the potential of hydrogen as a clean energy source, and how it can be a key component in leading the charge to an emissions-free future.

Get in on the discussion during our Leadership Summit at WCX in Detroit, Michigan, April 5-7. Register here.