Hydrogen Road Tour 2008

The Hydrogen Road Tour 2008 rolled into East Hartford, Connecticut today. The Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. hosted the event, which was a coup for the town of East Hartford. Long known for its close association with Pratt & Whitney Aircraft jet engines, East Hartford has put itself on the fuel cell map in a big time way. A lot of the credit still goes to Hartford based United Technologies Corporation, the parent of both PWA and UTC Power (formerly known as International Fuel Cells/ONSI). CCAT got help from the Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition, the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the National Hydrogen Association, in its promotion of this advanced transportation technology.

 

The tour.

As a long time supplier of precision machined components to the fuel cell and power generation industries, our company, Horst Engineering, another long time East Hartford enterprise, was invited to participate in the program. The stars of the show were the fuel cell powered automobiles and bus, but several suppliers to the industry and pioneers of the technology were asked to display their products for the various industry executives, local/state politicians, dignitaries, and media. Horst Engineering supplies a variety of components to fuel cell manufacturers, including tie rods, bushings, couplings, fittings, fasteners, and other custom components made from plastic, stainless steel, and titanium. The titanium tie rods that we make for the PEM stacks are an essential component. This type of business isn’t currently sustaining our workforce, but it is a nice compliment to our aerospace products business. It is also nice to be involved in the development stage of an important “new” technology. 

Hydrogen fuel cells aren’t exactly new. They have long been used in space applications dating back to the 1960’s. Over the past 30 years, efforts have been made to commercialize the product for power generation and transportation applications. The challenge has been great as fuel cell manufacturing costs and technical challenges remain high. The technology isn’t new, but the private, not-for-profit, and government interest has never been greater. With regular unleaded gas hovering around $3.85/gallon in Connecticut, fuel cell powered vehicles are hot. You could say that the politics of the industry have changed. Of course, it is the politics of the oil industry that will have to change if we ever expect to see a hydrogen filling station on every busy street corner. I lot will have to change if they are going to compete opposite the ones offering the more traditional fossil fuels.  

The Hydrogen Road Tour will continue down the eastern seaboard, then head west to California, its ultimate destination. There are many stops on the way, as there are many communities interested in this technology. Connecticut and East Hartford had their day in the sun today, providing a glimpse of what might be a whole knew fuel of the future.

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