We are in a fantastic time and space when it comes to how sustainable transport will evolve.
It’s safe, non-toxic, doesn’t smell and is probably more efficient than any other fuel. So is hydrogen the fuel of the future?
General Motors made the first fuel-cell vehicle in the mid-1960s. Alas, the Chevrolet Electrovan never caught on and efforts to perfect a car powered by one of the most abundant elements on earth stalled. But it seemingly it is time to put hydrogen-powered cars back on our radar as the major automakers speed fuel-cell technology research and development.
Toyota, which launched the sustainable motoring era with its Prius over 15 years ago, has revealed it will sell a hydrogen fuel-celled car in 2015 for USD 50,000. Other carmakers, such as Hyundai, Ford, Renault-Nissan and Daimler, are snapping at Toyota’s heels with Honda announcing plans to launch a new generation of its fuel-cell-powered Clarity, only available today for lease in California.
“We are in a very unique time and space when it comes to how sustainable transport will evolve,” says Dominique Houde, Senior Vice President at Alset Global, a leading technology and engineering company delivering state-of-the-art clean mobility solutions.
“All the forces that speed change are demanding renewable energy: automakers, consumers, political decision makers, green lobbyists. And, importantly, we now have the technology to drive sustainable mobility.”
French-Canadian Houde has been passionate about cars and mobility since he helped pay his way through university in Quebec by writing car reviews and industry analyses in several publications. After completing his studies at the London School of Economics Houde joined Merrill Lynch to launch his career as an investment banker.
“I worked on several high-profile automotive M&A transactions at Merrill Lynch, including the acquisition of a stake in Nissan by Renault and the GM/ Saab combination. This gave me valuable additional insight into the auto industry and a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of some the most influential deals in the sector; expertise I built on at the Lotus Group as director of corporate finance before joining Alset Global,” he says.
Based in Graz, Austria, Alset Global is helping accelerate the futuristic vision of a clean, green transport world with its transformative hybrid hydrogen system that enables internal combustion engines to operate using hydrogen, petrol or a customized blend of hydrogen and petrol/ diesel fuel.
In may 2013 Alset Global teamed up with Aston Martin to create a world first – a hydrogen-powered Aston racer to compete in the Nürburgring 24 Hours race, dubbed “possibly the greatest motorsport event in the world” by the BBC’s TopGear motoring programme.
Matched against 174 other racing cars, the Hybrid Hydrogen Aston Martin Rapide S was powered by its special bi-fuel hydrogen/petrol twin turbo 6.0-litre V12 engine. With safety paramount, the Rapide S system included four ultra-strength carbon fibre tanks holding a total of 3.5kg of hydrogen stored at a pressure of 350bar, a system developed by Alset Global.
Although the car did not win, the accolades poured in. “To finish a gruelling 24-hour race like that was real testament to the engineering teams at Aston Martin and Alset Global who developed the car,” says David King, head of special projects at Aston Martin.
Houde stresses that the hybrid route is a good transitional technology for our dayand age.
“Hybrid alternatives let us harness all the good things that are in place already,” he says. “Consumers are pragmatic and won’t buy into technologies that will take years to put in place.”
Consider California. In 2013, three years past the goal set by former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to have 250 hydrogen fuelling stations in place, California still has just nine public stations operating. And this in a state demanding carmakers meet a 2025 deadline ensuring 22 percent of new sales are zero-emission or plug-in hybrids.
The Europeans are accelerating their hydrogen game, but the pace is painfully slow. Germany is moving fastest and is set on becoming the first country completely accessible to fuel-cell vehicles by 2015 with 65 hydrogen filling stations.
“The way forward is to harness the proven here-and-now technology we delivered to Aston Martin,” Houde says. “And it can be applied to a wide range of other industrial applications that share the need to phase out fossil fuels, from shipping to agriculture.”
Job title: Senior Vice President Corporate Finance at Alset Global
Family: Married, with two children aged five and three.
Drives: A "capacious but rather quick" Volvo V70 a "pragmatic choice". Dream car would be a vehicle delivering the full driging experience with zero emissions, and equipped with technology allowing automated driving on demand.
Hobbies /interests: His kids, reading, skiing and hiking.