The tour, which is visiting 31 cities in 18 states in 13 days as it winds from Maine to California, features hydrogen-powered vehicles by automobile manufacturers including BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen.
Paul Brubaker, administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, attended the Thursday event and said UD was a natural stop for the tour because it has been a national leader in research on hydrogen propulsion technologies. Among the vehicles on display at the Bob Carpenter Center was the University's hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus, which makes regular campus shuttle runs.
Brubaker said the road tour is demonstrating the maturity of the industry and the potential for hydrogen fuel. “The tour is a way to show the American people that this is a viable technology,” he said.
Congressman Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), who test drove a Honda FCX Clarity during the event, said hydrogen propulsion is important to the future because the United States must become more self-reliant in meeting its energy needs.
Castle noted that while the cars are nearing the market, there must be infrastructure in place so drivers can refuel easily. That will be neither easy nor inexpensive but, he said, “it is ultimately of extraordinary importance.”
Ajay Prasad, UD professor of mechanical engineering who is principal investigator for the hydrogen fuel cell bus project, said the University was pleased to serve as a site for the road tour and to “showcase the latest technologies in automotive propulsion.”
Prasad recognized the sponsors of the event, who are the nine automobile manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Energy, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the National Hydrogen Association and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
He also recognized representatives of Air Liquide, which is part of a consortium consisting of EBus, Ballard Power Systems, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Delaware Transit Corp. assembled for the UD bus project.
Three hydrogen-powered cars that are part of the caravan were refueled Wednesday evening at Air Liquide's Delaware Research and Technology Center.
After leaving Newark, the caravan made its way to Washington, D.C. It will complete the tour Aug. 23, when it arrives in Los Angeles.
Article by Neil Thomas
Photos by Kathy Atkinson