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Steve Williams Says Pep Boys Should Lead Charge for Hydrogen Car Conversions

Several years ago I heard from Steve Williams with his proposal that the automotive parts and repair chain Pep Boys lead the charge in converting vehicles with internal combustion engines to run on hydrogen and providing H2 fueling stations at the stores themselves.

This unique idea had piqued my interest and now I’ve heard from Mr. Williams again with an update to what is happening with Pep Boys:

“Several years back I presented you with the idea of Pep Boys – which is headquartered here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – offering its customers the service of converting their cars to run on hydrogen plus providing them with places where they could readily refuel. With Pep Boys having automotive service centers located all throughout the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico, it’s what I recognized as being a ready-made infrastructure.

“However, due to backwards-minded Philadelphia-area, or Pennsylvania-based politics or whatever it is, the idea was never able to take hold, and all these many long and frustrating years it was as if the heads of Pep Boys Corporation themselves were under gag orders never to discuss it. And I would presume primarily due to that.

“But it was just publicly announced on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 (please see e-mail attachment) that the Pep Boys Corporation – pending shareholder approval – has been sold off to a Los Angeles-based interest: Gores Group.

“So perhaps this creates an opportunity where Pep Boys can finally reconsider what I first presented to them with way back in 2004 – unless politics there right now is as bad as it is here when it comes to going forward with the hydrogen economy. I’m certainly hoping that’s not the case and that this presents a new opportunity where the idea I first had way back in 2004 can be considered once more.

“In any event, I thought I should pass this news onto you since you’re based there, and Pep Boys is soon to be.”

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen car blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen cars, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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4 comments

  1. Kevin,
    since you have expertise in hydrogen fuel,I thought you may be interested in the following partial blog:
    Additional Comments By Howard Stern 2/4/12
    http://tinyurl.com/74mytrz
    Re: My small Company, with a compatible CHEMICAL Process Engineering Firm.and MY technology and systems, will produce #16,000,000 pounds on a demo project with very high energy POWDERED dry ALGAE in a updated plant. I am planning at least thirty of these units throughout the U.S.with participating PARTNER(s),(Why are we be confident of these number?) We did it during our testing and produced completed chemical component testing on safety and on animals
    Incidentally Cornell University announced that they were going to test ALGAE as food concentrate and testing as animal feed.small animals [reinvent the Typewriter in the mountains of ?? I’ve been there, done that three Decades ago]
    My current interest is to find an organization interested in creating FUEL to HYDROGEN for Automotive and Aviation fuels and new valuable Pharmaceutical
    raw ingredients.
    NEW DEVELOPMENTS, in Dec 2010, have taken place in the Laboratories of Swiss and U.S. Gov’t to CREATE DIRECT HYDROGEN to electric energy via fuel-cell to create a safe electric driven Vehicles The newest report is that HYDROGEN from high energy powdered Algae product as a important catalyst to produce electrical power in tablet form.
    Incidentally, the basic powdered method has been previously tested and proven by my Company at my expense. And, recently has been tested and proven by the A/F combat aircraft, helicopters and commercial Aircraft after testing powdered coal. The powdered ALGAE POWDER PROVED SUPERIOR IN THRUST and environmentally suitable. Testing on trucks and military vehicles would be next objective. Howard Stern,Pres
    sugarLand Texas sternh@windstream.net

  2. Any way to contact Steve Williams? FuelCell Energy just did a demonstration in California producing electricity, heat , and hydrogen using waste water treatment gas in their fuelcell. Pep Boys could install these units at their stores and refuel cars.

  3. Matt, I have no connectedness to Pep Boys whatsoever other than I happen to reside in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where its headquarters are located. And if you’re familiar with the city of Philadelphia at all and how it’s greatly sectioned off it’s pretty difficult if not impossible for me to travel from where I reside in the city to the Pep Boys’ headquarters location. Hopefully with recent changes those who run Pep boys will become more accessible, at least in the Los Angeles area where its new owner is based.

    The idea I had for Pep Boys starting way back in 2004 was a very basic one. It doesn’t get any more basic than that. But Philadelphia — and Pennsylvania — politics is such that the most simplest of ideas become absolutely impossible to implement when up against such extraordinary mental deficiency. I did make one contact with Pep Boys back in 2004, and interest was shown in my idea, but then politics quickly intervened and the idea was suddenly quieted. As I explained to Mr. Kantola, the city of Philadelphia is dominated and heavily oppressed by by an enclave of wealthy towns just to the city’s northeast known as “the Main Line.” To understand the Main Line and how it operates, think of the Medici family in reverse. Whereby Italy’s Medici found creative ways to fund progressive ideas, thus giving rise to Europe’s Renaissance, the Main Line consists of those who apply creativity in killing off the simplest of ideas. And it’s been this way for a very long time now. The Main Line acts like “It puts up the money; therefore it must be accounted to.” But the money it puts up only serves to keep Philadelphia in a crippled state.

    I was hoping that with Pep Boys following up on my idea we could’ve started to break that stranglehold. But the Main Line intervened at lightning speed. Had it not I don’t think we would be talking about high gas prices in the U.S. right now. And the HR 3408 bill that just was just voted yes on by the U.S. House of Representatives would’ve turned out to be totally meaningless.

    But in terms of your idea, keep in mind that putting the hydrogen economy in place is twofold. For in order for it to be you have to have vehicles that run on hydrogen plus places where those vehicles can refuel. My Pep Boys idea was to address and resolve both. For it would be pointless for Pep Boys to offer the service of converting cars to run on hydrogen without a refueling infrastructure in place. And on the same token it would be pointless for Pep Boys to provide hydrogen fueling stations if hydrogen powered vehicles don’t exist. If we can get the iron boot Main Line influence out of the equation there’s nothing to suggest that Pep Boys cannot provide both — the service of converting cars to run on hydrogen plus places all throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico where they can refuel.

    In any event this is just to let you know where the matter stands from my viewpoint. As I told Mr. Kantola, it would be better that you take your idea directly to the Gores Group in Los Angeles that now owns Pep Boys. And hopefully we can somehow get the Main Line OUT of the equation and on with this very simple idea.

  4. In going forward with this proposal it helps to understand Pep Boys somewhat. Since its early beginnings it has always stuck very close to the ground in terms of products and services it offered with no real innovation to speak of. Nonetheless, by adhering to that formula it rode the wave of the rise of the gasoline-powered automobile through the 20th century to become the huge conglamorate that it is today. Pep Boys is not the type of corporation that of its own motivation would ever seek to put a hydrogen economy in place throughout the United States.

    At the same time it is well-positioned to do just that, but won’t if it’s just left up to Pep Boys alone to decide. In order for that to happen there has to be third party intervention. And it’s the type of intervention that cannot come from the government. The government can help advance the hydrogen economy by providing money for research — as was the case in the Bush administration — and by offering tax incentives to those who embrace this technology. But it certainly cannot mandate that Pep Boys adopt the hydrogen economy plan.

    So in this instance third party intervention has to come from somewhere else. And that somewhere else consists of three componants:

    1) The media.
    2) Consumer demand.
    3) Venture capitalists.

    Of the third componant, if someone such as say Bill Gates approached Pep Boys with the hydrogen plan proposal and offered to underwrite the full cost of Pep Boys implementing it, I know of nothing that would spur Pep Boys not to agree to cooperate. Pep Boys might come under pressure by Big Oil interests not to cooperate, but at the same time it would know that if it did cooperate all profits now going to Big Oil would suddenly shift to Pep Boys. And I fail to see how Big Oil could offset that, other than what could be generated through fear. And in that way the government could be helpful; to make sure that Pep Boys is protected from Big Oil extortion and intimidation.

    As for this Pep Boys proposal, I’m the only one who’s putting it forth right now, and we’re going to have to do better than that if we actually ever do hope to see a hydrogen economy put in place in this country.

    Wood was the leading fuel of the 18th century. Coal became the leading fuel of the 19th century. Gasoline became the leading fuel of the 20th century. And it follows that hydrogen is meant to be the leading fuel of the 21st century. But here we are, 12 years in now, and the 21st century has not yet come into fruition. Without the introduction of hydrogen technology to the mainstream there is no 21st century to speak of, just a country falling backwards on itself and nothing more. And yet we have it in us, all of us do, to realize something much better than that. Starting with this idea…if we just put our minds to it.

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