Critics have been talking about how the Transport for London project which includes building several H2 buses for the British metropolitan area is not as green of a project as it appears. And, they have a point.
The five hydrogen powered buses will be build in Northern Ireland, then shipped 17,240 miles roundtrip to San Diego, California. According to the London Evening Standard, “The vehicles themselves will have been built only 350 miles away from London in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, but will then be shipped at least 8,620 miles to San Diego in California for engines to be installed.”
This means the buses will spend weeks on a large diesel powered cargo ship, which will emit tons of pollution into the air. One wonders if it would not be cheaper and greener to fly the engineers and equipment out from San Diego to London?
Now one may argue that since this is such a specialty item and process, there are very few choices right now in companies that can deal with this sort of thing and in the future as the technology develops and more companies come on board, then the complete development of buses (and cars) can be accomplished closer to home.
This was one of the arguments U. S. Congressman Eric Massa was trying to make when he drove a Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell part of the way from upstate New York to Washington DC for his swearing in event. Two Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUV’s were used to toe two Equinox FCV’s part of the way because of the lack of hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
Personally, I think he was covering his behind on this one (or it was an ill-conceived plan from the start) simply because he could have made arrangements for portable hydrogen fueling stations to be part of the ride or use a Toyota FCHV-adv, which does have sufficient range for the journey.
The critics were right to argue that this was not as green of a trip as it was promoted to be. When advocating for hydrogen technology we need to be vigilant of the valid points the critics will surely make when we take on a project.
We must not try to disguise the larger than expected carbon footprint or spin it like Fiji water does with their green program only to ship their products halfway around the world on diesel cargo ships similar to the Transport for London project.
By being upfront about the pitfalls of hydrogen development, we can first avoid negative publicity after the fact, and second, listen to the criticism and try to come up with greener solutions. Third, if the problem cannot be avoided in the short term, then give the media a long term solution upfront.
Valid criticisms and solutions have to be part of the hydrogen development process. Without valid criticism and finding solutions based upon the criticism, the whole development process is being bogged down.
More transparency is a popular theme now days in Washington DC (though its implementation has been dubious) and the same holds true for hydrogen R&D. Transparency not only means accountability but coming up with creative solutions to complex problems which will ultimately speed up the progress in hydrogen transportation development in a “do it right the first time” approach.