Earlier this month I had talked about a company named Hygen that was claiming that the awarding of hydrogen fueling station grants was rigged. According to the legal complaint, Hygen was saying that the major automakers were conspiring to eliminate competition in the awarding of contracts for the building of hydrogen fueling stations.
Well, now this complaint has stirred up a few things around Sacramento and beyond. The California Energy Commission has decided to suspend the awards while they look at and revamp their own bid and award process.
According to the Mercury News, “The grants, funded by vehicle license fees under a 2007 law authored by former Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and signed by Republican ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, amounted to $15 million in 2010, with an additional $12 million winning tentative approval in April. Those grants have now been canceled.
“The grants are designed to encourage construction of refueling stations for hydrogen fuel cell cars that are due to hit showrooms by 2017. These will be built by eight automaking companies including Nissan, Toyota, Honda, GM, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Daimler Benz and Hyundai.
“The Energy Commission’s Schwarzenegger-era policy was to require that at least one automaker approve any refueling location before a grant application could even be considered.
“All the $16 million in grants going to private companies in 2010 were awarded to two large corporations, the German-based Linde Group and Pennsylvania-based Air Products & Chemicals Inc. Both are members of the semi-private California Fuel Cell Partnership, along with the eight carmakers and the Energy Commission. The partnership promotes fuel cell cars.
“Suspicions of collusion in the grant approvals arose because Linde and Air Products executives interact at many meetings and because the carmakers approved only one refueling location not belonging to either of those companies.”
So, there you have it in a nutshell that there is money to be made in the hydrogen industry and as a consequence many vendors are now competing for a piece of the pie. Let’s hope, going forward, that there is a place for everyone at the table to share in that pie.