It is hard to imagine a more challenging and rewarding path for a team of high school students to take than to enter into the H2GP competition, and it is equally difficult to find a more positive source of constant awe than watching any of the H2GP competitions.
While many “adults” around the world argue about whether a shift to hydrogen fuel cell technology is possible and while many others wonder if hydrogen is safe, the teams that compete in the H2GP competition stand as a resolute testament that hydrogen fuel cell technology is safe and ready for primetime NOW. This testament was on full display on 03.26.2022 at the H2GP California State Finals when 20 proven teams took to the track in a four-hour endurance test that was a true finale to one of the most impressive California seasons of the H2GP competition so far.
The California Finals did include the pre-race judging component where each team presents its car to a panel of judges, who then evaluate the car and team based on how well the students can explain the underlying technologies, overall appearance of the vehicle, and other similar metrics. Whether a judge worked in a highly technical capacity at a major conglomerate or worked at a much smaller firm, the overall judicial impression of the students and their cars was a unanimous sense of admiration. While such laudation was unsurprising to your correspondent, it served as a recurring vindication both of the undeniable value of the H2GP competition as well as the importance of the continuation of the tournaments in the years to come.
Of course, the usual amusing aspects of the competition were also visible whether it be car pile ups or cars somehow laying sideways in the middle of the track.
Also hard at work were Evan and Sean Weiss at the vehicle inspection desk helping to ensure a fair match for all by professionally evaluating the vehicles, and they also made sure each car complied with the vehicle build rules of the competition.
Another usual characteristic of a H2GP race was also evident: the whittling of the competitors. While the beginning of the race did indeed start off with 20 cars, by the last half hour of the race there were only 10 cars on the track.
One missing aspect of the California 2021-2022 season were cars that hit the outer wall at 40MPH as well as cars that rolled over a few times for no apparent reason. Perhaps this was due to both the paltry number of straight parts to the track and partly due to drivers learning in previous races the value of controlled braking. (Who knew brakes could be so useful?!)
It was quite encouraging to your correspondent to see a couple of teams really fighting against the odds. As with previous matches, some teams at the California Finals had essentially every resource possible, including several team members, and other teams had limited resources and/or only a couple of members. However, while the PathFinders and the team from Mira Loma High School were only composed of a couple of students each, they definitely competed with an ambition that most employers in the professional sphere are lucky to find in half of their employees. Itxhel Tenorio and Barbara Patlan-Morales of the PathFinders even managed to pull off an award for best pit stop, which was no small feat!
While many in the fuel cell and hydrogen industry believe that young women are found under rocks, Horizon Educational’s H2GP competition clearly demonstrates that they are actually found up-front and center. Your correspondent has seen the young women in the below photo use soldering tools to repair difficult problems, work with large data sets, and genuinely demonstrate that they are capable of any feat when given a chance to do so.
Another quality found on 03.26 that all excellent races have is genuine upset. At the SoCal Regional match in early March of this year teams from Oakwood easily secured the top three spots during the first heat, but on this past Saturday Steam Legacy Team 2 caused an upset by securing a spot in the top three teams.
Other positive outcomes were Edison High School Team 1 coming in with over 660 laps and Arroyo High School’s S.A.S team coming in with over 570 laps. While neither number secured a spot in the top three for the endurance segment of the competition, the numbers are encouraging considering how each team did in the regional matches which can be read about here and here.
This year’s H2GP California State Finals were held at the Fairplex in Pomona, California and many of the people who came to view other events that were happening on the same day stopped by the H2GP race. Your correspondent spoke with two such individuals and after learning that both the H2GP cars and the full-sized version of the Toyota Mirai use hydrogen fuel cell technology, they were not only impressed but asked for more information about both to be sent to them. For some reason when people learn that they can fill up a car for $75 with gasoline and pollute or they can fill up a car for $75 and emit only water, they instantly see the value of driving a FCEV. It also helps that the typical driving range of a FCEV is similar to that of a gasoline vehicle.
It is true that Rome, like the seat for any other great civilization, was not built in a day. It is also true that transitioning to a global hydrogen economy is going to take one or two more decades. However, what is proven at each H2GP match is that if you give young people zero emission hydrogen fuel cell technology and then ask them to impress, then the young people will rise to the occasion and not only impress but demonstrate that they are ready for a better world. Young people have schooled adults with their ability to literally build sustainable, safe, and reliable FCEVs from scratch. It is time for adults to now rise to the occasion and help lift the mantle of hydrogen fuel cell technology, and by doing so build for young people a global hydrogen economy that is capable of passing the smog check of all future generations.
Do not go anywhere! The 2021-2022 California H2GP season is over, but the top three teams from California, and your correspondent, will be headed to the Netherlands in the first week of June where they will compete along with 17 other teams from around the world in the H2GP World Finals!
Below are the photos of the top three endurance teams and the teams who won special category awards.
Jesse Lyon, Contributor
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fuel Cells Works, its directors, partners, staff, contributors, or suppliers. Any content provided by our contributors or authors are of their own opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
Read the most up to date Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Industry news at FuelCellsWorks