Imagine driving 800 kilometres without fueling up and not making a large carbon footprint while doing it.
That will be possible in just under a year, according to Next Hydrogen's chief technology officer Michael Stemp.
To prove it, he brought a hydrogen fuel-cell car to Thursday's Hydrogen for Sustainable Northern Communities Forum at Canadore College's aviation campus.
“Range anxiety is very real for battery electric vehicles and if you're in a cold climate then your range is going to be reduced even more,” said Stemp, noting 500 and 600-km trips are already possible.
“Shorter fuel time, longer distances, it's very well-suited to use in the North.”
Vehicles were only one part of the conference agenda. Speakers also discussed possible industrial and manufacturing applications as well as the various challenges that face the industry.
Stemp said Next Hydrogen is an “early stage technology company that's just coming to market.”
It produces large-scale water electrolyzers that can split hydrogen and oxygen atoms from water.
Though their initial sales have mostly been for forklift refuelling in large distribution centres, he said there is enough research on the technology to expand its range of uses.
“The technology is available today and is cost-competitive today. The decisions that are being made by companies ... are bottom-line decisions,” Stemp said. “They're not based on saving the world or the environment. First and foremost...it's saving them money.”
Stemp adds that Ontario has an excess of electricity production which requires that plants be temporarily shut down or that the electricity be sold to neighbouring areas at a loss. He said there is potential for this excess to be put toward the infrastructure and development needed to support hydrogen technology.
“It's just due to a lack of fuelling infrastructure that we don't have the vehicles here,” he said. “If we build up the infrastructure that technology option will be available to people in the North.”
Still, Stemp believes in the energy source's potential and he looks forward to greater adoption in the future.
“I'm excited at the possibility of people getting access to the technology and being able to use it. So you and I are able to go out and lease a hydrogen vehicle and drive it around North Bay.”