Its not just which designer they are wearing that Hollywoods elite are judged on when they arrive at the Oscars, but also the car they pull up in and more importantly, how green it is. The days of choosing between a gas guzzling limousine or a blacked-out SUV are long gone as celebrities instead favour more environmentally friendly alternatives, like battery-electric or hydrogen vehicles.

Harrison Ford was among half a dozen stars who made headlines in 2003 when they all arrived at the glitzy awards ceremony in Toyota Priuses, pushing the then little-known model into the spotlight. It was a move by environmental organisation Global Green USA, which has been organising an annual pre-Oscars gala showcasing green lifestyle choices for nearly two decades.

Environmental non-profit Energy Independence Now (EIN), dedicated to advancing fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and renewable hydrogen infrastructure, has sponsored the gala theres been a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19 and literally rolled out the green carpet to Hollywoods A-listers. Jane Fonda and Buzz Aldrin are just two VIPs that showed up in FCEVs.

Speaking from the green carpet in 2019, Terry Tamminen, EIN founder and CEO of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation at the time, said, I want to tell you the most exciting thing about them [FCEVs]; theyre sexy, theyre cool!

When you get in one, heads are turning and people are honking, giving me a thumbs up. People stop me and say, Tell me more about a fuel cell vehicle, what is that?.

Its the same technology we used to take us to the moon and to drive around in that dune buggy on the moon, and now we can have it right here in California.

Its that exact passion for hydrogen fuel cells and zero emission transportation that saw Tamminen found EIN in 2000. And through Tamminem the non-profit organisation has played a pivotal role in Californias hydrogen journey. When Arnold Schwarzeneggar was Governor of California, he appointed Tamminen secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and later cabinet secretary, the chief policy advisor to the governor. Tamminen was the architect of many ground-breaking sustainability policies, including the Hydrogen Highway initiative topics H2 View will discuss with Tamminen very soon in a stand-alone interview.

Educating the world

Leading EIN in its mission to support a transition to a clean transportation system today is Brain Goldstein, Executive Director, and hes equally as passionate!

I think theres this really beautiful aspect in coming up with a solution that allows us to maintain transport as it has been for the past 100+ years and not have to dramatically change our lifestyles, but to do so with this cool and relatively simple technology. I just really appreciate the challenge in that, Goldstein enthused to H2 View.

My role at EIN allows me to combine my passion for the environmental movement with the appeal of the automotive industry, which is fun but also critical if we are to effectively meet emission reduction goals. Ive always been into cars and this is a really cool opportunity to help work on the future of transportation.

EINs primary focus is to reduce emissions from automotive use by advancing hydrogen FCEVs. The non-profit works closely with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the California Energy Commission (CEC), state legislative offices, industry leaders and other NGOs to ensure effective implementation of the key incentives, regulations and funding programmes that address climate change.

Hydrogen is such a polarising topic in the US; Americans just want to pick a winner. Just like VHS versus Betamax back in the old VCR world war, they want to say batteries have already won, game over, why are you even talking to me about fuel cells?

To date, EIN has helped to create the initial models and maps of the hydrogen fuelling infrastructure; co-authored California Senate Bill 1505, the first standard for renewable hydrogen; ensured hydrogen fuelling infrastructure was included in AB118 (Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program); and supported and helped develop the CECs plan to publicly fund the first 100 hydrogen stations.

In 2020, EIN launched DriveH2, a public service initiative committed to educating the world about the benefits of hydrogen-powered FCEVs.

Weve got a fleet of FCEVs that we use to introduce people to the technology. Due to some of the misinformation or lack of understanding, its easy for people to be hydrogen haters online, but once theyve taken one of the cars, experienced the network in California, and realised that you dont have to find a plug andcan drive across the state without having to worry about stopping and charging for an hour, people arent as quick to bash the technology, Goldstein said.

Hydrogen is such a polarising topic in the US; Americans just want to pick a winner. Just like VHS versus Betamax back in the old VCR world war, they want to say batteries have already won, game over, why are you even talking to me about fuel cells?

But at the end of the day, 50% of people in California live in multifamily housing. They dont necessarily have access to a charger, much less a garage or a dedicated parking space.

We really need to make sure people know that of the two tools in the zero-emission vehicle toolbox, we really need both of them, and EIN even uses them as complementary technologies. Weve used our fleet in the past to help reinforce that point.

Energy Independence Now Brian Goldstein aboard Energy Observer

Supporting non-profits

During Covid-19, work pivoted. Unable to loan a car to somebody due to rules and regulations resulting from the pandemic, the organisation instead loaned their fleet of FCEVs out to other non-profits involved in the response to Covid-19.

A lot of the cars were taking food to children that otherwise would be eating at school and so were missing out on meals because they were out of school. We also lent cars to other organisations that were delivering protective equipment to communities that didnt have access to it. It felt really amazing to support other non-profits, Goldstein explained.

Then we actually took that a step further and we secured 10 Toyota Mirais to be permanently donated to non-profits. The pilot of that programme was our Red Cross donation, which you guys covered at the time on H2 View.

Read more: DriveH2, Toyota donate five hydrogen-powered Mirais to Red Cross

Another is a non-profit Arnold Schwarzeneggar started called After-School All-Stars. Theyre doing food rescue work and STEM learning to teach kids about career paths in science and technology, and the fact that they can be an engineer working on new technology vehicles or a technician or a designer.

Its really cool to think of what these vehicles [FCEVs] look like and represent through the eyes of a seven-year-old kid. For these kids to grow up with this and know that this is how things work now, and this is whats achievable, I think is really rewarding.

EIN/DriveH2 also donated a FCEV to the Petersen Automotive Museum for education purposes.

Energy Independence Now

Engaging the environmental community

As EIN and DriveH2 now ramp up their work in line with the momentum for hydrogen, Goldstein wants the hydrogen community and the environmental community to engage more.

Hydrogen is really polarising in the environmental community and I feel that the hydrogen community hasnt really engaged the environmental community as much as we need to. I know thats something that EIN aspires to do better, and something that were actively working on. But I think its really important on a global scale, he said.

That was really evident to me when I was travelling to Japan and Australia. Europe, I think, was a little more on board with the environmental benefits of hydrogen. But the other enviros that I met with, like at the G20 conference in Japan a few years ago, were saying, thats just another way of bringing in fossil fuels from Australia. They understood it from an energy resilience standpoint, but they really did not believe that there was an environmental motive beneath the hydrogen society.

I think theres just been this lack of engagement and dialogue between the hydrogen community and the environmental community. The hydrogen community assumes everyone knows that were doing this for the environment, but were not doing a good enough job of spelling it out. Were not building those relationships and were not really showing people how that works. These are things EIN and our DriveH2 initiative are working to rectify.

And I think that catalyses backing from the policy and regulatory communities for renewable hydrogen to support transportation, energy storage and industrial decarbonisation. One of our top priorities is to really engage the environmental community in the hydrogen movement.

See more here:

Educating California and the world on the benefits of hydrogen-powered transportation - H2 View

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