This is the first director’s column written in my new office in our new Schatz lab. It’s just wonderful to be in this modern, well-designed building that will certainly increase our productivity and has already made us proud. You can read about some of the details and see a picture in the building update in this issue.
But while the Schatz Center has been upgraded, the U.S. hydrogen and fuel cell technology program has fallen from sight. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has suggested that the hydrogen program be zeroed out in the next DOE budget. There is plenty of funding for battery research and plug-in hybrids, but not a penny for fuel cell vehicles. Secretary Chu tried to do this in last year’s budget cycle but was rebuffed by a strong coalition of legislators who insisted that the funding be restored.
Picking battery and hybrid cars as a technology winner seems like a big mistake in light of the fact that fuel cell vehicles have come a long way (our Toyota Highlander fuel cell car is a dream to drive) and other places (like Japan, Korea, and the EU) are going gangbusters for fuel cell transportation. How this will play out is anyone’s guess but because hydrogen and fuel cells were an emphasis for the last administration, it’s hard to believe that Chu’s decision is not politically motivated.
Our Spring has been wet and wild here on the North Coast. We join everyone in anticipating the warmer, sunnier days ahead.