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Wednesday December 12, 2001

Poised in Vanguard of Fuel Cell Technology
H2 Solutions, with goals of developing vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells, plans to locate in Hollister.

By HERMAN WREDE - Correspondent
Free Lance, Hollister, California

     Project a community whose homes and businesses are powered by an energy system that is both highly efficient and inexpensive, a town whose vehicles run on the same fuel that leaves no polluting residue. Further imagine that such a scenario is not only inevitable but can be achieved by the end of this decade.

If the plans of three local men - plans already well underway - are realized, that community will be Hollister.

Ed Bless, E.J. Belliveau and Aziz Farhat are the principals of H2 Solutions, which advocates the use of hydrogen power through fuel cells. Their excitement in discussing its infinite possibilities and boons to humanity is contagious and feeds on itself. Each sees H2 Solutions as "a company of excellence."

Bless, the president, is a former director/manager of Asyst Technologies, Philips Corp. Electroglas, Tandem Computers and Apple Computer. Belliveau, previous director/manager and leader of Xoriant Corporation, the Concours Group, NetFRAME Systems, Keyport Life Insurance and the Christian Science Monitor Syndicate, is vice president. Farhat, formerly director/manager and leader of Cisco Systems, Read-Rite Corporation, Unisys and iNetSynergy, is H2’s chief information officer.

All three are relative newcomers to the area, with Bless arriving in 1997, a year before his associates. They all like Hollister for a number of reasons, including its vigorous entrepreneurial spirit.

"Many business leaders and entities, such as the county Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation, have answered questions and opened their resources to us," Farhat said.

"We met at various Chamber functions and found that we had much in common," Bless said.

Among those interests was a belief in the future of hydrogen as a main power source, and a love of Hollister ­ the initials of hydrogen and Hollister inspiring the name H2.

"Jules Verne foresaw the potential of hydrogen in the 19th Century," Bless said. "Many of the major car manufacturers have developed or are developing automobiles that are generated by power derived from hydrogen."

Using seed money from a private investor, H2 Solutions is developing a prototype for a fuel cell that will convert hydrogen in water to power, "leaving behind it nothing more than pristine water," Bless said.

He said that even sewage is a source of energy. Belliveau pointed to a half-liter bottle of water and said, "By converting the energy in the contents of that bottle, you could travel nearly 100 miles on an electric bicycle."

H2 Solutions’ first goal is to create a small-scale, environmentally friendly vehicle driven by fuel cell power. It also plans to convert small electric vehicles to fuel cell technology, followed by a diverse hydrogen-based product line. Bless noted that hydrogen, used directly as fuel and in fuel cells, will reduce product and vehicle operation and maintenance costs.

Belliveau said that H2’s three-year timeline includes an assessment of market demands and production of the prototype in the first year. The second year would feature expansion of the product and an extension of engineering efforts and services, including consulting. The third year of the schedule would focus on growth and stability.

And it would mean employment opportunities for local residents.

"We can’t say just how many jobs now, but the number will be substantial," Bless said, pointing out that most employees could telecommute, doing the work from their homes.

The steady depletion of fossil fuels for energy will reach crisis status by mid-century, Bless said.

"Besides its rapidly decreasing supply and the contaminants fossil fuels give off to the atmosphere, its availability is often subject to political stability, and frequently involves people like Saddam Hussein," he said.

Belliveau noted that fuel cells are superior to batteries because they do not expend themselves in use as batteries do.

The partners are talking with potential investors and are also looking for people who share their vision of an unending power source that is pollution-free as well as economical.

"We could talk about hydrogen’s possibilities all day," Belliveau said, "and we welcome hearing from anyone who has ideas for its use that could benefit humanity."

Bless may be reached at 635-0300, Belliveau at 636-7729 and Farhat at 634-1966.

H2’s brochure said the company is "seeking to become the premier hydrogen application solutions source for the US Western states." And Hollister is where they want to do it.


Wednesday December 12, 2001

Hydrogen as Power Source Gaining Acceptance

By HERMAN WREDE - Correspondent
Free Lance, Hollister, California

Hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, appears on the verge of being accepted as a never-ending source of non-polluting, inexpensive energy for the world.

One by one, the barriers to its acceptance as a power source are being chipped away. The scientific community is accelerating programs to demonstrate to the general public that it is the fuel of the future, a future not far distant.

The time when people shook their heads at the idea with a ³not in mylifetime² dismissal is rapidly running out. Nations, states and even some municipalities are using or studying the use of conversion of hydrogen to electrical power through fuel cells in many areas, including public transportation.

Stuart F. Brown writes in Fortune magazine (June 25, 2001): "One of the most exciting technologies of the new millennium is about to move a few steps closer to the mass market. The technology is fuel cells, almost universally seen as the energy-conserving, low-pollution way to power millions of tomorrow’s motor vehicles."

Brown’s article says that Daimler Chrysler and others hope to sell the first fuel-cell cars in California in 2004, although mass production by the auto industry isn’t likely to begin until about four years later. Most of the big carmakers have contributed a total of $1 billion toward the dream.

Brown cites the example of Ballard Power Systems in Vancouver, which is working to produce fuel cells that will be the heart of a small portable electricity-generating device. The article also reports that Plug Power in Latham, N.Y., which has a distribution agreement with General Electric, has already begun shipping the first fuel cell-generating units designed to make a home or small business largely independent of the electric power grid.

In the Nov. 12 edition of the same magazine, David Stipp writes, "Potent commercial forces are bringing the hydrogen economy along faster than anyone thought possible only a few years ago. In the next two years, the first wave of products based on hydrogen-powered fuel cells is expected to hit the market, including cars and buses powered by fuel cells, and compact electric generators for commercial buildings and houses. Technology for generating hydrogen is ready now."

Two California transit agencies, SunLine Transit Agency and AC Transit, are adding hydrogen fuel cell buses to their fleets and have set up infrastructure facilities for fueling and maintenance.

Last year SunLine opened the first hydrogen generation, fueling, storage and education facility ever built by a public transit agency. Hydrogen is produced at the site, using solar-powered electrolysis and natural gas reforming.

AC Transit recently placed a contract to design and build it’s fueling and maintenance facility, which will be capable of serving a fleet of fuel cell buses.

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