By Chris Cox
Published April 14, 2015 from the March 30 issue of the Columbia Regional Business Report.
John Weidner never stopped working. Even when curious onlookers moved on from hydrogen fuel cell technology, he and his colleagues at the University of South Carolina kept plowing forward.
“You wonder if this is the time when the scale gets tipped and everything goes commercial,” he said. “That was certainly the thought, maybe 10 years ago, that we might be on the brink. That didn’t happen, so then people lost interest, at least from a public standpoint.
“But the technology kept going on.”
Weidner is hopeful that the scale has finally tipped, with Toyota being a catalyst fuel cell technology has desperately needed from the automotive business. The carmaker earlier this month rolled out what it believes will be a turning point in its industry, as the Mirai — or future, in Japanese — debuts in California later this year.
The $58,000 commercial car is one of the first of its kind to run on hydrogen fuel cells, with drivers able to travel up to 300 miles at a time in the fast-charging vehicle.
“This announcement is pretty exciting, because we hadn’t heard anything for three or four years,” Weidner said. “They’re willing to stick their necks out and say, ‘We’re ready for the next step.’ So I think that’s the biggest sign of anything.”
Hyundai’s Tucson is also on the road, pushing market competitors to soon showcase their own renditions of the technology.
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