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Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies — A Focus on Hydrogen
in the period until 2025. Rather, the consensus among the sample of executives interviewed by the committee indicated that attracting the skills needed to achieve any foreseeable rate of growth in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry will not be a problem, particularly if the government sends a clear signal that its support for growing the industry will be substantial and enduring.
It is also interesting to speculate on why this conclusion was found for hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles when other segments of the energy industry are expressing concern about skills availability. Three factors were suggested by the interviews conducted:
First, the scale of the hydrogen and fuel cell industry in the early years, even at the most rapid pace of growth envisioned by the committee, is still relatively small compared to the world’s overall energy supply infrastructure.
Much of the leading work being done in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry is coming from special task groups set up by divisions of major corporations (frequently referred to as “skunk works”) or from entrepreneurial companies. These environments typically draw the best and the brightest scientists, engineers, and skilled technicians for reasons such as challenge, excitement, and opportunity for substantial economic gain.
A refrain frequently heard in interviews and contacts by committee members with professionals in the hydrogen and fuel cell field is that working in this field offers various intangible benefits to employees—a feeling of doing something good, helping to address a critical global problem, creating a new industry, and so on. These intangible benefits appear to be attracting many of “the best and the brightest” to the field.
CONCLUSION: The estimated government cost to support a transition to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is roughly$50 billion over a 16-year period from 2008 to 2023,primarily for the production of fuel cell vehicles ($40billion of incremental cost) and, to a lesser extent, forthe initial deployment of hydrogen supply infrastructure(about $10 billion) and R&D (about $5 billion). No short-ages are foreseen in the critical workforce skills neededto accomplish the transition. However, further study isnecessary to assess the longer-term costs, institutionalissues, workforce issues, and impacts of undertaking themajor hydrogen infrastructure development required tosupport widespread use of HFCVs.