At first glance, an open-pit platinum mine in South Africa and the Baja 1000 off-road race don’t have much in common other than an excess of dust. But both are going to be test sites for hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, chosen by a company called First Mode, in order to stress-test the technology.
“We’ve been finding the not-low-hanging fruit problems in decarbonization, and those are the hard-to-operate places. Your environment is harsh, it’s dusty, it’s thermally driven to an extreme,” said Chris Voorhees, president of First Mode.
“While it might seem counterintuitive, there’s interesting crossovers with the Baja part. Getting the fuel cells to operate in an environment where your boundary conditions aren’t as controlled is, for us, essential at being able to map the technology to some of these applications that are mobile, big, dirty, and operating in places that it actually took us a while to get the internal combustion engine to do a really good job,” Voorhees explained.