Dr. Jimmy Chen on How California is Leading the Hydrogen Charge

Dr. Jimmy Chen

In early February, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California hosted a Japan-California Hydrogen online Webinar.  This event’s aim was to connect California organizations with the Japanese government and Japanese companies working in the hydrogen space. Presentations focused on the California Hydrogen Hub project and included remarks by key stakeholders in California and presentations by the Japanese government and Japanese companies in the field. VX News here shares a transcript of the remarks of Dr. Jimmy Chen, Managing Director, SECA - Stanford Energy Corporate Affiliates, Precourt Institute for Energy initiatives.

Panel Introduction by Marianna Grossman, Sr. Consultant, USAsia Venture Partners:

It is now my privilege to introduce Dr. Jimmy Chen, who is the Managing Director of the Stanford Energy Corporate Affiliates (SECA), which is part of the Precourt Institute for Energy. In addition to SECA, Dr. Chen leads several energy programs at Stanford Energy, including Stanford's new Hydrogen Initiative, and Stanford's energy storage initiative-- StorageX.

Dr. Chen was also the founding Managing Director of Bits & Watts, Stanford's initiative focusing on the 21st-century grid, launched in 2016. He’s enthusiastic about the global energy transformation and this bill and building a more sustainable society through innovation. At Stanford, Dr. Chen creates and expands impactful global communities of practice that enable industrial-academic-government collaboration in energy research and scale-up. Dr. Chen is also a leader at Stanford Energy’s global events including its regional roundtables and Global Energy Forum. Finally, Dr. Chen is deeply involved in Stanford’s innovation ecosystem, advising student groups, start-up companies, and accelerators. Dr. Chen’s research interests include hydrogen, energy storage, the circular economy, decarbonizing transportation, and integrated energy systems. Dr. Chen’s teaching roles include lecturing for Stanford’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and Stanford Energy’s Hydrogen Economy Seminar. Dr. Chen is passionate about global energy entrepreneurship and innovation. He works with energy agencies around the world promoting global collaboration, accelerating innovation, and sparking entrepreneurship. He also serves on several advisory councils, including EPRI and GTI’s Low Carbon Research Initiative (LCRI) technical advisory board.

Dr. Chen came to Stanford University after 25 years in industry, bringing a broad background in energy and technology, with a specialization in technology and product development. He’s held technical positions at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, GTE Labs, IBM, and AT&T Bell Labs, as well as technology executive positions at both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies, including FormFactor and Eaton.

Dr. Chen received a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MS from the University of California, Berkeley— both in materials science and engineering— he holds a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley in electrical engineering.


Dr. Jimmy Chen:

Thank you, Mariana, and thanks to the organizers, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, and Osumi Yo in the Consulate General's Office of San Francisco.

Good afternoon to everyone, and good morning to the folks in Japan. My name is Jimmy Chen and I'm the Managing Director here at Stanford Energy, leading many energy programs. It's a very exciting time at Stanford right now in the energy transformation space.

A year and a half ago, we launched the first school in Stanford in 70 years, the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. Here's a picture of John Doerr during the ribbon cutting, in which he gave the mission to the new school as speed, scale, and impact. Just to the right of John Doerr is Dr. Arun Majumdar, our inaugural Dean at Stanford’s School of Sustainability and the former faculty director of Stanford Energy.

Stanford Energy is a community of faculty, students, and researchers around the university who work in energy. That would include people in the School of Business, Law, and Engineering. Stanford Energy is also a collection of collaborators and companies that we work with from around the world, involving thousands of researchers who work collectively to enable this energy transformation around the world.

The hydrogen initiative is an initiative that we launched a year and a half ago, and we're interested in all things hydrogen: how we make it, move it, store it, and use it. Including related policies, regulations, and economics. We currently have over 10 members doing research across a wide spectrum of areas in the hydrogen space, including new ways to make it, new electrolyzers, catalyzation, countless new ways to store it, the effect of hydrogen materials like hydrogen embrittlement, and also new ways to use it, such as transportation.

Here's an example of what Tyson has described, which is California is a great place to lead his energy transformation, and I call it a case study. For those who are not familiar, California is the fifth largest economy, with the most people in the state at 39 million. The state has the second lowest number of land vehicles; around 35 million for cars and about 60 million for trucks. Its power is currently already 50% renewable. It has three of the biggest ports, as Michael [DiBernardo] mentioned, the Port of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland. It also has two of the busiest airports in the US; San Francisco and LA. California is also the number one state for jet fuel consumption.

So, this is an example and indication of why California is leading this charge. The other aspect is seen in the slide which shows all the decarbonization policies that are in place. From decarbonizing the whole economy by 2045 to decarbonizing all power by 2045, decarbonizing transport, zero-emission, light-duty vehicles for new vehicles by 2035, and the zero-emission bus mandate, which has already actually taken place starting in 2023. Finally, the decarbonization reports, as Michael mentioned. It's a very exciting place for activities across the board and this is part of the reason why California is so compelling as a place where a lot of this work is taking place.

Now, if we look at the engagement of Japanese companies in this, you can see the Intermountain Power Project, which includes companies like Mitsubishi and Hitachi Energy. In the decarbonization of transport, there’s Toyota, Honda, and Watani, along with the decarbonization of ports which include sister ports in Yokohama, Nagoya, etc. There's a tremendous amount of collaboration in California’s decarbonization journey, with Japan as leaders in this space.

Stanford has been involved in a number of those activities, and I thought it'd be good to describe Stanford, not just from the standpoint of research, but from adoption and utilization.

Stanford is a living lab, and I'm showing the actual pictures of the central energy facility that Stanford installed and went operational about five or six years ago. It's already 100% solar and provides Central Committee heating and cooling. This is expected to save over $400 million throughout its lifetime. This central energy facility supplies power, heating, and cooling throughout the whole campus, and you can see that it's primarily through thermal storage by the large water tanks in the lower right-hand corner of the pictures. With that done, we demonstrated that we can actually decarbonize.

Our next journey is about decarbonizing the rest of the campus, and we're in discussions and collaborations with the Japan hydrogen forum, looking at projects on how we can provide 24-by-seven sustainable power and heat. We’re also considering the potential decarbonization of the Stanford fleet, and another example of Stanford's work is with AC Transit.

AC Transit is a large bus muni just to the East of San Francisco, they operate over 600 buses and (audio unclear) 20-year history of zero-emission buses. As I mentioned, the Innovative Clean Transit Act mandated the buses to start decarbonizing starting in 2023, where 25% of their new bus purchases last year and this year have to be zero-emission.

The questions for many of these municipals are; how do we do that? What should we buy? How do we supply fuel? All of these kinds of questions.

A real operation that has to adopt the Act needs this kind of information. So, Stanford has collaborated with AC Transit on the famous 5X5 study, where we look at five different kinds of bus tags; diesel and diesel hybrid as your baseline, battery electric, fuel cell electric, and legacy fuel cell electric buses. We then run these buses. There are five buses for each bus time, as located in the 5X5 reference. These buses run through the same route with the same drivers, and we look at the performance metrics. This gives us the data information about what we need to do and what is the best portfolio of buses. Now I'll share with you just one table from that study. We put out four to five reports every six months showing a new record, and this is an example of some of the recent reports from the last year.

There was a summary table to give you an example of the kinds of outputs that show metrics like cost per mile, reliability of the fleet, miles traveled, etc. This provides data by which a transit agency can make their decisions on what to buy, so the conclusion from the study was that before doing this 5X5 study, AC Transit published their Transition Plan of 70% battery electric buses and 30% hydrogen electric buses. After this study, AC Transit changed its Transition Plan, now that they had the data and understood the impact of several things, including the infrastructure. They went to 70% fuel cell electric buses and 30% battery electric buses as their formal Transition Plan, which is in place right now.

Finally, in addition to the research that has been happening, Stanford also created a Stanford hydrogen seminar class on the hydrogen economy. In 2020, we when had our very first class. It showcased a lot of the work that was done around building Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell truck out of two Mirais, which was always a fascinating story, and the students always loved that.

Finally, I want to share some of the new initiatives we’ve established which look at sustainable manufacturing, natural reliance, decarbonizing, transportation, critical minerals, and carbon moving. Hydrogen plays a significant role in many of these future initiatives that are to be created this year.

“It's a very exciting place for activities across the board and this is part of the reason why California is so compelling as a place where a lot of [decarbonization] is taking place.” – Dr. Jimmy Chen