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Finding a hydrogen storage expert for a zero-emissions pioneer

22nd April 2024

By Beth Wingad

First Hydrogen is all about breaking down adoption barriers for zero emission fleets.

Their integrated green hydrogen solution delves into three key areas: green mobility, green hydrogen, and hydrogen powertrains. And their objective to have first generation hydrogen commercial vehicles released by 2026 is ambitious, not to mention exciting.

What was the brief?

Hydrogen has proved itself to be a volatile business (note the unfortunate Hindenburg disaster…) and so the means of storing hydrogen in a commercial vehicle needs to be considered very, very carefully! The requirement for hydrogen to be liquid cooled also adds cryogenics to the mix. This is where First Hydrogen's need for a hydrogen storage expert came in.
The business of securing a safe, solid hydrogen supply required another layer of expertise. Take petrol stations - they play a background role in everyday life, but the process of getting refined petrol to the petrol station is surprisingly long and complex. The same set of considerations exist when considering a hydrogen infrastructure.
If big companies are going to take on a zero-emission fleet of delivery vehicles, then they will want confidence that the hydrogen has been sourced in a green way too. Understandably, there is also no point in having a shiny new fleet of hydrogen vehicles if you can't get enough supply of the hydrogen fuel to make them work! A hydrogen-as-a-service expert was required to knit this all together.

So what did FMC do?

Both headhunting assignments were on a global scale, focussing on automotive and commercial vehicle OEM's, automotive suppliers and big energy companies. 
First Hydrogen wanted a hydrogen storage expert who had actually gotten something into production previously. The list of people who had done this before was small! However, FMC learned that BMW had produced a small fleet of hydrogen electric vehicles in Germany and whilst BMW had procured large parts of the hydrogen powertrain from Toyota, they did the hydrogen storage systems in the vehicles themselves. So, BMW is where we focused.
As for the hydrogen-as-a-service expert, we found ourselves in relatively unchartered waters. After all, there aren't many hydrogen filling stations kicking about (the whole of the UK currently has only two!). Since big energy companies like Shell and BP were starting to think about solving this challenge, they became the targets for this search.

What was the outcome?

We found success across Europe, from a hydrogen storage expert placed from Germany to Spain, to a hydrogen-as-a-service expert being placed from, and in, the Netherlands.
The cherry on top of the cake came when we also placed the First Hydrogen CHRO on a contingent basis! This was a person well known from our network and someone who not only slotted right in quickly, but also was fundamental to getting these two headhunting projects over the line.