New Fuel Cell Center Opens

Jun 18, 2005

Formal ceremonies at Kettering University may have focused on "a fuel cell vision for the future," but the real story in Flint this week was about Dr. K. Joel Berry's courage to dream.

A grand opening was hosted June 15 to formally open the Kettering University Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration. The event included tours of the new center and demonstrations of fuel cell vehicles from General Motors, Ford, Toyota and the U.S. Army. The state-of-the-art fuel cell center has been a three-year mission of Dr. Berry, who is head of Kettering's Mechanical Engineering Department and director of the new fuel cell center. He is a 1979 graduate of Kettering University/GMI.

Hundreds of visitors walked through the new facilities, including Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm who received a private tour and an opportunity to ride in a fuel cell powered vehicle. "In an increasingly competitive economy, we must build on our strengths as a state," Gov. Granholm said. "People in Flint know a thing or two about building engines. If we are willing to take action now, we can ensure the technology that powers tomorrow's car is developed and built in Michigan."

And despite speeches from the elite of today's fuel cell and automotive industry, it was Dr. Berry's words that moved the large crowd the most. "I am extremely humbled and appreciative of your words and the hard work it has taken to get us to today," Berry said. "This has been a long journey with many lessons learned. The most important is that it takes a lot of collaboration with many players and partners to get to this point." Ed Donovan, president of the Flint Genesee Economic Growth Alliance, served as the master of ceremonies for the dedication ceremony. Donovan declared it a "great day" at Kettering and in Flint. He said the new fuel cell center will conduct world class research and development and improve manufacturing capacity.

A distinguished list of experts offered comments, including:

  • Kettering University President James E.A. John, who congratulated Dr. Berry and said it was a wonderful day for Kettering. "This is important for us as we move forward."
  • Lawrence Burns of General Motors reminded the crowd that the most important part of the growing hydrogen infrastructure is "knowledge."
  • Jean Botti of Delphi Corp. said "we think something is going to happen here. You don't transform an industry one day to the next - but (fuel cell) cars are part of the environmental equation."
  • Jim Croce, CEO of NextEnergy, said the new center is a demonstration of Kettering and its stakeholders' commitment. "It is difficult to overstate the significance of this effort as a critical element in Michigan's quest for international leadership in the emerging fuel cell industry."
  • State Rep. Brenda Clack congratulated Dr. Berry and said "your baby has been born! Kettering is a tremendous asset in our city."
  • John Peck, of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, said the new center is an important project that builds on Flint and Kettering's heritage. "The great work lies ahead of Kettering, building partnerships and taking advantage of the potential here."
  • Vince Nystrom, of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., applauded Kettering's research investment and called the new center "a proven model." He said the real product of the center will be its ability to guide technology while supporting innovation and long-term job growth.
  • Robert Foy of Flint MTA talked about the recent partnership forged with Kettering that will put Michigan's first fuel-cell powered bus on Flint streets. "Within a year, we will fund the development of a hydrogen refueling station here at Kettering," he said. "Kettering will evaluate and improve - and take the lead for us to prepare our workforce of the future."
  • Herb Dobbs, TARDEC/NAC, team leader, fuel cells and alternative fuels, spoke of the importance of the U.S. Army's partnership with Kettering. "As the Army moves forward," he said, "we need new energy sources. The research here will be vital for the Army to reach its goals."
  • Kathleen Czajkowski, CEO of Convergence Technologies, said she was proud that her company was in final negotiations to be the first business in the new incubator. "We thought we were a voice in the wilderness before we met Dr. Berry," she added. 

About the Kettering University Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration: The center is approximately 10,000 square feet in the University's new science and engineering building. It houses specialized equipment, instrumentation and infrastructure required to meet the vision, mission and goals of the center. The goals include:

  • excellence in fuel cell research, testing and evaluation,
  • attracting the world's leading fuel cell developers, manufacturers and suppliers to the region, and
  • developing companies for the emerging fuel cell industry. 

The center will include state-of-the-art laboratories and other areas for fuel cell testing and research, staff support and an assembly and project display area, and a combined teaching studio and control room. The incubator renovations include basic office cubical support for up to 10 companies. Dr. Berry noted that the center holds promise to accelerate the development and commercialization of fuel cells for stationary and mobile applications. "It will also provide world-class fuelcell engineering education and help Michigan and the Midwest develop a trained workforce," he said. "Our hope is to provide technological leadership in fuel cell R & D here at Kettering," Dr. Berry added, "leading to product commercialization and incubation for new and emerging companies that will spin-off and help create Kettering's Research and Technology Park."

Written by Patricia Mroczek
(810) 762-9533