Hydrogen tech firms step up PR after Bush address

ROCHESTER HILLS, MI: With hydrogen-powered cars in the news thanks to President Bush's State of the Union address, two companies involved in hydrogen technology have taken on PR firms to raise their profiles.

ROCHESTER HILLS, MI: With hydrogen-powered cars in the news thanks to President Bush's State of the Union address, two companies involved in hydrogen technology have taken on PR firms to raise their profiles.

ECD Ovonics in Rochester Hills, MI, has hired McGrath/

Power, while Toronto-based Hydrogenics has selected Ketchum Public Relations Canada as its agency of record.

ECD selected McGrath to work with the business, financial, and trade press as well as special interest groups, said agency CEO Jonathan Bloom.

The Santa Clara, CA shop also will seek out speaking opportunities for ECD executives.

ECD has traditionally been involved in research and development, but now plans to commercialize a number of its inventions, said director of corporate communications Angela Goddard. "Right now we're focused on commercialization," she said.

Fuel cells are one of several hydrogen-related products the company is involved with. Founder Stan Ovshinsky, who started the company in 1960, holds hundreds of patents. The agency hopes to position him as a founding father of the hydrogen industry.

Hydrogenics wants Ketchum to reach out to media and industry analysts with a message that revolves around the company's stability and staying power in the hydrogen technology sphere.

"We've been pretty quiet about ourselves up to now," said Jane Dalziel, director of communications. "The announcement by Bush certainly raised the profile of the industry in the public's eyes. People want to know more about it."

Hydrogenics has been involved in fuel-cell technology since the mid-1990s, and has been focusing on markets that can afford the higher initial cost of the technology, such as the military, utilities, and municipalities.

It hopes to use PR to reach those new markets.

Bush unveiled a $1.2 billion program to speed up development of hydrogen-powered vehicles. He pledged $720 million in new funding during the next five years to develop the needed infrastructure.

"We want to take full advantage of the rather bright spotlight President Bush has focused on the hydrogen economy," Bloom said. "We have to educate the consumer."

American automakers have talked about hydrogen technology as a viable option, but roadblocks to its widespread usage remain.

A recent research report from Frost & Sullivan noted that "fuel cells remain expensive and it is not clear that the cost can be reduced enough to make them economically feasible for automotive use."

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