Imagine a world powered by a fuel of the future, hydrogen. Picture hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles smoothly sailing the streets alongside electric vehicles as integral pieces of a zero-emission transportation system. If this vision seems far-fetched, then California might surprise you. As a Polish Ph.D. candidate, I never dreamed of witnessing this transformative shift first-hand until the Fulbright Schuman Program turned my dreams into reality.
Upon arrival in sunny San Diego, it became clear that the hydrogen revolution was much further advanced than I had initially thought. Hydrogen cars, trucks, and buses are slowly becoming ubiquitous across the state, and refueling stations are sprouting up in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco and even remote locations. Yes, there is still significant work to be done, but the Golden State is leading the charge on a global scale, making the hydrogen revolution tangible.
For six months, I delved deep into this world, working at the University of California, San Diego, with renowned researchers Prof. David G. Victor and Dr. Ryan Hanna. We studied policies and strategies aimed at developing the market for these extraordinary vehicles. What better place to conduct such an innovative research project than at the forefront of the hydrogen revolution? Not only did I receive insightful feedback on my work, but the experience also allowed me to broaden my horizons through stimulating debates, conferences, and discussions with thought leaders from across the state. Unexpectedly, this academic adventure included an unforgettable ride on a hydrogen-powered bus and experiencing the breathtaking beauty of Coachella Valley from the comfort of a hydrogen-fueled car. When not delving into research or debating policy, I found time to learn surfing and relished cultural events across the city, making my Californian experience truly enriching.
However, the journey was not without its fair share of stressful moments. Times of self-doubt and questioning plagued my research project, but a sage piece of advice from Dr. Hanna gave me the perspective I needed, “Your research project is like a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel, you and your supervisor shape it together.” Beyond the academic rigor, the lively discussions with colleagues, the constant exchange of ideas, the small coffee breaks, and the enriching chats under the Californian sky made my Fulbright experience genuinely unforgettable. The immersion in this vibrant academic culture marked a turning point in my academic life, reassuring me that I was on the right track to becoming a researcher. One particularly striking conversation with Dr. Hanna spurred an exciting thought. What could I bring back from this research to influence Polish policies? This question redefined my perspective. My research was not merely academic; it was an opportunity to shape the hydrogen revolution back home.
Emboldened by this revelation, I presented my findings to experts at UC Davis and consulted engineers specializing in hydrogen fuel cells at UC Irvine. Their input solidified my conclusions, and as my Fulbright journey came to a close, I realized my work was far from over. The next chapter awaited me across the Atlantic, where I could utilize the lessons learned in California to make a tangible impact on Poland’s and the EU’s road to carbon neutrality.
Looking back, my Fulbright Schuman journey was not just about advancing my academic pursuits; it was about understanding the intricate complexities of the hydrogen revolution and using this knowledge to influence global change. This journey into the heart of hydrogen economics reaffirmed my conviction that hydrogen, indeed is the fuel of the future and showed me that with the right policies and strategies, we can shape a cleaner, greener world.
Pawel Brusilo is a 2022-23 Fulbright Schuman Visiting Student Researcher in Economics at University of California, San Diego. He is a research assistant and a doctoral student in Economics at the Wroclaw University of Economics and Business and a graduate student of Data Science at the University of Warsaw. An alumnus of the European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw. Youth policy activist, an academic teacher who introduces Virtual Reality solutions in his workshops, and research project manager in the field of energy economics. His research interests are focused on evaluating public policies and strategies for the energy transition in the United States, the European Union, and Japan, especially in the context of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.Articles are written by Fulbright grantees and do not reflect the opinions of the Fulbright Commission, the grantees’ host institutions, or the U.S. Department of State.