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Battle Over Clean Energy Stations in California

SAN JOSE (CN) - Major automakers conspired to eliminate competition in hydrogen refueling stations, which California has demanded under a clean energy program, a renewable energy company claims in a state antitrust complaint.

HyGen Industries sued divisions of Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and Kia, and the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the California Energy Commission, in Santa Clara County Court.

HyGen claims it has a cleaner fuel system than the defendants, and that as a result of the conspiracy, "competition in the field of hydrogen fueling infrastructure has been restrained, suppressed and eliminated."

HyGen "is engaged in the business of developing and implementing renewable energy programs and implementing society's transition to a clean, sustainable/renewable hydrogen economy," according to the complaint.

HyGen claims that the says that the California Energy Commission moved up its awarding of the grants for hydrogen technology development by three weeks "solely to prevent plaintiff from having a court determine the rights and obligations of the parties as they relate to this lawsuit."

HyGen claims it is developing "100 percent clean, pollution-free from generation through end use, 100 percent renewable/sustainable on-site, on-demand electrolytic hydrogen generators, and fueling systems for fuel cell automobiles that the defendants are planning to roll out in the coming years."

But "the members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, who are hydrogen fueling industrial gas technology companies, are pursuing a different technology than the plaintiff. Their technology is as follows: Centralized hydrogen production from non-renewable, non-sustainable fossil fuels in the form of Steam Methane Reformation of Natural Gas (SMR), and distribute the fuel through diesel powered tanker delivery trucks to fueling stations, or through future proposed nonexistent pipelines," the complaint states.

HyGen claims that "the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the auto manufacturers i.e. the defendants ... have been working in concert with the fuel cell technology companies, and industrial gas companies in the California Fuel Cell Partnership to direct all government funding available for hydrogen fuel infrastructure products to members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership to the exclusion of all other competing entities."

HyGen said it applied for evaluations of 19 development locations, and received "one letter signed by all 7 defendants limiting plaintiffs to one location in order that defendant's partners in the California Fuel Cell Partnership would receive the benefits of the subject solicitation, and limit competition to the exclusion of plaintiff."

It was after this letter was sent that the Commission announced the awarding of grants would be moved up 3 weeks, HyGen says.

HyGen seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from distributing or receiving the grants until the court has determined the rights of each party.

It is represented by Martin Deutsch.

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