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Michael Andretti on going green with hydrogen fuel

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Team owner, racecar driver, and entrepreneur Michael Andretti on the Andretti's Group's recent foray into hydrogen fueling.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: The Biden administration's focus on clean energy is ushering in a new era for the industry. We want to talk more about that with Michael Andretti. He's the co-owner of Andretti Group. He's also a retired race-car driver. His name probably sounds very familiar to a lot of our viewers. Also chairman of Andretti Autosports.

Michael, great to have you on the program. We have a lot to talk with you about today, but first let's just talk about the new partnership that you reached. You just reached a deal with PowerTap. You're bringing their hydrogen-fueling stations into your network. Talk to us about this deal and why this deal makes sense for your company.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, we're really excited about it. You know, it's a new technology that PowerTap has come up with where they can actually produce hydrogen on site. We own about a hundred and some gas stations on the West Coast with I think 39 in California alone.

And so for us, you know, I think it works out really well. I mean, for us it works out well and also for PowerTap on distribution because I think at the moment the biggest challenge for hydrogen is obviously getting it, you know? And so that's where we're going to come in and hopefully not only be able to start producing it in all of our gas stations down the road but also getting partners to also to do the same thing.

So we're really excited about this technology. I think hydrogen makes so much sense in so many different ways, you know, as an alternative fuel. And, you know, for us, we're really happy to be on the ground floor of it.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Michael, what you just said about all of that-- I mean, it's plentiful. It's everywhere, right, hydrogen. And the emissions after it goes through a device, water. So what's to hate about that?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: We agree.

ADAM SHAPIRO: The question I want to ask you, though, comes out of my years covering the Indianapolis 500 when I was at a TV station in Indy back in the days when the infield was debauchery and fun. That was the 1990s. Why not have, like, the IRL or, the Indy Racing League, or the Penske, you know, group start a race with these new fuels? That would speed up adoption for those of us who are kind of, novices, right?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Honestly, I'm pushing hard for that. I think hydrogen is a perfect fuel for that because you really don't have to modify your engines that much. You can use the current engines with some small modifications.

So I've already put the bug in the ear of IndyCar, and hopefully they'll be looking at it down the road. I think this could be something that could be also in Formula One cars in the future. There's talk about that.

So I think it's in the future. When, I don't know, probably 5 to 10 years from now. But I think to me it makes more sense than even electric, especially for a 500-mile race. And so, you know, hopefully that's where it's going to go.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah. Michael, COVID's impact on IndyCar-- you're the chairman of the Andretti Autosports. COVID clearly disrupted the 2020 season. How are you preparing for the 2021 season, and do you see any lasting effects from the pandemic on the sport?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know about lasting effects. I think there's things that we're doing differently maybe, just because, you know, we've learned to deal with COVID in the way you do business. You know, I think there's a lot more Zoom calls, for instance, you know, going on, and I think we're learning that maybe you don't have to spend all that money traveling to do all these meetings and stuff. I think you can do a lot of it that way.

You know, so there's some positives that's coming out of it. But I think, you know, overall, I think, you know, is hopefully we can start the season and go throughout the whole season with having fans at all the races. And I believe if that happens, I think we'll be able to pick up where we left off.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Would love to keep talking Indy racing, but I got to ask you about the gas-station technology you have because it is about hydrogen and it is about investment, and we already have hydrogen vehicles. The technology is here.

The difference, though, is usually you got to go to one of those big-old tanks, and then you fill it up. Whereas your technology, you create the hydrogen on fuel at the location. Do you own the patent for this?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, PowerTap does, and we've become a partner with them. And that's what got us really excited. It only takes up about less than a thousand square foot at a station, and so-- and the technology is quite easily, you know-- as long as you can get natural gas to help produce it, you know, you can put it anywhere.

So we're very excited and very bullish about it. We think this is a true, true future. And we're proud to be, as I said before, the ground level of this, and hopefully this technology is going to take off and, you know, be a big part of our future because hydrogen is in the future. I know they've done some big studies, and they say by 2050 that it's going to be, you know, like 25% of the energy out there being produced, which is a big number in the trillions of dollars.

So, yeah, I think it has a real future. And like I said, having the technology that PowerTap has I think is a great advantage.

SEANA SMITH: Michael Andretti, Andretti Group's co-owner, we wish you all the best. Thanks so much for taking the time to join us.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.