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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

First UAV test flight with Cella solid-state hydrogen storage and fuel-cell power system

February 08, 2016

The Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) recently completed a UAV test flight using Cella Energy’s hydrogen-based power system. The system is based on Cella’s solid, nanostructured chemical hydride hydrogen storage material which is capable of releasing large quantities of hydrogen when heated. Cella Energy is a spin-off from STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK. (Earlier post.)

Cella designed and built a gas generator using this material, which when combined with a fuel cell, creates electrical power. The complete system—Cella gas generator along with a fuel cell supplied and integrated by Arcola Energy—is considerably lighter than the lithium-ion battery it replaced.

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New UMTRI paper reviews major advantages and disadvantages of battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles

February 01, 2016

A new report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) reviews the major advantages and disadvantages associated with battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs). The team of Brandon Schoettle and Dr. Michael Sivak also incudes information for current gasoline-powered internal combustion engines as a baseline comparison.

In addition to reviewing the technical literature, the UMTRI researchers interviewed experts in the automotive and energy sectors regarding their views concerning these issues. Among their findings:

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Technavio forecasts 45% CAGR in automotive fuel cell market through 2019

January 31, 2016

The global fuel cell market in the automotive industry is set to grow at a rapid CAGR of more than 45% (in terms of unit shipments) through 2019, according to a new report by global technology research and advisory company Technavio.

Technavio calculated the market size for 2015-2019 based on the revenue generated from the global units and MW shipments of fuel cells in the automotive industry.

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Cost-effective iron-nitrogen-doped graphene fuel-cell catalyst approaches performance of platinum

January 27, 2016

Teams at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and TU Darmstadt have produced a cost-effective fuel-cell catalyst material consisting of iron-nitrogen complexes embedded in tiny islands of graphene only a few nanometers in diameter. The FeN4 centers provide excellent catalytic efficiency, approaching that of platinum.

For their synthesis process, they devised a simple and feasible way to reduce the contribution of inorganic metal species in the catalyst material—in some cases even down to zero. The presence of inorganic species interferes with the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity of metal and nitrogen-doped carbon catalysts. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Tottori Prefecture, Tottori Gas, Sekisui House and Honda cooperate in hydrogen demonstration; smart house and FCV

January 25, 2016

Tottori Prefecture, Tottori Gas Co., Ltd, Sekisui House Ltd. and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. signed an agreement to pursue jointly Tottori Prefecture’s project to establish a base for a hydrogen energy demonstration (and environmental education). This will be Japan’s first case where hydrogen energy will be utilized through the integration of a hydrogen station which creates hydrogen from renewable energy, a smart house and a fuel cell vehicle (FCV).

The purpose of this project is to promote the popularization of smart houses and FCVs. The project will install, for the first time on the Sea of Japan side of the archipelago, a Smart Hydrogen Station (SHS) using Honda’s high-differential-pressure electrolyzer that supplies hydrogen created by electrolysis of water using renewable energy. Honda will also supply its new Clarity fuel cell vehicle.

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Ballard signs $12M agreement for 15 kW fuel cell stacks for commercial bus range-extenders in China

January 22, 2016

Ballard Power Systems signed an Equipment Supply Agreement (ESA), valued at $12 million, with Guangdong Synergy Hydrogen Power Technology Co., Ltd. (Synergy) to provide FCvelocity-9SSL fuel cell stacks for use in commercial buses in China. Ballard expects to deliver the stacks in 2016 and 2017.

Each FCvelocity-9SSL fuel cell stack will deliver approximately 15 kilowatts (kW) of power, appropriate for range-extension applications. The ESA for fuel cell stacks signed today is in addition to agreements that Ballard previously announced for heavy-duty power applications in China. (Earlier post, earlier post, earlier post.)

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Ballard receives follow-on order from Nisshinbo for development of fuel cell catalyst; targeting 70% reduction in platinum loading

January 21, 2016

Ballard Power Systems has received a follow-on purchase order from Nisshinbo Holdings Inc. for a further phase of a Technology Solutions program related to the development of a breakthrough catalyst technology intended to reduce the cost of certain proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The program, now entering its seventh phase, has been underway for approximately 2.5 years. (Earlier post.)

In a PEM fuel cell, the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) is formed by placing a catalyst coated membrane between two flow field plates. When hydrogen gas flows across one side of the MEA and oxygen moves across the other side an electrochemical (non-combustion) reaction occurs, splitting hydrogen into protons and electrons. The electrons are captured as electricity. Combining fuel cells together to form multi-layer stacks increases the amount of electricity that can be produced.

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Honda to begin leasing Clarity fuel cell vehicle in California by year end; targeting <$500/month

At Washington, D.C. Auto Show, Honda said that it will begin retail leasing of the new 5-passenger, hydrogen-powered Clarity Fuel Cell sedan (earlier post) to customers in select California markets before the end of 2016. Honda expects to price the Clarity Fuel Cell at around $60,000 with a targeted monthly lease under $500.

Honda expects limited volumes in the early stages of production. Deliveries will begin through certified fuel cell vehicle dealers in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. The company will start by leasing vehicles and expects to move to retail sales with increased volumes and market coverage coincident with increasing vehicle supplies and the growing hydrogen refueling station network.

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SAE’s highest technical safety award goes to hydrogen fueling paper

At the Awards Ceremony at the SAE 2016 Government/Industry Meeting, SAE International honored the recipients of the Ralph H. Isbrandt Automotive Safety Engineering Award, including the lead author, Jesse Schneider, (BMW); along with co-authors Jihyun Shim (Hyundai); Graham Meadows (IMPCO); Steven R. Mathison (Honda); Michael J. Veenstra (Ford); Rainer Immel (Opel); Morten Wistoft-Ibsen (H2 Logic); Manfred Greisel (Wenger Engineering); Spencer Quong (SQI); Timothy McGuire (MB RDNA); and Peter Potzel (Daimler).

The Ralph Isbrandt Award annually recognizes the author(s) delivering the most outstanding paper at an SAE Society or section meeting on the subject of automotive safety engineering. The 2016 Ralph Isbrandt award recognizes the advancement to SAE literature of the recipients’ SAE World Congress Technical Paper on Hydrogen Fueling, “Validation and Sensitivity Studies for SAE J2601, the Light Duty Vehicle Hydrogen Fueling Standard” (SAE 2014-01-1990). (Earlier post.)

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New high-activity, low-cost nickel-based catalyst for fuel cells exhibits performance similar to Pt; hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells

January 15, 2016

Researchers at the University of Delaware, with a colleague at the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, have developed a composite catalyst—nickel nanoparticles supported on nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes—that exhibits hydrogen oxidation activity in alkaline electrolyte similar to platinum-group metals. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Although nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes are a very poor hydrogen oxidation catalyst, as a support, they increase the catalytic performance of nickel nanoparticles by a factor of 33 (mass activity) or 21 (exchange current density) relative to unsupported nickel nanoparticles, the researchers reported. Owing to its high activity and low cost, the catalyst shows significant potential for use in low-cost, high-performance fuel cells, the team suggested.

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Audi unveils h-tron quattro fuel cell SUV concept at Detroit; MLB evo platform

January 13, 2016

In a demonstration of its ongoing development of advanced alternative powertrains, Audi unveiled the new h-tron quattro fuel cell concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Like its production-bound sibling the e-tron quattro battery-electric vehicle, the h-tron concept is based on Audi’s second-generation modular longitudinal platform (MLB evo, earlier post).

The Audi h-tron quattro concept combines an Audi fifth-generation fuel cell stack delivering up to 110 kW with a power-optimized 1.8 kWh HEV battery that can provide a temporary boost of 100 kW for combined peak system power of 210 kW. The car can be fully refueled with hydrogen in around four minutes, and is then ready to drive for up to 600 kilometers (372.8 miles). Unlike the 3-motor e-tron quattro, the h-tron uses two electric motors, one on each axle, and so drives like a “conventional” electric vehicle, notes Audi Head of Electric Powertrain Siegfried Pint—i.e. without the potential for the type of advanced dynamics control offered by the e-tron quattro. (Earlier post.)

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Toyota displays Mirai-based research vehicle with satellite communications function; Kymeta flat-panel antennae

January 12, 2016

At the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Toyota is displaying a research vehicle based on the Mirai fuel cell vehicle which is equipped with satellite communications technology from Kymeta, a US-based company that is the world's leader in flat-panel antenna technology.

Toyota is working to enhance its connected technologies, including a plan to install a Data Communication Module into a broader range of its vehicles. (Earlier post.) The company is also considering using satellite communications in the future, including high capacity satellites that offer much higher data transfer rates than conventional satellite technologies.

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DOE releases three reports showing strong growth in US fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market

December 24, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released three new reports today showcasing strong growth across the US fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market. According to these reports, the United States continues to be one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.

With support from the Energy Department, its national laboratories and private industry have already achieved significant advances in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, resulting in reduced costs and improved performance. These research and development efforts have helped reduce automotive fuel cell costs by more than 50% since 2006 and by more than 30% since 2008. At the same time, fuel cell durability has quadrupled and the amount of expensive platinum needed in fuel cells has decreased by 80 percent in the last decade.

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DOE issues $35M funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

December 11, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $35 million in available funding to advance hydrogen and fuel cell technologies (earlier post) to support research and development, early market deployments, and domestic manufacturing. The Department also aims to develop collaborative consortia for fuel cell performance and durability and advanced hydrogen storage materials research to leverage the capabilities of national lab core teams.

The available funding (DE-FOA-0001412) includes hydrogen production, delivery, and storage research and development (R&D); demonstration of infrastructure component manufacturing, and support for Climate Action Champions deploying hydrogen and fuel cell technologies; consortia topics for fuel cell performance and durability and advanced hydrogen storage materials research; and cost and performance analysis for hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cells.

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High-performance, cost-effective nanoparticle electrocatalyst for fuel cells outperforms commercial Pt/C catalyst

December 09, 2015

Scientists at Korea’s Institute for Basic Science’s (IBS’) Center for Nanoparticle Research and colleagues at other institutions in Korea have synthesized highly durable and active intermetallic ordered face-centered tetragonal (fct)-PtFe nanoparticles (NPs) coated with a “dual purpose” N-doped carbon shell as fuel cell electrocatalysts.

The ordered fct-PtFe/C nanocatalyst coated with an N-doped carbon shell shows 11.4 times-higher mass activity and 10.5 times-higher specific activity than commercial Pt/C catalyst. Moreover, the team demonstrated long-term stability in the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) for 100 hours without significant activity loss. A paper on their work is published in theJournal of the American Chemical Society.

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GM and US Army to demonstrate extreme off-road hydrogen fuel cell Chevrolet Colorado

November 20, 2015

General Motors and the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development &

Engineering Center (TARDEC) are modifying a Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup truck to run on a commercial hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system and will expose the truck to the extremes of daily military use for 12 months.

Fuel cell propulsion has very high low-end torque capability useful in off-road environments. It also offers exportable electric power and quiet operation, attractive characteristics to both commercial and military use.

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Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan makes N. American debut at LA Auto Show; available in California late 2016; PHEV in 2018

November 18, 2015

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan (earlier post) made its North American debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show as Honda announced additional details for the vehicle’s entry into the US market. The next evolution of Honda’s fuel cell technology, the Clarity Fuel Cell delivers significant gains in packaging, interior space, efficiency and real-world performance.

Honda also announced that the platform underpinning the Clarity Fuel Cell will also serve as the foundation for a next-generation Honda plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) that will launch nationwide by 2018, with more than triple the 13-mile all-electric range of the Accord Plug-In Hybrid Sedan.

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Audi highlights its range of electrification efforts; Q7 diesel PHEV, A7 fuel cell PHEV, BEV, 48V and more; 750 Wh/l by 2025

November 17, 2015

Audi presented a range of its ongoing work on electromobility and efficiency—from fuels and systems to full vehicles—under the “Future Performance Days 2015” banner.

On the full vehicle side, Audi put forward the Audi Q7 e-tron 3.0 TDI quattro plug-in hybrid (earlier post); the Audi A7 h-tron quattro fuel cell vehicle (earlier post); the Audi e-tron quattro concept battery-electric SUV (earlier post); the Audi TT clubsport turbo concept (earlier post); the Audi RS 5 TDI competition concept (earlier post); and the Audi R18 e-tron quattro (earlier post). On the systems and fuels side, Audi discussed battery technology; wireless charging; 48 V electrification (earlier post); Audi fuel cell technology; and Audi e-fuels (earlier post).

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Kia outlines 5-year plan for more green vehicles; Optima PHEV, Niro hybrid, FCV; $10.2B investment

November 16, 2015

Kia Motors outlined its mid- to long-term plans for the development of a greatly increased range of environmentally friendly vehicles, with the goal of becoming a leader in the low-emissions car market by 2020. Kia said it intends to expand its green car line-up from four current models to 11 by 2020, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles.

The five-year development plan will see Kia further increase its investment in research and development (R&D) into fuel-efficient technologies and new products, with a range of all-new models and highly advanced powertrains for global markets.

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DOE releases SBIR/STTR FY16 Phase 1 Release 2 topics; hydrogen, electric vehicles, more efficient combustion engines; biogas-to-fuels

The US Department of Energy has announced the 2016 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase I Release 2 Topics, covering eight DOE research program organizations.

Among the many topics listed are magnetocaloric materials development for hydrogen delivery; two hydrogen technology transfer opportunities (TTO); EV traction batteries and power electronics; new combustion engine technologies; and the co-utilization of CO2 and methane in biogas to produce higher hydrocarbon fuels. DOE plans to issue the full Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on 30 November 2015.

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3M and Plug Power announce strategic supply agreement for PEM fuel cell MEAs; material handling and EV markets

November 15, 2015

3M will supply Plug Power Inc. with membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) to be used in Plug Power designed proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stacks under a new strategic supply agreement.

Through this strategic supply agreement, fuel cell stacks will be manufactured in Plug Power’s Latham, NY and Spokane, WA facilities to support the $20-billion material handling market. Additionally, this new fuel cell stack technology will be utilized to expand Plug Power’s presence into hydrogen-enabled electric vehicle applications outside of the material handling market. Fuel cell systems using the 3M MEA’s and Plug Power stack design will begin shipments in the fourth quarter of 2015.

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KAIST researchers develop mechanical nanoscale fasteners for fuel cell membranes; lower cost, higher efficiency, easily manufactured

November 09, 2015

Scientists at KAIST have developed a physical interlocking interface that can tightly bind a sulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) (SPAES) membrane and a Nafion catalyst layer in PEM fuel cells, paving the way for lower-cost, higher-efficiency and more easily manufactured proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. They reported on their work in a recent paper in the journal Advanced Materials.

To generate electricity, PEM fuel cells rely on two chemical compartments separated by a permeable catalyst membrane. This membrane acts as an electrolyte; a negative electrode is bonded to one side of the membrane and a positive electrode is bonded to the other. The electrolyte membrane is often based on a polymer of perfluorosulfonic acid. Due to its high cost, however, a less expensive hydrocarbon-based electrolyte membrane has attracted interest in this technology sector.

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Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo concept fuel cell hybrid leverages F 015 Luxury in Motion concept

October 28, 2015

Mercedes-Benz introduced a new advanced design concept at the Tokyo Motor Show: the Vision Tokyo. The concept is powered by a fuel cell electric drive system based on the F-CELL PLUG-IN HYBRID of the self-driving F 015 Luxury in Motion concept introduced at CES in January. (Earlier post.) The next combines the on-board generation of electricity with a particularly powerful and compact high-voltage battery that can be charged wirelessly via induction.

Pressure tanks made from CFRP store the hydrogen in the concept car. The electric hybrid system has a total range of 980 kilometers (609 miles), of which some 190 kilometers (118 miles) are courtesy of battery-powered driving and around 790 kilometers (491 miles) from the electricity produced in the fuel cell.

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Honda leverages older name for new FCV: Clarity Fuel Cell makes its debut at Tokyo; 435-mile range on JC08

October 27, 2015

Honda Motor Co., Ltd. unveiled the planned production model of its all-new fuel cell vehicle (FCV), called Clarity Fuel Cell, at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show 2015. This model will be on display at the Honda booth during the show. The name honors its predecessor, the FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle, introduced at the LA Auto Show in 2007. (Earlier post.)

Employing original Honda technologies, the fuel cell stack for this model was downsized by 33% compared to the previous version of the fuel cell stack yet delivers output of more than 100 kW, with an output density of 3.1 kW/L—approximately a 60% improvement. The fuel cell powertrain was made as compact as a Honda 3.5L V6 engine, enabling it to be packaged under the hood of a sedan-type vehicle for the first time. This powertrain layout enabled a full cabin package that seats five adults.

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Aeristech developing turbomachine-type electric air compressors for fuel cells; claims potential doubling of output

UK-based Aeristech, a provider of electrically driven pressure charging solutions (earlier post), is developing electric air compressor technology that the company says could double the output from a hydrogen fuel cell. The electric compressor would enable vehicle manufacturers to increase performance or to specify a considerably more compact fuel cell, improving packaging and weight.

The Aeristech fuel cell compressor uses an aluminium, turbomachine-type compressor with volume automotive manufacturing tolerances, direct-coupled to a variable high-speed motor with no transmission. This represents a significant change from roots- and screw-type compressors.

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Technical review outlines challenges for both batteries and fuel cells as basis for electric vehicles

October 26, 2015

In an open-access invited review for the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, Oliver Gröger (earlier post), Volkswagen AG; Dr. Hubert A. Gasteiger, Chair of Technical Electrochemistry, Technische Universität München; and Dr. Jens-Peter Suchsland, SolviCore GmbH, delve into the technological barriers for all-electric vehicles—battery-electric or PEM fuel cell vehicles.

They begin by observing that the EU’s goal of 95 gCO2/km fleet average emissions by 2020 can only be met by means of extended range electric vehicles or all-electric vehicles in combination with the integration of renewable energy (e.g., wind and solar). Based on other studies, they note that without an increasing percentage of renewables in the European electricity generation mix, the only vehicle concept which could meet the 95 gCO2/km target is the pure battery electric vehicles. (Hydrogen produced via electrolysis using the EU mix or by natural gas reforming would exceed the target.)

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JRC report finds electric vehicles in Europe on the way to full-scale commercialization

October 23, 2015

The European Union appears to be undergoing a transition from the testing of and experimentation with electric vehicles to full-scale EV commercialization, according to a new report from the EU’s Joint Research Center (JRC). This report covers battery-electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), range extended electric vehicles (REV), and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).

The number of sold electric vehicles of all types rose from 760 in 2010 to more than 70,000 in 2014, with the trend continuing in the first half of 2015, according to the report. The choice of models went from 3 to nearly 30 in the same period. The share of electric vehicles produced in the EU has also expanded, increasing from 30% (of EV registered in the EU) in 2011 to 65% in 2014.

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DLR developing four-passenger fuel cell aircraft

October 15, 2015

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is developing a four-passenger aircraft powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell battery system. DLR presented the HY4 project at the International Trade Fair World of Energy Solutions this week in Stuttgart.

HY4 uses a hybrid system: the main power source is a low-temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, which continuously supplies the electric motor with durable and reliable power. A high-performance lithium battery covers peak power loads during take-off and when climbing.

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Toyota announces aggressive environmental targets through 2050; cutting new vehicle CO2 by 90% compared to 2010

October 14, 2015

Addressing key global environmental issues such as climate change, water shortages, resource depletion, and degradation of biodiversity, the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 aims to reduce the negative impact of manufacturing and driving vehicles as much as possible. The challenge comprises six individual challenges across three areas: Ever-better cars, quantified as reducing global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90% by 2050 compared to Toyota’s 2010 global average; ever-better manufacturing (zero CO2 emissions at all plants by 2050); and enriching the lives of communities.

As a key step toward achieving these long-term targets, Toyota is announcing its Sixth Toyota Environmental Action Plan, which will be enacted between April 2016 and the end of March 2021.

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European working group led by Intelligent Energy to develop 90kW automotive EC fuel cell stack for mass manufacture

October 13, 2015

Intelligent Energy will lead a pan-European industry working group to develop its proprietary 90kW EC (evaporatively cooled, earlier post) fuel cell automotive technology in the funded project called VolumetriQ.

VolumetriQ is a three-year program that will deliver a blueprint for stack suitability for mass manufacture and potential future industrialization. Funded by €5 million (US$5.7 million) from the European program FCH JU (Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, the target is to develop fuel cell stacks that can be manufactured in high volumes for use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

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New JV pushes hydrogen infrastructure expansion in Germany; ~400 stations by 2023; $455M investment

Six industrial companies in Germany—Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total—have formed a cross-sector joint venture, H2 Mobility Deutschland GmbH & Co. KG, to support a staged expansion of hydrogen filling stations across Germany to bring the total to around 400 stations by 2023.

The Berlin-based company has started operations and is working in preparation for Stage One of the joint action plan. This envisages the accelerated set-up of 100 filling stations over the next few years. Senior representatives of the H2 Mobility venture partners met today at launch talks held with Federal Minister of Transport Alexander Dobrindt and discussed the next steps. The industry and government partners have reinforced their commitment by signing a memorandum of understanding on hydrogen filling stations for Germany.

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DOE awards more than $20M to advance fuel cell technologies; new report highlights strong market growth

October 09, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded more than $20 million to 10 projects to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, and to enable early adoption of fuel cell applications such as light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) (DE-FOA-0001224, earlier post).

The announcement of the latest investment come along with release of a new DOE report—“Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report 2014”—showing the fuel cell industry is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate, totaling more than $2.2 billion in sales in 2014. The report describes data compiled in 2015 on trends in the fuel cell industry for 2014 with some comparison to previous years.

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Sandia, Berkeley and Los Alamos labs in $9M effort for automotive onboard solid-state hydrogen storage; HyMARC

October 08, 2015

Sandia National Laboratories will lead a new tri-lab consortium to address unsolved scientific challenges in the development of viable solid-state materials for storage of hydrogen onboard vehicles. Better onboard hydrogen storage could lead to more reliable and economic hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Called the Hydrogen Materials—Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC), the program is funded by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $3 million per year for three years ($9 million total), with the possibility of renewal. In addition to Sandia, the core team includes Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories.

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Toyota to unveil new fuel cell vehicle concept; focus on distributed generation as well as transportation

With its fuel cell Mirai already on sale, Toyota Motor is continuing to push the fuel cell envelope with the introduction of a new fuel cell concept at the upcoming Tokyo Moto Show at the end of this month. The new Toyota FCV Plus is a fuel cell concept that embodies Toyota’s vision of a hydrogen-based society. Toyota is also introducing the all-new Prius and the Toyota C-HR Concept, a compact hybrid crossover.

Toyota envisages a sustainable society in which hydrogen energy is in widespread use—a society it says is embodied by the new FCV Plus concept vehicle, which functions as a distributed power generation system as well as a vehicle.

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Intelligent Energy announces US$1.8B deal for ~27K telecom towers in India; fuel cell power for ~70%; landmark in fuel cell deployment

October 04, 2015

UK-based fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy will purchase contracts from GTL Limited to supply energy-management services across more than 27,400 telecom towers in India—about 6.4% of the country’s total. Essential Energy, a subsidiary of Intelligent Energy in India, will assume the power management for the towers—a figure equivalent to 50% of the UK’s telecom towers and 13% of the US’. Essential Energy intends to transition around 70% of the managed telecom towers from diesel power to hydrogen fuel cells throughout their contracts’ tenure.

The transaction delivers contracted revenues of approximately £1.2 billion (US$1.8 billion) over ten years—a major development for Intelligent Energy and the industry, said Henri Winand, CEO of Intelligent Energy Holdings. The landmark deal also represents a major milestone in hydrogen fuel cell deployment.

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ARB posts discussion draft of new proposed mobile-source emissions reduction strategy through 2030; Advanced Clean Cars 2 regulation

October 02, 2015

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has published a discussion draft of a proposed strategy for further regulation and reduction of mobile source—cars, trucks, and off-road equipment—emissions. The approach described is designed to meet simultaneously federal air quality standards; achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets; reduce petroleum consumption; and decrease health risk from transportation sources through 2030.

ARB staff developed this strategy using a multi-pollutant scenario planning tool (Vision 2.0) that quantifies changes in ozone and PM2.5 precursor emissions; GHG emissions; petroleum usage; and diesel toxics emissions as various technologies become widespread in vehicle and equipment fleets.

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California ARB announces $24M grant solicitation for zero-emission truck and bus pilot commercial deployment projects

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) announced a grant solicitation for Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Pilot Commercial Deployment Projects. Up to $23,658,000 is available for this project from FY 2014-15 funds. Up to an additional $60,000,000 may be available for projects under this solicitation from future funds appropriated by the California legislature on or before 30 June 2016.

This project complements the Zero-Emission Drayage Truck and Multi-Source Facility Demonstration Projects solicitations released in June of this year as part of a $50-million allocation for advanced technology freight demonstrations.

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GM planning to “own” the customer relationship beyond the vehicle; autonomous Volts, car sharing and fuel cells

October 01, 2015

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and her leadership team outlined the company’s plans to capitalize on the future of personal mobility by owning the customer relationship beyond the vehicle, building upon nearly two decades of connectivity leadership.

GM also said it plans to strengthen its core business through global growth initiatives and an aggressive product launch cadence, while continuing to focus on driving cost efficiencies. As a result, the company expects to increase its earnings per share and generate significant shareholder value. The company shared its plans with investors during a conference at its Milford Proving Ground.

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International Alliance on ZEVs seeks to accelerate ZEV adoption; 11 founding government members from N America and Europe

September 29, 2015

Eleven European and North American governments are the founding partners of the International ZEV Alliance, which has the mission of accelerating global adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont in the United States; Québec in Canada; and The Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom in Europe are the founding members.

The members will cooperate to set targets to drive ZEV deployment, share data and best practice policies, and encourage other governments to join them. (The 11 members account for 7% of global car sales, but represent 38% of the global market for electric vehicles.) A new report released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) outlines an agenda for expanding collaboration. The ICCT serves as Secretariat to the International ZEV Alliance.

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Ballard lands $17M deal for deployment of ~300 fuel cell buses in China; new 30 kW and 60 kW modules

September 26, 2015

Under a newly signed long-term license and supply agreement, Ballard Power Systems will supply Guangdong Synergy Hydrogen Power Technology Co., Ltd., an existing partner in China, fuel cell power products and technology in support of the planned deployment of approximately 300 fuel cell-powered buses in the cities of Foshan and Yunfu, China.

The deal has an estimated initial value of $17 million through 2016, with the opportunity for significant recurring royalties starting in 2017. The agreement includes supply and sale of fully-assembled fuel cell power modules; ready-to-assemble module kits; a technology license for localization of assembly; supply of proprietary fuel cell stacks; and long-term recurring royalties leveraged to unit volumes of locally assembled modules.

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DOT announces $22.5M in latest round of low or no emissions bus deployment (LoNo) funding

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $22.5 million (FTA-2015-006-TRI) through the latest round of the Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment Program (LoNo).

The LoNo Program is a capital program focused on deploying new low- or no-emission production buses that are market-ready or near market-ready; i.e., it is not a program for designing and developing prototypes. The program gives priority consideration to the deployment of buses with the lowest energy consumption and least harmful emissions. The previous round of LoNo funding, announced in February 2015, awarded $55 million in grants to ten organizations nationwide. (Earlier post.)

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New Pd-based nanomaterial catalyst breaks down formic acid to H2; boost for practical chemical H2 storage

September 24, 2015

Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have developed a simple method for producing a palladium-based nanomaterial that can spur the breakdown of formic acid (FA) into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Its efficiency far exceeds that of any other reported heterogeneous catalyst, they say. They also found that their process produced carbon dioxide and hydrogen without carbon monoxide contamination, which has been a problem with other methods.

In a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they suggest that the results open up new avenues in the effective applications of FA for hydrogen storage, including on-board storage for fuel cell vehicles.

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$70M H2ME project launches in Europe to deploy 325 fuel cell vehicles and 29 refueling stations

A large coalition of European partners has launched the €63-million (US$70-million) project Hydrogen Mobility Europe (H2ME). H2ME is co-funded with €32 million (US$36 million) from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU). The project will support the deployment of 325 Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), including 125 fuel-cell range-extended electric vans, and 29 Hydrogen Refueling Stations (HRS) across Europe.

Together with the project HyFive, which started last year, H2ME complements the pre-existing plans for more than 50 stations, and will create a European network of at least 85 stations (the largest in the world).

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CMU researchers rule out one potential cause of resistance in polymer electrolyte fuel cells; R&D guidance toward commercialization

September 14, 2015

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have discovered how nanoscale polymer films limit future cost reductions in fuel cell electric vehicles. Moving forward, this result will direct research and development efforts to address the problem of the electrolyte acid’s interaction with the platinum instead of focusing on the oxygen transport properties. The goal will be to accelerate the commercialization of fuel cell electric vehicles. The results were reported in a paper in the ACS journal Langmuir.

Polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFCs) currently use platinum as the catalyst at the cathode, the site where the fuel cell combines oxygen (from the air) with protons and electrons extracted from the hydrogen fuel at the anode, producing the water exhaust. The large amount of platinum for the cathode forces the cost of the fuel cell system higher. The key to lowering the cost is to reduce the amount of platinum. But as industry and researchers attempt to do this, they encounter a previously-neglected resistance in the cathode that prevents further platinum reductions.

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DOE awards ~$25M to 8 projects for CO2 capture and compression; $15M for novel Direct Fuel Cell system

September 02, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected eight projects to receive almost $25 million in funding to construct small- and large-scale pilots for reducing the cost of CO2 capture and compression through DOE’s Carbon Capture Program. More than half of the funding ($15 million) will go to FuelCell Energy for a pilot scale project using one of the company’s Direct Fuel Cells for carbon capture and compression.

The DOE’s Carbon Capture Program consists of two core research technology areas, post-combustion capture and pre-combustion capture, and also supports related CO2 compression efforts. Current research and development efforts are advancing technologies that could provide step-change reductions in both cost and energy penalty compared to currently available technologies.

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EERC working with Fuel Cell Energy on $3.5M ARPA-E project for electrochemical cell to convert natural gas to methanol

August 29, 2015

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is working with FuelCell Energy, Inc., an integrated stationary fuel cell manufacturer, to develop a durable, low-cost, and high-performance electrochemical cell to convert natural gas and other methane-rich gas into methanol, a major chemical commodity with worldwide applications in the production of liquid fuels, solvents, resins, and polymers.

The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) awarded $3,500,000 to the project, led by Fuel Cell Energy, as part of its REBELS (Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems) program. (Earlier post.) The project is directed at developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that would directly convert methane to methanol and other liquid fuels using advanced metal catalysts.

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Argonne researchers develop new non-precious-metal fuel cell catalyst with performance comparable to platinum

August 27, 2015

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed a new fuel cell catalyst using earth-abundant materials with performance that is comparable to platinum in laboratory tests. The nanofibrous non-precious metal catalyst (NPMC) is synthesized by electrospinning a polymer solution containing a mixture of ferrous organometallics and metal-organic frameworks and then is thermally activated.

The resulting catalyst offers a carbon nanonetwork architecture made of microporous nanofibers decorated by uniformly distributed high-density active sites. As reported in an open access paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in a single-cell test, the membrane electrode containing the catalyst delivered volumetric activities of 3.3 A⋅cm−3 at 0.9 V or 450 A⋅cm−3 extrapolated at 0.8 V, representing the highest reported value in the literature. The team also observed improved fuel cell durability.

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Laser-burned graphene could replace platinum as fuel cell catalyst

August 21, 2015

Researchers at the Tour Lab at Rice University developed an improved cost-effective approach using direct laser scribing to prepare graphene embedded with various types of metallic nanoparticles. The resulting metal oxide-laser induced graphene (MO-LIG) is highly active in electrochemical oxygen reduction reactions with a low metal loading of less than 1 at%. As such, it could be a candidate to replace expensive platinum in catalysts for fuel cells and other applications.

In addition, the researchers noted in their open access paper published in ACS Nano, the nanoparticles can vary from metal oxide to metal dichalcogenides through lateral doping, making the composite active in other electrocatalytic reactions such as hydrogen evolution.

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Cal Energy Commission grants $2.4M for Class 8 fuel cell hybrid trucks at ports; $1.2M for PEV fleet and V2G software upgrade

August 13, 2015

The California Energy Commission approved a grant of $2.4 million to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) under the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program to build and to test seven hybrid fuel-cell, Class 8 trucks to transport cargo at the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports.

The Commission also approved $1.2 million to expand the data collection effort for the plug-in vehicle project at Los Angeles Air Force Base (earlier post) to assess fully the economic and technical viability of transforming military base tactical vehicles to plug-in electric drive vehicle drive vehicles participating in vehicle-to-grid services.

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Ipsos poll finds 64% of Canadians would consider buying or leasing fuel cell vehicle if available

August 11, 2015

Eight in ten (80%) Canadians “agree” (33% strongly/48% somewhat) that “electric cars are the way of the future”, according to a new Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Hyundai. Just two in ten (20%) “disagree” (3% strongly/17% somewhat). Three quarters (75%) of Canadians “agree” (32% strongly/44% somewhat) that they would “like to have a car that is not powered by traditional gasoline”, while only one in four (25%) “disagree” (7% strongly/18% somewhat) that they would like to drive such a car.

However, the poll also found that a majority (71%) “agrees” (25% strongly/46% somewhat) that “constantly having to charge electric cars is a pain” (29% disagree – 7% strongly/22% somewhat). While most (90%) can “agree” (45% strongly/45% somewhat) that “cars that operate on an alternate source of fuel rather than traditional gasoline are great for the environment” and that they’re “innovative” (89% agree – 38% strongly/51% somewhat), two in three (67%) also “agree” (20% strongly/47% somewhat) that they would “like to own an eco-friendly car but electric-powered cars are too much hassle”. One in three (33%) “disagrees” (8% strongly/25% somewhat) that electric-powered cars are too much hassle. Only one in four (24%) say they’re “familiar” (3% very/22% somewhat) with hydrogen fuel cell technology, while most (76%) are not (43% not very/32% not at all familiar – never heard of it).

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ILL team uses neutron scattering to elucidate structure and dynamics of superionic conductor Li4C60; potential for batteries and fuel cells

August 05, 2015

Researchers at the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), a leading international research center for neutron science and technology, and their colleagues have elucidated the structure and dynamics of the solid superionic conductor Li4C60 using neutron scattering. Their paper is published in the journal Physical Review B.

When atoms of alkali-metals such as lithium (Li) are added to cage-like Buckminsterfullerene molecules (C60 buckyballs), the buckyballs undergo polymerization, forming long chains that create a material with a range of new properties. Despite being a solid, Li4C60 displays an ionic conductivity comparable to that of liquid electrolytes, even at room temperature. This has led to suggestions that this material could find use in future fuel-cells or batteries.

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Sandia Labs partnering with Red and White Fleet to develop high-speed H2 fuel cell passenger ferry and world’s largest H2 refueling station

July 28, 2015

Sandia National Laboratories and San Francisco’s Red and White Fleet are partnering in a project—SF-BREEZE (San Francisco Bay Renewable Energy Electric vessel with Zero Emissions)—to develop a high-speed, hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered passenger ferry and refueling station. The hydrogen refueling station is planned to be the largest in the world and serve fuel cell electric cars, buses and fleet vehicles in addition to the ferry and other maritime vehicles.

The US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) is funding a feasibility study to examine the technical, regulatory and economic aspects of the project. The outcome of the feasibility study will be a “Go/No-Go” recommendation to proceed with the actual design and build of the ferry and hydrogen station.

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Georgia Tech ultra-thin hollow nanocages could significantly reduce platinum use in fuel cell electrodes

July 24, 2015

A team led by researchers at Georgia Tech has developed a new fabrication technique to produce platinum-based hollow nanocages with ultra-thin walls that could significantly reduce the amount of the costly metal needed to provide catalytic activity.

Use of these nanocage structures in fuel cell electrodes could increase the utilization efficiency of the platinum electrocatalyst by a factor of as much as seven, potentially changing the economic viability of the fuel cells. The work also involved researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Arizona State University; and Xiamen University in China. The process is described in a paper in the journal Science.

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New non-metallic molecular catalyst system approaches efficiency of platinum in fuel cell oxygen reduction reaction

July 17, 2015

A team of chemists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has demonstrated a new molecular (i.e., non-metallic) catalyst system for the fuel cell oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) that approaches the efficiency of platinum. Although molecular catalysts have been explored before, earlier examples were much less efficient than the traditional platinum catalyst. An open access paper on their work is publishedin the journal ACS Central Science.

The new catalyst is composed of a mixture of nitroxyls and nitrogen oxides. These molecular partners play well together; one reacts well with the electrode while the other reacts efficiently with the oxygen.

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DOE selects 16 research projects for more than $19M in funding to advance Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology

July 14, 2015

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 16 solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology research projects for a total of more than $19 million ($19,358,915) in funding.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, NETL issued two funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) to support programs that enable the development and deployment of this energy technology. The projects selected under the two FOAs will receive funding through NETL’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program. The FOAs were awarded with two primary objectives: to design, construct, and field-test a SOFC prototype system; and to support innovations that improve the reliability, robustness, and endurance of SOFC cell and stack technology.

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Navigant forecasts global annual sales of LDVs of 122.6M by 2035, up 38% from 2015

July 06, 2015

In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts global annual sales of light duty vehicles will reach 122.6 million by 2035, up 38% from a projected 88.8 million this year, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6%. Navigant Research expects the number of LDVs in use on roads worldwide to grow by 57.1% from 2015 to 2035 to almost 1.9 billion units.

Navigant expects sales of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will fall significantly over the forecast period, experiencing a CAGR of -6.6%. As a result, the share of vehicles in use that are conventional ICE vehicles will fall from more than 91% in 2015 to under 40% by 2035. Navigant expects ICE vehicles will be replaced by start-stop vehicles (SSVs), which will grow from representing more than 4% of vehicles in use in 2015 to nearly 49% in 2035. Hybrids (HEVs) are expected to account for nearly 3%, while PHEVs (plug-in hybrids), BEVs (battery-electric vehicles), NGVs (natural gas vehicles), PAGVs (propane autogas vehicles), and FCV (fuel cell vehicles) s together are projected to add up to more than 9% of the LDVs in use in 2035.

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BMW shows future drive technologies; 2 Series PHEV prototype, direct water injection in 3-cyl. engine, and fuel cell eDrive

July 02, 2015

During a driving event at the Miramas proving grounds in southern France, BMW presented future drive technologies, including the prototype of a BMW 2 Series Active Tourer with plug-in hybrid drive. This application of BMW eDrive technologies features the first PHEV system with a front/transverse-mounted combustion engine, high-voltage generator and road-linked all-wheel drive via an electric drive system at the rear axle.

The company also showcased the use of direct water injection to enhance the efficiency of combustion engines at higher performance levels while also significantly reducing fuel consumption and emissions in key driving cycles. Finally, BMW showcased a hydrogen fuel cell drive system as a future-focused variant of BMW eDrive (teased in a technical session during April’s SAE World Congress in Detroit) enabling all-electric driving with a high operating range and short refueling times. (BMW is collaborating with Toyota on fuel cell systems. Earlier post.)

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Toyota, Nissan and Honda agree on details of H2 station support in Japan

July 01, 2015

Toyota Motor Corporation, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. have agreed on key details of their joint support project for the development of hydrogen station infrastructure in Japan. (Earlier post.) The joint project (conducted alongside the Japanese government’s support for hydrogen stations) will cover one-third of the hydrogen station operating expenses incurred by infrastructure companies, and was first announced on 12 February.

Annual financial support per station is limited to ¥11 million (US$89,000). (The annual limit is ¥13 million (US$106,000) where two or more mobile stations are operated.) The partners envision funding support until around 2020. 100 hydrogen stations will be constructed initially, with a gradual increase expected thereafter. The total value of the support is estimated at around ¥5-6 billion (US$41-$49 million).

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New operando technique shows atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real-time; applications for batteries and fuel cells

June 30, 2015

A new technique developed by a team of researchers led by Eric Stach at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Anatoly Frenkel at Yeshiva University reveals atomic-scale changes during catalytic reactions in real time and under real operating conditions. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

The team used a new microfabricated catalytic reactor to combine synchrotron X-ray absorption spectroscopy and scanning transmission electron microscopy for an unprecedented portrait of a common chemical reaction. The results demonstrate a powerful operando—i.e., in a working state—technique that is generalizable to quantitative operando studies of complex systems using a wide variety of X-ray and electron-based experimental probes. This may have a tremendous impact on research on catalysts, batteries, fuel cells, and other major energy technologies.

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DOE Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program Annual Merit Review Awards

June 15, 2015

Each year, at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program presents awards for contributions to the overall efforts of the Program and to recognize achievements in specific areas. At last week’s merit review meeting, DOE made awards to 13 engineers and researchers.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Awards. DOE awarded two Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program awards: one to George Parks of Fuel Science, the other to Jesse Schneider of BMW. (Schneider also recently received the 2015 James M. Crawford Technical Standards Board Outstanding Achievement Award from SAE for his work on hydrogen standards.)

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DOE issues request for information on gas clean-up for fuel cell applications

June 02, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) has issued a request for information (DE-FOA-0001331) to obtain feedback and opinions from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on the report findings from the Gas Clean-up for Fuel Cell Applications Workshop.

The Gas Clean-up for Fuel Cell Applications Workshop was held last year at Argonne National Laboratory, and featured 43 participants from industry (fuel cell, process solution providers, and material suppliers), government agencies, advocacy groups, universities, and national laboratories with expertise in the relevant fields. The objective of the workshop was to identify and prioritize:

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DOE announces $26.6M SBIR/STTR FY15 Phase 1 Release 2 awards; fuel cells, batteries, power electronics and efficient combustion engines

May 28, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 162 projects to receive about $26.6 million in the 2015 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase I Release 2 Awards. (Earlier post.) Of these, 16 are vehicle-related, encompassing projects developing batteries, power electronics and improved combustion engine technology including on-board reformers, and two are specifically hydrogen fuel cell-related.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) are Federal programs in which agencies with large research and development (R&D) budgets set aside a small fraction of their funding for competitions among small businesses only. Small businesses that win awards in these programs keep the rights to any technology developed and are encouraged to commercialize the technology. While the original charter of the program focused on technological innovation, the current programs have evolved to have a greater focus on commercialization.

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Hydrogenics and Alstom Transport to develop and commercialize H2 fuel-cell commuter trains in Europe; €50M, 10-year agreement

May 27, 2015

Hydrogenics Corporation, a leading developer and manufacturer of hydrogen generation and hydrogen-based power modules, signed a 10-year exclusive agreement to supply Alstom Transport with hydrogen fuel cell systems for Regional Commuter Trains in Europe. Alstom Transport is a unit of Alstom, a France-based global leader in power generation, transmission and rail infrastructure with sales of €6.2 billion.

The agreement, valued at more than €50 million, includes the supply of at least 200 engine systems along with service and maintenance as necessary over a 10-year period. The fuel cell systems, based on Hydrogenics’s Heavy-Duty HD series fuel cells, will be developed to meet European train compliance regulations. The first units are expected to be delivered in 2016 following prototype work slated for late 2015.

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Ballard to move to next phase of PEM fuel cell catalyst development project with Nisshinbo

May 26, 2015

Ballard Power Systems has received a purchase order from Nisshinbo Holdings Inc. for the next phase of Technology Solutions project work related to the development of a breakthrough catalyst technology intended to reduce manufacturing cost of certain proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. The project has now been underway for approximately 2 years.

Nisshinbo is an energy company providing low-carbon, optimized products across a range of business lines, including chemicals, precision instruments, electronics, automotive brakes, textiles and paper. Nisshinbo has supplied Ballard with compression molded bipolar flow field plates for more than 10-years, for use in the manufacture of PEM fuel cell membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) used in various market applications.

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Platinum-chromium alloy outperforms platinum as fuel cell catalyst

May 25, 2015

A team from Germany reports that a 40 wt% Pt3Cr/C alloy fuel cell catalyst shows enhanced activity under both half-cell and full-cell conditions as well as excellent corrosion stability compared to those of the 40 wt% Pt/C benchmark catalyst.

As presented at the Meeting of the Electrochemical Society earlier this month, in half-cell experiments at 2 mA cm−², the Pt3Cr/C catalyst exhibited 10 mV less over-potential and two-fold higher specific and mass activity for the ORR (oxygen reduction reaction) than Pt/C. The average particle size grew from 4.5 nm up to “only” 6–8 nm after 7000 degradation cycles. By comparison, the average particle size of Pt/C increased from 4.5 up to 10–30 nm.

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Toyota reports new real-time observation method sets stage for more efficient, durable fuel cell stacks

May 18, 2015

Toyota Motor Corporation and Japan Fine Ceramics Center (JFCC) have developed a new observation technique that allows researchers to monitor the behavior of nanometer-sized particles of platinum during chemical reactions in fuel cells, so that the processes leading to reduced catalytic reactivity can be observed in real-time.

The aim of the new technique is to identify the behavior, conditions and materials that make platinum catalyst nanoparticles critical to fuel cell efficiency and longevity prone to “coarsening”, with the accompanying degradation of capability. The new real-time observation technique could lead to a new generation of more efficient and durable fuel cell stacks, Toyota suggested. Toyota researchers will present the technique and their findings at the upcoming 2015 JSAE Annual Congress (Spring).

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Intelligent Energy showcasing 100kW hydrogen fuel cell architecture at JSAE Automotive Engineering Exposition

May 15, 2015

Intelligent Energy will showcase its evaporatively-cooled 100kW automotive fuel cell architecture (earlier post) at the JSAE Automotive Engineering Exposition in Japan, 20-22 May.

The company’s unique stack technology offers leading power densities of 3.5 kW/l (volumetric) and 3.0 kW/kg (gravimetric), while being engineered for low-cost, high-volume series production. Intelligent Energy’s 100kW architecture will be available to vehicle manufacturers through technology licensing programs and joint development agreements.

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Toyota pops the hood on the technology of the fuel cell Mirai at SAE World Congress

April 29, 2015

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The new fuel cell stack in Mirai increases the current density by a factor of 2.4 compared to the conventional FC stack. Konno et al. Click to enlarge.

At SAE 2015 World Congress last week, Toyota presented a set of four technical papers describing some of the technology innovations used in its production fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle Mirai (earlier post). The papers provide technical details on the high performance fuel-cell (FC) stack; specific insights into FC separator, and stack manifold; the newly developed boost converter; and the new high-pressure hydrogen storage system with innovative carbon fiber windings.

The Toyota papers were part of a larger World Congress technical session on practical hydrogen fuel cell technology: PFL 720, Advances in Fuel Cell Vehicle Applications, chaired by Jesse Schneider of BMW.

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MIT and Moscow State University collaborating on advanced batteries, metal-air batteries and reversible fuel/electrolysis cells

April 12, 2015

Researchers at the Skoltech Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage (CEES), a partnership between the MIT Materials Processing Center and Lomonosov Moscow State University, are focusing on the development of higher capacity batteries. CEES is a Center for Research, Education and Innovation (CREI) under the umbrella of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech).

CEES has three main research thrusts: the development of advanced lithium-ion and multivalent ion batteries; the development of rechargeable metal-air batteries; and Development of reversible low and elevated temperature fuel cells

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Millbrook joins APC-funded consortium to develop fuel cell range-extended electric LCVs

March 30, 2015

Millbrook, one of Europe’s leading independent test and technology centers for vehicles and vehicle systems, will join a UK industry consortium to develop a new class of light commercial vehicle (LCV) combining fuel cell technology with battery electric vehicles to provide significantly improved range and rapid refueling. The consortium, led by Intelligent Energy (earlier post), will receive a £6.3-million ($9.3-million) grant from the UK’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for the £12.7-million ($19-million) project. The other partners are Frost Electronics, Frost EV, CENEX, British Gas and DHL.

The three-year project will develop validated systems and vehicle conversion expertise ready for volume manufacture. The goal is also to provide fleet operators with a solution that enables vehicle operation for extended periods while being emissions-free at the tailpipe.

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California Energy Commission awards $24.9M to 9 medium- and heavy-duty advanced truck demo projects

March 25, 2015

The California Energy Commissions has selected 9 projects to receive a combined $24,873,512 in proposed funding for cost share in the field demonstration of advanced medium- and heavy-duty on-road vehicle technologies—primarily battery electric and fuel cell technology—that may become commercially available in California. The match amount for the nine projects is $17,212,984. The solicitation (PON-14-605) was under the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP).

Nineteen other projects also passed the screening. However, the Energy Commission started with the highest score and began determining the awards, descending through the list of finalists until the money available (the $24,873,512) ran out. Five applications did not pass. The nine projects receiving funding are:

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DOE 2015 SBIR/STTR Phase 2 Release 1 awards include 3 hydrogen projects

March 24, 2015

The US Department of Energy announced 94 2015 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase 2 Release 1 Awards, including three Office of Science projects focusing on hydrogen production from electrolysis and hydrogen systems supporting fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). The 94 projects will receive about $96 million in total funding.

DOE’s key hydrogen objectives are to reduce the cost of producing and delivering hydrogen to less than $4 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (gge) to enable fuel cell vehicles to be competitive with gasoline vehicles. Key fuel cell objectives are to reduce fuel cell system cost to $40/kW and improve durability to 5,000 hours (equivalent to 150,000 miles of driving) for automotive fuel cell systems by 2020.

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New Rutgers non-noble metal catalyst for hydrogen evolution performs as well as Pt in both acid and base

March 22, 2015

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a new noble metal-free catalyst—Ni5P4 (nickel-5 phosphide-4)—performing on par with platinum for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) in both strong acid and base. The development, the team concludes in a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, can offer a key step towards industrially relevant electrolyzers competing with conventional H2 sources.

Currently, renewable hydrogen may be produced from water by electrolysis with either low efficiency alkaline electrolyzers that suffer 50–65% losses, or by more efficient acidic electrolyzers using expensive rare platinum group metal catalysts (Pt). Consequently, the authors noted, research has focused on developing alternative, cheap, and robust catalysts made from earth-abundant elements.

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Daimler putting ~€1B into Stuttgart-Untertürkheim to make it the center of competence for efficient engines, hybrid powertrains and fuel cell system production

March 21, 2015

Daimler is investing about €1 billion (US$1.07 billion) in the Mercedes-Benz plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and is transforming it into a center of competence for highly efficient engines, hybrid powertrains and the production of fuel cell systems.

From 1 June, Untertürkheim will assume responsibility for a facility in Nabern in the greater Stuttgart area where assembly of the fuel cell system will take place. The Nabern facility will remain the center of competence for the overall development of fuel cell drive systems under the direction of Daimler AG.

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Obama orders GHG cuts for Federal Agencies; 50% of all new agency vehicles to be ZEV or PHEV by 2025

March 19, 2015

President Obama today signed a wide-ranging executive order mandating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for Federal agencies. Through more efficient Federal operations, agency direct greenhouse gas emissions can be cut by at least 40% over the next decade, the order suggests. The order has operational directives for building and fleet management, electricity generation, water use, waste management and purchasing.

As an initial outcome, within 90 days the head of each agency sis to propose to the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) percentage reduction targets for agency-wide reductions of scope 1 and 2 and scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms by the end of fiscal year 2025 relative to a fiscal year 2008 baseline.

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Northwestern-led team finds slightly imperfect graphene can serve as a highly selective proton separation membrane

March 18, 2015

Researchers from Northwestern University, together with collaborators from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Virginia, the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Puerto Rico, have discovered that protons can transfer easily through graphene—conventionally thought to be unfit for proton transfer absent nanoscale holes or dopants—through rare, naturally occurring atomic defects.

In an open access paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers reported that a slightly imperfect graphene membrane’s speed and selectivity are much better than that of conventional proton separation membranes, offering engineers a new and simpler mechanism for fuel cell design.

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Intelligent Energy introduces new high performance 100kW automotive fuel cell architecture

March 12, 2015

Intelligent Energy is expanding its PEM fuel cell offerings with a new 100 kW automotive fuel cell architecture. Designed to deliver primary motive power within an advanced electric driveline, the 100 kW fuel cell architecture and core technology will be available to vehicle manufacturers through technology licensing programs and joint development agreements.

The 100 kW platform takes full advantage of Intelligent Energy’s stack technology, which offers leading power density of 3.5 kW/l (volumetric) and 3.0 kW/kg (gravimetric), while being engineered for low cost, high volume series production. As points of comparison, the US Department of Energy (DOE) 2020 technical targets for an automotive fuel cell stack are 2.5 kW/l and 2 kW/kg. Toyota says that its new fuel cell stack in the Mirai offers 3.1 kW/l (2.2 times higher than that of the previous Toyota FCHV-adv limited-lease model) and 2.0 kW/kg. (Earlier post.)

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DOE to award up to $35M to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies; fuel cell range extenders

March 03, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced (DOE-FOA-0001224) up to $35 million in available funding to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, and to enable early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). (Earlier post.)

As FCEVs become increasingly commercially available, the Energy Department is focused on reducing the costs and increasing technical advancements of critical hydrogen infrastructure including production, delivery, and storage. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) covers a broad spectrum of the Fuel Cell Technology Office (FCTO) portfolio with areas of interest ranging from research and development (R&D) to demonstration and deployment projects.

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Rice graphene aerogel catalyst doped with boron and nitrogen outperform platinum in fuel cell ORR

March 02, 2015

Graphene nanoribbons formed into a three-dimensional aerogel and doped with boron and nitrogen (3D BNC NRs) exhibit the highest onset and half-wave potentials among the reported metal-free catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in alkaline fuel cells, and show superior performance compared to commercial Pt/C catalyst, according to a new study by Rice University researchers.

A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and various levels of boron and nitrogen to test their electrochemical properties. In research reported in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials, they reported that versions with about 10 atom % boron and nitrogen were most efficient in catalyzing the ORR.

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Researchers demonstrate high performance and stability of non-precious metal ORR catalysts in acidic PEM fuel cells

March 01, 2015

Researchers at Case Western University led by Prof. Liming Dai have demonstrated that rationally designed, metal-free, nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes and their graphene composites exhibit significantly better long-term operational stabilities and comparable gravimetric power densities with respect to the best non-precious metal catalyst (NPMC) in acidic polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells.

The researchers said that this work, which advances their earlier work on high- performance NPMCs for fuel cells (e.g., earlier post, earlier post), represents a major breakthrough in removing the bottlenecks to translate low-cost, metal-free, carbon-based ORR (oxygen reduction reaction) catalysts to commercial reality in affordable and durable fuel cells. An open-access paper on their work appears in the online journal Science Advances (an offspring of the journal Science).

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Cal Energy Commission adopts report outlining how state transforming transportation system to meet climate goals

February 26, 2015

The California Energy Commission adopted its 2014 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) Update, which outlines, among many things, how the state is working to transform the transportation system to zero- and near-zero technologies and fuels to meet its climate and clean air goals. This report highlights the importance of incentives in helping speed this transition and specifically explores the role Assembly Bill 8, which makes more than $2 billion available for public investment, can play in helping to achieve this progress.

The Energy Commission also approved almost $16 million in research grants to help develop the next generation of energy efficient technologies for commercial and residential buildings; $11 million for projects to convert feedstock and waste into biofuels; and about $900,000 for natural gas innovations.

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DOE FCTO selects 11 fuel cell incubator projects for up to $10M in awards; exploring alkaline exchange membrane FCs

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) has selected 11 projects to receive up to $10 million in funding through the fuel cell technology incubator FOA (earlier post) in support of innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies. The intention of these selections is to identify high-impact technologies that are not already addressed in FCTO’s strategic plan or mainstream project portfolio.

The selected projects will support research and development efforts to address critical challenges and barriers for hydrogen and fuel cell technology development. The projects selected have the potential significantly to lower the cost or improve the performance, durability, or efficiency of fuel cells or hydrogen fuel production. For example, in contrast to industry’s primary focus, which is polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFC), selected projects include a higher risk, completely different approach—alkaline exchange membrane fuel cells (AEMFC)—that can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for expensive platinum as a catalyst in the long term. Such high-risk but high-impact potential projects complement the current FCTO portfolio.

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French Post Office and Renault Trucks testing electric truck with fuel cell range extender

February 24, 2015

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Maxity Electric with fuel cell range extender. Click to enlarge.

Renault Trucks and the French Post Office (La Poste) will introduce on an experimental basis, and as a first in Europe, an electric truck equipped with a hydrogen-powered range extender. The range-extended 4.5-ton Maxity Electric model doubles th electric truck range to 200 kilometers (124 miles) and will be tested for one year under actual operating conditions in the city Dole (Jura Department), allowing Renault Trucks to explore all potential avenues of hydrogen technology under actual operating conditions.

For La Poste, which at present owns the world's largest fleet of electric vehicles, this experiment is part of a continuous effort underway to extend the range of its fleet. For nearly a year, in the Franche-Comté Region, the Post Office has been testing, during carriers’ collection and distribution of mail and packages, Renault Kangoo Z.E. mail delivery vehicles with fuel cell range extenders. (Earlier post.)

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Making the Mirai fuel cell vehicle

In Japan, Toyota Motor held a production ceremony at the Motomachi Plant, which first began production in 1959, to mark the production of the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, which the company launched in November 2014, and began selling in Japan in December 2014. (Earlier post.)

Motomachi has been home to some of Toyota’s most notable models, including the Publica, Corona, Cresta, Soarer, Supra, RAV4, and the Lexus LFA supercar. The former “LFA Works”—where craftspeople hand-built each of the 500 series limited Lexus supercars—is now the home of the Mirai. Toyota released a set of 5 short videos giving an overview of Mirai production, which delivers an estimated 3 units per day.

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NEESC releases 2015 hydrogen & fuel cell development plans for eight Northeastern states; power generation and transportation

February 20, 2015

The Northeast Electrochemical Energy Storage Cluster (NEESC), administered by Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Inc. (CCAT), released the 2015 Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Development Plans for each of the eight states in the Northeast US. The state-specific plans focus on hydrogen and fuel cell applications that are both technically and economically viable, and recommend specific goals for stationary and transportation hydrogen fuel cell deployment to meet economic, environmental, and energy needs.

Cumulative goals for the Northeast states include approximately 1,300 megawatts of installed stationary fuel cell capacity; 10,800 fuel cell electric vehicles; 640 fuel cell powered buses; and 110 hydrogen refueling stations to support the fuel cell electric vehicles and buses.

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DOE workshop report on common opportunities and challenges in expanding use of H2 and natural gas vehicles

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Hydrogen and natural gas share a number of common entry to market barriers. Image from DOE EERE Fuel Cell Technologies Office. Click to enlarge.

Sandia National Laboratories, supported by the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies and Fuel Cell Technologies Offices, recently released the workshop report “Transitioning the Transportation Sector: Exploring the Intersection of Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Natural Gas Vehicles.”

Held in September 2014, the workshop considered common opportunities and challenges in expanding the use of hydrogen and natural gas as transportation fuels. Organized by Sandia, the American Gas Association, and Toyota, the workshop included participants from the auto industry, freight delivery fleets, gas suppliers, gas storage developers, utilities, academia, industry associations, national laboratories, and federal and state governments.

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Toyota Central R&D exploring controlling catalysts at the quantum level for optimized performance and reduced costs

February 17, 2015

The Frontier Research Center (FRC) at Toyota Central R&D Labs in Japan is investigating the development of catalysts controlled at the quantum level. This level of control should result in an an extreme reduction of precious metal usage in automotive exhaust catalysts and/or fuel cells, said Dr. Yoshihide Watanabe, program manager of the Quantum Controlled Catalysis Program at the FRC.

Metal cluster chemistry (a cluster is a group of atoms or molecules formed by interactions varying in strength from very weak to strong) has been developing rapidly since the mid-20th century. Some naturally occurring clusters are known to be involved in catalytic reactions, and there is great interest in the potential use of synthetic clusters in industrial applications such as catalysis.

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Update on the GM-Honda collaboration on Gen 2 Fuel Cell Propulsion System

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Overview and partitioning of the GM-Honda collaboration on fuel cell propulsion. Click to enlarge.

Over the past two years, GM and Honda have been collaborating on next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems, aiming at commercialization in the 2020 time frame. (Earlier post.) At the SAE 2015 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium in Los Angeles last week, Andrew Bosco, Chief Engineer for fuel cell engineering at GM, provided an progress update on the joint Gen 2 Fuel Cell Propulsion System. (At the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium, Mark Mathias, Director, Fuel Cell R&D for GM, had also provided an update on the collaboration. Earlier post.)

As the two companies have emphasized from the beginning, Bosco reinforced that the current scope of the collaboration focuses on reducing the high cost of fuel cell specific systems: i.e., the fuel cell stack; balance of plant components; and hydrogen storage system (HSS). Development on the battery (regenerative ESS), fuel cell power electronics (FCPE); and electric traction system (ETS) is leveraging know-how and components from hybrids and battery-electric vehicle work.

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Volkswagen Group acquires Ballard automotive fuel cell patent portfolio, extends engineering services contract in US$80+ million deal

February 11, 2015

Ballard Power Systems has entered into a Technology Solutions transaction with Volkswagen Group for an aggregate amount of approximately US$80 million for the transfer of certain automotive-related fuel cell intellectual property (IP) and a two-year extension of an engineering services contract. (Earlier post.)

Ballard will transfer the automotive-related portion of fuel cell IP assets previously acquired from United Technologies Corporation in return for payments from Volkswagen Group totaling US$50 million, a majority of which is expected to be received at the closing of the transaction during the current quarter. The remainder is expected to be received in early 2016.

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