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DOE Pumps $119M More into Fuel-Cell Research; Introduces Manufacturing R&D Roadmap

Fabrication of catalyst coating for PEMs

Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today kicked off the Washington Auto Show by announcing $119 million in funding and a research roadmap aimed at identifying and overcoming the technical and manufacturing challenges associated with the further development of commercially available hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

The Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $100 million over four years for research projects seeking to improve fuel cell membranes, water transport within the stack, advanced cathode catalysts and supports, cell hardware, innovative fuel cell concepts, and effects of impurities on fuel cell performance and durability.

In addition, Secretary Bodman announced the selection of 12 competitively awarded, cost-shared projects that will receive $19 million in federal funding over five years for research on the polymer membranes used in fuel cells ($19 million in federal funding; $4.75 million in applicant cost sharing).

The goal of this research is to advance membrane durability and extend shelf-life, while simultaneously bringing down the cost.

Selected organizations include: Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; Giner Electrochemical Systems, Newton, MA; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN; Case Western Reserve University (two projects), Cleveland, OH; FuelCell Energy, Danbury, CT; Clemson University, Clemson, SC; General Electric (GE Global Research), Niskayuna, NY; Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.

Since [2003], DOE-funded research has led to the doubling of the lifetime of the hydrogen fuel cell stack, and reduced the projected high volume cost of cell production by 60 percent.

We are also working on new technologies to bring down the cost of hydrogen to a point where it will be competitive with existing conventional fuels. Our research has reduced the cost of hydrogen produced from natural gas by almost 40 percent between 2003 and 2005.

And we are pushing forward in the effort to find cheaper ways to produce hydrogen from renewable resources. The initiatives taken by the Department of Energy have brought us to the point where a commercially viable hydrogen-powered car is closer than it has ever been.

—Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman

To identify the research and development (R&D) challenges that must be further addressed, Secretary Bodman also unveiled DOE’s draft Roadmap on Manufacturing R&D for the Hydrogen Economy.

The document, based on the Manufacturing R&D for the Hydrogen Economy Workshop in July 2005, addresses challenges to manufacturing, storage and production of fuel cell technologies and proposes R&D solutions to overcome such challenges, focusing primarily on near commercial technologies.

The draft Roadmap is open for public comment for 45 days.

We must overcome significant challenges to realize the vision of the hydrogen energy economy. These include reducing the cost of hydrogen production and delivery; increasing the capacity and reducing the cost of onboard vehicle hydrogen storage systems; and reducing the cost and increasing the durability of automotive fuel cell systems.

The goal of the HFI [Hydrogen Fuel Initiative] is to advance hydrogen technologies to the point that industry can make commercialization decisions on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and fuel infrastructure by 2015 so these technologies can begin to penetrate consumer markets by 2020. Commercializing hydrogen technologies by 2020 requires that manufacturing issues be addressed now.

—The Roadmap

Both the Roadmap and $119 million in funding seek to address the significant challenges that represent barriers to commercialization, such as the expense of the fuel cells, and energy storage and durability.



Robert Schwartz

We would be better off if they burned the money for heat.

Adam Powell

Hate to say it, but I agree somewhat with the previous post (burning the money).

On one hand, we have the materials for inexpensive high-capacity lithium ion batteries now (iron phosphate cathodes), which are moving from research to development and should be in production soon. Recent research results are showing that unlike traditional CoO3 cathodes, applying overpotential to iron phosphate cells results not in material degradation, but faster charging, on the order of five minutes! Plug-in hybrids can use these to run clean and efficient like no hydrogen car ever will.

On the other side, low-temperature co-firing of anode, YSZ electrolyte and cathode (Uday Pal, Boston University) is dramatically lowering the cost of making solid oxide fuel cells. And high-efficiency solid oxide fuel cells using gasoline are already in cars (a BMW model uses them to power electronic equipment when the engine is off). So for extended range, forget hydrogen with its utter lack of proven storage technology, just use gasoline and an SOFC!

So I say forget hydrogen completely. But no, it's useful for some applications, like forklifts -- again until the battery technology beats it up (no need for a hydrogen generation station), so do keep up some of the hydrogen research. Just don't make it a top priority with hundreds of millions of dollars in funding just because the President says so!

[q->t to email]


Nope fuel cells are progresing better then expected and are well onthe way to making thier deadline of 2030.

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