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DOE Announces $52.5M Solicitation for Basic Hydrogen Research

The US Department of Energy will release later this month a three-year, $52.5-million solicitation to support research to assist in overcoming the scientific challenges associated with the production, use and storage of hydrogen. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced the solicitation while addressing the 2006 SAE World Congress.

Areas supported will include novel materials for hydrogen storage, membranes for hydrogen purification and fuel-cell operation and for nanoscale catalysts for hydrogen production and fuel-cell electrochemical reactions.

Over the years, engineers have been the real heroes of many of our nation’s biggest environmental gains. Policy makers in Washington, environmental groups and lawyers may grab the headlines, but you are the people who actually get things done. You have given us catalytic converters, displacement-on-demand, hybrid vehicles and now, flex-fuel vehicles.

Now, we are counting on you to deliver some more of that magic that really comes from outside the box thinking and lots of hard work to make hydrogen power a reality.

—Secretary Bodman

In his speech, Secretary Bodman also emphasized the near-term importance of E85 flex-fuel vehicles, plug-in hybrids and clean-diesel technology. The DOE will issue another solicitation later in April for proposals on forming public-private teams and other affiliations to make E85 more widely available in the marketplace.

As a part of the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative, our Department is seeking $6.7 million in additional funding next year to support research on batteries and related systems that could be used in plug-in applications and could extend the range these vehicles can travel on electric power alone. We want to continue to work with the industry in this arena and we hope to see manufacturers continue to expand their product offerings.

—Secretary Bodman

Resources:

  • Bodman speech to Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress

Comments

odograph

I thought we funded the challenges associated with the production, use and storage of hydrogen last year ...

Lucas

Pissing into the wind.

It's really a shame. We could be using that money to develop something that has a real chance of working.

BioDiesel and Alcohol spring to mind.

Matthew

It never ceases to amaze me how many commenters here already know exactly which fields of research will prove fruitful, and which will not.

AES

Last time I checked, this site was called GREENcarcongress.com

So I'm amazed how many people are vehemently opposed to carbon emissions-free vehicle research.

odograph

Well you guys, I knew I was being a little snarky when I made the first comment ... but it's true isn't it? If I recall correctly the last energy bill had $500 million for hydrogen. (checking, $500 million is right)

If you want to combat my snarkiness, how about a serious projection ... how much more federal money and time do you need to solve the challenges associated with the production, use and storage of hydrogen?

AES

I can sort of sense that your snarkiness was more in response to the fact that it was taxpayer dollars, rather than the fact that it was for hydrogen.

In that regard, I'm with you that the most significant push for zero-emissions technology has to come from the private sector, in response to consumer demand.


odograph

I favor the old distinction that the gov funds basic research and industry funds applied research and product development.

In the energy field we see that old distinction trampled pretty regularly. Not just with funding for product development, but also subsidies for actual production (ethanol plants, hydrogen filling stations).

Aj

"It never ceases to amaze me how many commenters here already know exactly which fields of research will prove fruitful, and which will not."

It's simple. Biodiesel already works. Ethanol is very close. Battery-based electric cars are close. Hybrids already work.

Hydrogen does not yet, and may never work. People need to stop thinking about hydrogen as some new advanced fuel, and think about it as just another form of battery. In that context, we should be spending money on reducing the weight of and improving the performance of existing battery technologies.

Nick

The sad thing about all this is that making the 'hydrogen economy' a reality is really beside the point. The point is how do we create energy without increasing GHG emissions. For instance, if we make hydrogen from coal (either through gasification or indirectly through electrolysis), then I believe we will be releasing 4 tons of CO2 for every ton of coal we use unless we find a practical way to sequester the CO2, a daunting prospect. The real challenge is to create energy with lowest practical release of CO2, meaning we should be focusing research $$ on renewable energy strategies, conservation, etc. The delivery/distribution system (electricity or hydrogen) is really a secondary issue. Focusing on hydrogen fuel cell cars because they are GHG free at the point of use just distracts the public from looking at the difficult but critical big-picture issues.

Matthew

"Hydrogen does not yet, and may never work."

1. It most certainly does work. Hydrogen-powered cars and trucks are buses are driving around today. Are there issues to be overcome before they become consumer-ready? Of course. But there are issues to overcome (supply, distribution) for biodiesel and ethanol as well.

2. The reason we do research in the first place is to make things work. That alone is enough reason to research hydrogen-based technologies. If biodiesel and ethanol are as close as you say (which I believe they are, indicentally), then it should be a simple matter for the private sector to pick up and run with it, and let the government do the research to advance the next technology to viability.

Long term, I think the solution to our problems will be a mix of fuels and technologies...biodiesel, alcohol, CNG, electric, hydrogen, you name it. Coal, nuclear, solar, and wind as electrical generation technologies all have a role to play as well. I think it would be the height of foolishness to pre-emptively eliminate one or more options from the mix, because we already know what the "best" solution will be.

odograph

I've mentioned the basic/applied research thing. I should also mention that I favor taxes on polluting industries/energies as well. That combination should drive the market toward the most efficient non-polluting replacements.

That's a mostly market solution, and it sometimes surprises me that I'm so rare among conservatives in suggesting it.

A cynic might say I don't keep up, and that conservatism has come to mean "borrow and spend."

odograph

Looks like I was typing at the same time as Matthew ... I'll point out that funding hydrogen beyond basic research (applied research, car subsidies, filling station subsidies) is indeed picking a winner "because we already know what the 'best' solution will be" and is indeed "the height of foolishness to pre-emptively [select] one or more options."

tom deplume

Hydrogen research is banging its head against the laws of physics. The motivation behind the hydrogen economy is purely military. Only the Pentagon could afford the use of H2 storage systems like nanotubes and exotic alloy hydrides. Do any of these storage systems pack the energy density of ammonia's 50,000 btus/gal?

t

Although I am skeptical about research on hydrogen, I favor continuing it unless it is seen as the magic bullet we wait for while neglecting implementation of alternatives that we can implement now with existing or soon to be existing technology.

We cannot wait until some promised future of magical fuels which require no resources or produce no greenhouse gases. Unless there is a major, magical breakthrough, which we shouldn't count on, we need to make decisions now which make us less dependent upon the automobile and use as little fuel as possible when we have to use it.

None of the existing alternatives can solve our problem if we continue business as usual which means motoring as usual. You can't fix the problem if we continue to increase our mileage and China builds up to our standards. Something's gotta give. Hydrogen is dangerous because it tends to, on purpose, make people complacent. If we just promise hydrogen, then politicians don't have to make the hard decisions.

You will notice that Bush never talks about conservation. He does this because, in his mind, the so called American way of life is nonnegotiable.

Biofuel and ethanol will probably marginally improve the situation, but not enough if we do not combine these fuels with better economy and less driving.

Nick

t:

Right on. It's not about hydrogen. It's about preserving the biosphere, which requires big-system thinking about how we organize our lives.

Aj

Perhaps i was a little too brief in my post. The point i was goin for was that the money currently being spent on hydrogen, which is not currently marketable, and may never be, could be much better spent on battery based electric cars, biofuels, etc.

Saying that there are hydrogen cars running on the road does not mean that they should be.

Aj

ekraut

Aj, 100% aggre.

I guess, the only reason why gov try to push that technology is simply because they could continue with their tax policies.
It would be (especially for european governments) a nightmare if the tax slaves are able to charge their battery vehicle at home. hahaha I love that idea.

Yeah guys get your rolling Hindenburgs, I wait for real e-vehicles.

Barry R. Guthrie

The research funding sounds great, but the DOE allocates all of the money to tier 1 programs and some university affiliates. Automotive Tier 1 welfare programs. This kills any kind of innovation. To be successful in achieving a breakthrough this type of funding helps. The problem is that DOE is a bought organization by the tier 1 lobbyists to bail them out of bad programs. The types of projects that need to be explored or evaluated are very high risk programs. DOE is like an old fart that always stinks. They are lack the imagination or risk initiative to do what needs to be done. They are bought to protect the auto/oil industry, restrict new technologies from being commercialized without tier 1 approval, and keep US minimum acceptable standards job one.

God Bless America!

Rafael Seidl

Afaik, the DOE is responsible for the entire US arsenal of nuclear weapons. So it stands to reason that behind the push for oh-so-green hydrogen is a nuclear lobby eager to build new reactors. Those do not produce GHGs, but they do produce massive amounts of highly radioactive waste.

The only long-term solution is conservation and renewable energy. For the transportation sector, that means renewable fuels - preferably liquid and suitable for cold weather - plus low vehicle weight. Intelligent hybridization is a useful enhancement for vehicles intended for stop & go traffic.

Aj

I don't know exactly what you consider to be 'massive amounts of highly radioactive waste'. In terms of volume or mass, the wast produced by a nuke plant is pretty small and fairly easy to handle/store safely, when compared to the massive amounts of coal that would need to be burned instead, and the resulting emissions.

Erick

All that uranium has been pretty easy to get rid of -- it's currently being dropped on Iraq so in a few years nobody wii be able to have children. Just what they want, oil with no people.

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