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Inglis Introduces Legislation for $100M H-Prize to Spur Hydrogen Work

Science Research Subcommittee Chairman Bob Inglis (R-SC) introduced legislation called the H-Prize Act of 2006 (H.R. 5143) last Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The monetary H-Prize is intended to attract the best and brightest minds to attack technological and commercial market obstacles in moving to a hydrogen economy.

Modeled after the successful $10-million Ansari X Prize awarded for entrepreneurial space flight, the three category H-Prize features a $100-million grand prize that would be awarded for commercial transformational technologies that changes hydrogen technology and brings the hydrogen car to driveways around the country.

Filed with 14 co-sponsors, legislation outlines three major prize categories:

  • Technological advancements: Four $1-million prizes awarded annually in the categories of hydrogen production, storage, distribution and utilization.

  • Prototypes: One $4 million prize awarded every other year for the creation of a working hydrogen vehicle prototype.

  • Transformation technologies: A maximum $100 million prize—$10 million in cash and up to $90 million in matching funds for private capital—would be awarded for changes in hydrogen technologies that meet or exceed objective criteria in production and distribution to the consumer.

Under the legislation, the Secretary of Energy will contract with a private foundation or panel that will include experts in the field to establish criteria for the prizes.

America is treading water in a sea of rising demand for oil that includes China and India. The market is now in a position to reward those who will innovate our way to a hydrogen economy. Those innovators will create jobs, clean the air, and improve our national security.

—Rep. Bob Inglis

The Science Committee has scheduled a hearing on the bill for April 27.

Separately, the X Prize Foundation, creators of the Ansari X Prize, announced that they are forming a new Automotive X Prize to focus on the creation of new fuel-efficient vehicles that far exceed anything available on the market today. Rules for the Automotive X Prize may be announced as early as 1 May.

Resources:

Comments

cs1992

Well, money is a major motivator. It's been said before...what we need is a Mahatten Project to address future energy needs.

Hydrogen may be the fuel of the future, but battery technologies may provide a quicker, short term fix. Show me an all electric Camry sized vehicle that obtains 140-180 miles per charge and I'll buy it.

t

I think it would have been better to focus on results, not a specific technology. Establish well to wheels criteria regarding fossil fuel consumption, emissions, and GHG and then award prizes for those working technologies that meet those criteria.

Hydrogen could be the best way to meet these criteria, although I doubt it. Picking a winner beforehand will only drain money away from alternatives that may very well be more effective, practical, and cheaper.

We already have an electric grid; we would not have to build a new nationwide infrastructure to fuel PHEVs Even with a working prototype, it will take decades to build a decent infrastructure to support hydrogen fueled vehicles.

If hydrogen is the best solution, fine, but it should be put on an equal playing field.

Shaun

war economics don't work for environmental problems, they are too linear. environmental problems are multi-dimensional.

during the manhatten project, there was a need for refined enriched fuel. the refining process was energy and space intensive. prohibitively so under normal economics. war economics, however, made it practical. huge amounts of money solved the problem through the brute force procedure of building four refineries instead of one.

research money is definitely needed. but why put it in the form of a prize. why not redirect some of the hundreds of billions of dollars going into oil wars and preperation for future oil wars and spend it on oil war prevention.

1 or 2% of the military r&d budget would make a good first step towards developing technology to reduce our oil dependance and reduce the risk of future wars.

not that I personally have a problem with designing robots with guns, automatic target recognition, and the ability to kill humans automatically based on their programming, just that i think the money could be better spent. (the largest scheduled increase in military r&d budget in the next decade will be for fully automatic devices as described above)

Lucas


I'll bet nobody wins unless the criteria is set so low as to be of no real value.

We have an existing BioDiesel/Alcohol distribution infrastructure. Developing those alternatives is where the money should be going.

I doubt there is anyone smart enough in "government" to figure that out.

Ash

The reason for putting it in the form of a prize, is that with a $100mil prize, you get significantly more than $100mil in research.

The 20-some teams competeing for the X-prize generated some $100mil worth of work/research combined. All in competition for a $10mil prize.

It's far more cost effective than direct funding.

As for our existing infrastructure handeling PHEVs, that's simply not the case. Our current grid in som areas fails to fill the demand we already have, let alone the skyrocket in demand you'd have from 2 PHEVs in every driveway. (California and NY would be screwed, for example)

Nick

Ash--

Surely the cost of enhancing existing grid infrastructure as needed would be trivial compared with the cost of building 'hydrogen economy' infrastructure from scratch.

I agree with the notion that picking winners at the start of a contest is counter-productive. Create incentives to achieve the desired ends, not specific means.

mahonj

I think we may have a bit of a problem here.
a: Why pick hydrogen ?
as cs1922 says, set targets, but leave the approach open.
Let the best technology win.

Next is the "excitement" factor. The X prize had a clear and reasonably exciting goal. So had the Darpa Grand challenge. Building bits of hydrogen infrastructure seems less exciting.
What they really need is a category for marketing and give a prize for persuading people to drive economical vehicles and not great monsters.
[ Before gasolene gets to $5 / gallon ]

dursun

The Federal government gave Detroit $800 million over 8 years,
starting in 1994, to develope an 80MPG car. It was called
the PNGV program. The program was shut down in 2001 by Bush.
The problem isn’t technology, it politics!!

Robert

I dont understand why its not multiple prizes to get us off forgien oil with no polution.

Job one off forgien oil
Family cars that get over 100MPG with the same cost as current autos get some reward.

Job two no polution cars that can drive at least 200 to 300 miles per refill
same cost as current autos get the BIG reward. As well as a distribution mechanism.

Job three it has to be plentiful enough to sustain the amount of autos we currently have and recycling the components should not harm the envoirnment.

Tech should be no object.
LiIon or Bio or Hydrogen etc.

Murray

For anyone intereted in the theory and history of technology prizes, as well as the research and political influence that likely led to the development of this initiative - check out the paper by Resources for the Future (RFF):
http://www.rff.org/rff/Publications/Technology-Prizes-for-Climate-Change-Mitigation.cfm

George

Re: PNGV
It’s not really dead, just refocused.

“But the high-mileage concept cars built by the Big Three as part of the program have proved, so far, to be a dead-end. They weren't clean-burning enough to meet U.S. pollution standards. And they would have been too expensive to build. "High cost is a serious problem in almost every area of the PNGV program," reported a committee of the National Academies of Science, which reviewed the effort in 2000”*

This program was replaced in Jan 2002 by FreedomCar.
“Under C-A-R (Cooperative Automotive Research), the Department of Energy and auto makers Ford, General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler will join in a public-private partnership to develop technologies for hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles that will require no foreign oil and emit no harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases.”*

*Per Business Week 2-22-06

David Michie

Re: enhancing the grid:
As Ash pointed out the grid is already at breaking point in many parts of the US. The cheapest way increase generating capacity is to build more coal-fired power stations, which would reduce US dependence on foreign oil, but would have disastrous consequences for greenhouse emissions.

The hydrogen economy is truly pie in the sky stuff. Not only will we have to build an entirely new distribution infrastructure (for a fuel that is much more difficult to handle than gasoline or diesel) how do you make the hydrogen in the first place? Most methods require electricity (probably generated by burning coal) or by processing fossil fuels.

The only practical way forward is to dramatically increase the efficiency of cars and trucks, and gradually increase the use of biofuels. Its entirely possible to build a diesel-engined hybrid today that does almost 80mpg (3.0L/100km) in the city: Peugeot Citroën Unveils Diesel Hybrid

If that car uses biodiesel, particulate emissions are virtually eliminated and CO2 emissions drop to near zero over the lifecycle of the fuel.

Shaun

The Grid:

The grid will become more stable and secure through the use of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. This is because of the way that power is supplied. Currently, the grid only functions near it's capacity during a few hours of a few days a year. The rest of the time, there is wasted capacity that plug-ins could use.

There is a consumption peak in the morning and in the evening when people are most active. The rest of the time, most places only use 10-15% of the transmission capacity. This is a simple fact of life for power companies. It is accepted that there is no way cost-effective to store energy at the scale needed for the energy industry. Because of this, transmission companies negotiate prices based on peak transmission. Peak transmission is all they talk about, because it is the only thing that matters.

Plug-ins could change that by introducing a major load that at night, when the transmission system is normally nearly dead and electricity costs only a fraction of its daytime price (check your rate schedule sometime, overnight is usually 20% the cost of peak hours). The transmission and power companies will make more money off of this and be able to fund upgrades to their systems that would've previously been uneconomical.

Additionally, some people (like www.acpropulsion.com) think that you could prevent brownouts by using the energy from electric vehicles parking in downtown areas as an emergency power source.

So, really, the question isn't "How many Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles can the current transmission system support?", but rather "How many Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles are needed to keep the transmission system from collapsing?"

Ash

And what happens when people get home from work and plug thier car in during the same time they watch TV and consume thier other power?

mahonj

What happens is nothing. The car will have a smart charger that won't kick in until later or when the grid is not loaded.
You won't get the electricity until the next morning.
Say it takes 4 hours to charge the car and you need it at 7.00 am, then you have until 3.00 am to start charging.

To get the night rate electricity that these systems depend on, you wait till 11 pm or whatever.

If loads of people start doing this, as you would hope, you need to get moe creative, but as long as you build enough flexibility into the charger you can react.

Shaun

exactly, the car helps increase stability and reduce infrastructure cost.

within the context of the existing american infrastructure, it is interesting and helpful, but not really such a big deal.

in developing countries, where you are starting from scratch technologically, the benefit to the well-being of the community could be tremendous. a battery on wheels + solar panels could eliminate or postpone the need for electrical and fuel infrastructure for isolated communities while introducing refrigeration, water pumping, lighting, transportation free from pollution or fuel costs, etc.

the exact set-up would depend on the needs of the community, but battery electric vehicles could be a major enabling technology if properly designed and integrated into society

Harvey D.

It is difficult to understand why governments put so much resources into the hydrogen approach while many other cheaper and easier solutions exist to ruduce Oil consumption and pollution.

The electric approach makes much more sense because it is much easier to handle and the distribution networks already exist. Producing 25% to 35% more 'clean' electricity to recharge the PHEVs and EVs is NOT a major problem at all.

Wind and Solar (+ a few dozen Nuclear power plants, if required) could produce all the extra power required. The distribution network can be upgraded very easily... it is a well known technology... and it could be done very quickly. It is not even a major challenge.

Personnally, I think that the $100+++ millions should be invested to improve and lower the cost of Electrical Storage Devices (Batteries and Ultra-Capacitors)and to promote the use of PHEVs and EVs.

Joseph Willemssen

I think there needs to be a new Law:

As an online discussion [on any Green Car Congress blog post whatsoever] grows longer, the probability of [someone talking about and/or changing the topic entirely to plug-in hybrids and/or biodiesel] approaches one.

Lucas

That's because those smart enough to come here, are smart enough to realize that is the only sensable way to go!

Joseph Willemssen

"That's because those smart enough to come here, are smart enough to realize that is the only sensable way to go!"

The *only* sensible way to go? EV people have been saying that for decades, too. As have monorail people. As have bus people. As have rail people. As have PRT people. As have diesel people. etc etc

I think my point is that there's a time and place for everything. Those of us who come here regularly know all about plug-ins and biodiesel. As with all things, they have their pluses and minuses. But when people bring them up no matter the topic, and do so in a zealous manner, it's tiresome and counterproductive.

Not that my saying that will somehow keep the "Law" from forever being true... :)

Lucas

Let's take a "sensible" look at it.

1. The infrastructure is already in place.

2. It's Renewable.

3. VERY FEW people are going to stop driving individual autos even if gas gets to $10 a gallon. Did they stop in Europe when it got above $5?

4. Etc.

duh

Love number 4

Ahem, Joseph

Joseph Willemssen

I know all that, Lucas, as does everyone here. I'm well aware of the potential upsides of the technology.

The point is this is a thread about hydrogen - not plugins, not biodiesel. There are plenty of threads about those things.

When people feel the need to prosletyze constantly about something, then it naturally develops revulsion. I don't need to be lectured about the technology. I get it. Repeating the same thing over and over about it, and especially ignoring the total picture (ie, downsides and competing solutions) makes it look like zealotry and not objective problem-solving. And it ends up turning people off instead of turning them on.

David Michie

I've never understood the (bio)diesel vs hybrid argument. They're both great technologies, why not combine them for the ultimate green vehicle?

Hydrogen is great technology too. We might get there in a century or two, but something needs to be done about greenhouse gases *now*.

I'm the first to admit I don't understand how the grid works but I fail to comprehend how switching the entire US car fleet to plug-in hybrids won't put extra demand on the grid and require more generating capacity.

Paul

"I've never understood the (bio)diesel vs hybrid argument. They're both great technologies, why not combine them for the ultimate green vehicle?"

They did in 1999 in the PNGV program. Ford had the Prodigy with over 70 mpg.
GM and Chrysler had similar cars.

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