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DOE 2006 Hydrogen Merit Review: Progress Made, Breakthroughs Needed

Last month, the DOE held its 2006 Hydrogen Program Annual Merit Review, with principal investigators presenting the status and results of the approximately 250 hydrogen and fuel cell projects funded by the DOE.

Progress is being made on many fronts, all of which were represented in the various sessions of the review: production; delivery; storage; fuel cells; technology validation; education; safety, codes and standards; analysis; and basic energy sciences. Nevertheless, key barriers remain, particularly in the application of hydrogen for the transportation sector.

One of DOE’s major focuses is on non-platinum catalyst technologies.

Fuel cells. Key challenges for fuel cell systems remain cost and durability, according to Valri Lightner, the Fuel Cell Systems team leader for the DOE, in the fuel-cell Plenary presentation. In overcoming those issues, there are other challenges that require focus—especially electrode performance, particularly the cathode, where the amount of precious metal catalysts on the cathode need to be reduced.

DOE studies are showing that the stack represents 70% of the cost of the fuel-cell system, and that the electrode represents almost 70% of the cost of the stack—i.e., the electrode represents almost 50% of the cost of the fuel cell system.

Another challenge is understanding the way water moves within the stack to ensure that the membranes are properly hydrated and that the water is managed in such a way during shut down that the fuel cell can start up again.

The Fuel Cell team issued a $100-million solicitation and lab call (i.e., the labs are competing with industry on the same topics) with a focus on components that closed 7 April; selections will be in the fall.

And we’ve also added a topic to look at innovative concepts. So this would be a full fuel cell system but maybe something that’s not a cell, you know, maybe it’s got a different architecture or minimizes components in some ways. So we’re really looking for some kind of breakthrough technology that can meet our future technical target.

—Valri Lightner, DOE

Transportation Fuel Cell System Targets & Progress
(a) Based on 500,000 units per year.
Characteristic Metric 2003 status 2005 status 2015 target
Cost $/kW 200 110 (a) 30
Precious Metal Loading g/kW (rated) <2.0 1.1 0.2
Power density W/L 440 525 650
Lifetime (durability w/ cycling) hr N/A ~1,000 5,000
Start-up time to 50% rated power at
-20° C ambient sec 120 20 30
+20° C ambient sec 60 <10 5
Start-up and shut-down energy at
-20° C ambient MJ na 7.5 5
+20° C ambient MJ na na 1

All current approaches to hydrogen storage are far from hitting the target requirements.

Storage. Storage remains one of the critical barriers to realizing a hydrogen-fueled transportation system, and current storage systems are not meeting the DOE’s specifications of 6 wt% and 1.5 kWh/L by 2010.

The target is a system target, not just a materials target. In other words, the weight of the entire storage system (tank, support materials) is used as the basis for calculating the gravimetric density of the hydrogen. The capability of the material alone will have to be higher to meet the system target.

Neither high-pressure gaseous hydrogen nor liquid hydrogen—by themselves, not even with the context of the storage system—will meet the target, according to Sunita Satyapal, DOE’s Storage team leader.

So what our program is looking at really is material-based technologies for the long-term.

—Sunita Satyapal, DOE

The work is focused in three primary areas—metal hydrides, chemical hydrides, and carbon/sorbents—each with different pros and cons.

So in summary, our message is that new materials and concepts are critical at this early stage. We’d like to ask the researchers to ensure that you address volumetric capacity as well, temperature, pressure, kinetics, not just weight percent anymore. Basic science is essential. We need to develop a fundamental understanding that complements the applied programs. We also need to keep an eye on engineering issues, right from the start. And these are just some examples of essential capabilities that we’re in the process of developing and we need to continue to develop as we move forward.

—Sunita Satyapal

All presentations are available on the 2006 Merit Review website, as well as a transcript and webcast of the Plenary session.



Tony Chilling

It is energy and plently of it, that has created the wonderful world humans inhabit. But......

In all of these fancy graphs, where is the goal for the cost of energy(hydrogen)?
People of the world should not accept the rising cost of energy.
Yes, the raising cost is driving alternative energy development, but at some point there should be dicovered away to capture energy at a lower cost?
direct light to hydro conversion?
Cheap solar cells?
Please, REDUCING the cost of energy should be the PROPER goal

tom deplume

Always keep in mind that US government programs, especially energy programs exist to maximize corporate profit. Energy prices will rise to the most tolerable level that most corporations can bare. Neither the government nor corporations care what most consumers pay.


Well dont forget this study is already at least a year old nd alot of nifty tricks have been learned this year. Heck an atricle down the page discusses a process to cut the elecrode cost 80% and that cuts the cell cost by 40%. That should bring the cell cost down to 66 bcuks a k very close to the 2015 goal in just 3 years of work.

Also work has progressed nicely on each of the other fronts including yes cost and cap of the tanks.

Frankly I didnt expect this kind of progress this fast They have already met some of the 2015 goals.


"Hydrogen Economy" is a scam from the word go. No matter what the "Breakthrough" it still takes more energy to make than you get from using it. The only beneficiaries are coal & nuclear.


Wow, impressive. I could still buy a Li-Ion BEV with enough kWh worth of battery packs to achieve 300 miles for less then the cost of the 2015 goals. 220V outlet and it would easily charge overnight...but if I were to charge it every day I would never need more than an hour a day to recharge it with a much cheaper daily running cost and the durability far exceeds that of the components durability goals listed.

Tony Chilling

Patrick, its still too inconvient for most people to plug-in. This is why the instant fillup advantage works so well as the sales channel for energy. And for long trips, you just can't beat the instant fillup.
Service stations will be with us, at least in our life times.


All that matters in the end is the cost at the pump. Yes travel will be more expensive as biofuels get more spendy due to chem and fuel costs going up and as oil dwindles the cost of h2 will sooner or later fall in line.
Or do you realy expect beiofuels to be a magic bullet?


@dursun: What's wrong with coal? There are currently 2 coal to electricity ZERO EMISSIONS power plants under construction. The same with coal to liquid (fuel). There are basically 4 companies working with that: Siemens Germany, Sasol S.A., Rentech US. and Syntroleum US.

Is domestic coal so much worse than imported oil?? think again.

The transition from cheap oil to alternative energies - which is now clearly under way - brings to most of the people a lot of confusion, because there are in theorie so many possibilities. In practice there are only a few realistic scenarios, which are ALREADY UNDER WAY RESP. ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE NEXT 3 YEARS:

1. Conventional ethanol, which is absolutely limited to about 5% of fuel (for transportation) comsumption.
2. Cellulosic ethanol, which can cover about 40% of fuel consumption.
3. Coal to liquid (albeit only over 50$/barrel), which could cover about 50% of fuel consumption.
4. Hydrogen (produced by zero emission coal plants or nuclear), burnt in ICE.

Those 4 alternatives bring 100% INDEPENDENCE from oil.



Where are these zero emission coal plants? Does this include zero emissions of co2? And what about the other 848 coal power plants that are in the planning stages. How many of those will be zero emission? My guess is close to none.

Coal is a horrible alternative unless there is a total moratorium on all new coal plants unless they can be constructed to sequster co2. Even in that case, I fear what will happen if this co2 ever escapes on a mass basis? Are we really sure we understand the geology?

Cellulosic ethanol is still in the R&D stage. Whether or not it is feasible to ramp it up enough to have a significant impact on our liquid fuel needs is still very much up in the air.

And what about ctl? Will that be zero emission as well?

Nuclear may not be as good an option as many people seem to think. There is some debate about how dependent the whole process is on the petroleum economy. There is also some discussion going on about possible peak uranium issues.

Why didn't you mention solar,wind,geothermal, or hydro? The disadavantage of wind, of course, is that it cannot be used for base load requirements. However, it is getting more competitive, cost wise, by the minute, and seems to be a useful way to produce off peak electricity to recharge plugins. It might even make some sense to produce some hydrogen on an off peak basis notwithstanding hydrogen's negative EROEI.

Everything becomes more viable if can cut our overall energy use in half. We need to prioritize conservation as it remains our cheapest energy source. A penny saved is a penny earned applies to energy as well as finance.

hampden wireless

Peak Uranium? You have got to be kidding! With nuclear reprocessing we already have thousands of years worth of nuclear fuel and we could use much of the stuff we consider waste. France and other countries reprocess spen t nuclear fuel. We should too.

I have not heard of zero emmision coal, can someone provide a link? I currently think of coal as the absolute worst form of energy but I have an open mind.


HAMPDEN WIRELESS, found this poking around. Funds have been made available. They are in the stage of selecting a site (11 have put in their bids).


“Air pollutants will be reduced almost to zero, solid wastes will be converted to useful commercial products, and as much as 90 percent of the total carbon dioxide produced by the plant is expected to be captured initially. The plant will also serve as the proving ground for even more advanced technologies, including devices that may eventually capture up to 100 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.”

Also, see this Cnet article. Type this into google, "Plug in your hybrid, pollute less?“ w/o “ .

They make the point that roughly half the nations power comes from coal. And you are still emitting fewer pollutants i.e., CO2 than burning gasoline.

DURSON don't forget solar, wind and tidal sources which, I believe, will be growing in number as well. And so, we have the grid getting cleaner as the years go by.

I have great expectations regarding fuel cell vehicles especially when the timeframe is 10 to 20 years out for cost effectiveness. Lets for example, look back 20 years. In 1985 Intel announced the 16 mhz computer chip (ok that was 21 years ago). Today’s 3.4 ghz chips make a 16 mhz look like, well, pretty silly.

So, while we wait 10 to 20 years, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), are a great interim fix! People complain about $3.00 gasoline while driving the average 22 mpg. car. But, with today’s technology, 100+ mpg PHEVs can immediately reduce our demand for oil and reduce tailpipe emissions by using an increasingly cleaner grid. It’s not a zero emission fuel cell vehicle, but it beats burning gasoline for 20 more years.


Actauly id your a mom or dad you know exactly why people still drive large cars. By law our two cars are each limited to a max of 3 kids in he car. That means no matter what when friends are going sowmehere 2 of them stay home. One of us has a minivan but guess what that only has 1 more LEGAL child seat then our midsized car.

Lucky us someone we trust also has an suv it has seating for 7 children legaly.

Our very good friends are planning to get an suv because they wont have room to take thier children in the minivan soon( cramped as hell AND they might have a 5th kid soon).

Its ot like the good old days when you coluld pile em into the wagon and go.

Roger Pham

Gentlemen, please be reminded that hydrogen and fuel cell scheme is but a diversionary tactic concocted by the Bush Adm under the control of Big Oil, so that they can continue to gouge us big time for huge profit reaped by Big Oil. Of course, progress will be long and far away for hydrogen-powered fuel cell. How can it be any otherwise?

However, some other countries are running their vehicles on CNG (methane), which on the same volume, will propel a car 3 times as far as hydrogen. Methane is both a fossil fuel and a renwable fuel in that it can be produced quite readily by gasification of all types of biomass, far easier and far cheaper than cellulosic ethanol. In the future, if methane supply will be insufficient, add hydrogen produced from renewable energy to the mix. Vehicles running on methane can be easily made to also run on hydrogen. With hybrid gas-electric running on hydrogen, the efficiency will be almost as good as fuel cell. Of course, the range of the vehicle on hydrogen will be only 1/3 to 1/2 that of methane, but since hydrogen is a lot cheaper than methane synthesized from renewable energy, people will still find it useful for local daily commute. Only long-distance driving will the advantage of methane be desirable.
I think that it's not necessary to work hard to increase the vehicle's range on hydrogen, when for the same fuel volume, methane can travel 3 times as farther. It's not a pressing issue to put high research priority on fuel cell, either, when hybrid electric-ICE can be almost as efficient and is already a proven product in production. Of course, the DOE and Freedom CAR program will never see these facts, being under the control of Bush Adm and Big Oil.

Roger Pham

Wintermane, SUV is the worse and most inefficiency way to carry a large family. SUV's has very poor aerodynamics and prone to flipping-over, due the high center of gravity. In the good old days, full -sized station wagons have 3 bench seats, capable of carring 9 people. If made today, full-sized station wagon should deliver 50% better fuel economy than SUV of equivalent carrying capacity. My 2002 Sienna minivan averages 24 mpg combined driving. (an equivalent SUV is capable of no more than ~16mpg combined) The Sienna can carry 7 people, but if they would have made all 3 rows with bench seats capable of seating 3 abreast, the van can easily and legally carry 9 people.


Actauly thier suv gets better milage then thier old minivan did so they are happy. Mind you its not one of the tank suvs it actauly gets fairly good milage specialy on road trips.

And our friends with the soon to be 5th bouncing baby were also surprised to see mid sized suvs that got better milage then thier minivan.

shaun mann


technically, it is very much like the good old days when you could pile 7 sprogs into the family wagon. The recently discontinued and highly available Mercury Sable had two of those little seats in the way back for a passenger capacity of 8.



What matters far more then you me or ford/gm is other mothers and word of mouth. They like mid sized suvs. You can tout wagons all you want but if your not gona get any sex ever again unless you buy an suv.. guess what your buying;/


I like a conspiracy theory as well as the next guy. I’m also impressed, no, amazed at how you managed to get, “scheme, diversionary tactic, Big Oil, Bush Adm, concocted, control, gouge, and huge profit” into one sentence.

Way to go Roger!


SUVs statistically have been shown to lead to more injuries and more fatal injuries than cars for occupants whom still use booster or baby seats. Just check out NHSTA for verification of those statistics.

I rarely, if ever, see a SUV or large vehicle of any type used to full capacity. Most of the time the families who can afford to buy and run a large SUV tend to have only 1 or 2 children (the more affluent the family the smaller the family tends to be) and I often will see those vehicles used by one parent as a commuter vehicle for work...well up until gas hit $3 a gallon (now you are starting to see the fathers/husbands driving ratty little cars to save gas while the mothers/wives are still driving the big SUVs).


No one is all that rich around here yet alot of suvs compact mid and full abound.. They just hold onto them longer. The suv realy is the late 90s version of the van.

Rafael Seild

I have no problem with hydrogen ICEs or fuel cells as long as

(a) the actual production of hydrogen does not involve the production of large amounts of additional radioactive waste.

(b) there is a safe way to store enough hydrogen on board to get say, a 200-250 mile range.

(c) the well-to-wheels analysis shows there is no net increase in CO2 emissions compared to the alternative (a similarly rated and priced gasoline car).

At the moment, it doesn't look as if any of these criteria can be met in the near future.

Better to store the hydrogen in the form of renewable hydrocarbons. Fuel economy is the key to success, as biofuels (incl. next-gen cellulosic ethanol, EEI butanol, DME from wood alcohol, BTL) all require a lot of land, water and money to produce. GTL and CTL could be stepping stones to a BTL future, since all three rely on FT or a similar synthesis process downstream of the syngas generator. I would only hope we actually get to BTL sooner rather than later.

Roger Pham

Wintermane said: "...you can tout wagons all you want, but you are not gonna get any sex ever again unless you are buying a SUV..." He he He...
Dude!!! Get your doc to Rx you some Testim 1% and some Levitr 20mg. "Testim for a macho man like me?" Nah, nah, dude...the Testim is for your wife...The uh...Levitr uh...for u...just to reduce some performance anxiety.., Ah know that u'r perfectly capable, dude, he,he, he!!!

Rafael, why liquid renewable fuel? Don't H2 and methane have much lower EROIE than any type of synthetic liquid fuel? Not to mention much simpler and cheaper to produce. There is no need for a car to be capable of 200-250 mi range on H2 fuel. Just simply load onto the car (with flexible-fuel-H2/methane capable) some CNG and you'll get 3 times the range you need. For local commute, all u need is ~120 mi range. That'll last you for a few days, and it'll take ~5 minutes to fill up with H2 at a station, so, you'll have time to pick up a donut and a cup of coffee and catch up on the morning news at the fill up station at least once or twice a week, and I'll bet that your car will be ready to go before you finish your morning coffee. Solar energy will one day supply most of our energy needs. There'll be no need for the "nuclear option."


Well I think the MAIN reason many in the know are for h2 is not because its cheap or easy but because eve if things get realy bad climate wise you can still have h2 for nuke power wind power and solar. We cant predict how much farmland we will have in 2050. We can predict how many nuke plants we can build by then.


So George likes conspiracy theory! You won't like the follwing, it's not theory, just facts.
Cheney was head of Haliburton. After 5 years the secret meeting of Cheney and the oil companies is still secret.
Bush is a failed oil executive. In 2000 he was campaigning around the country in the Enron corporate jet. Until two months ago, Bush's Chief of Staff was former GM exec Andy Card. There is no conspiracy, everything is in plain sight.


Dursun, I don’t agree with all of your conspiracy theories, but, I did hear that, at that secret Chaney meeting, everyone wore masks and spoke Klingon.

nuqDaq yuch Dapol!

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