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Quantum’s Compressed Hydrogen Storage Path: Meeting DOE 2010 Gravimetric Density Target

A rendering of a projected advanced CH2 storage system.

Quantum Technologies outlined a development path for its compressed hydrogen (CH2) storage systems that shows the company meeting the US Department of Energy’s 2010 hydrogen storage gravimetric density target.

Speaking at the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Symposium being held by the California Air Resources Board, Andy Abele, Quantum’s executive director of strategic development, also noted that the volumetric targets will not be met with the compressed hydrogen systems.

Quantum provides powertrain engineering, system integration, and manufacturing of packaged fuel systems and accessories for specialty vehicles and applications, including fuel cells, hybrids, alternative fuels and hydrogen refueling.

Quantum 70 MPa compressed hydrogen storage system. Click to enlarge.

The company has converted a number of Priuses to hydrogen-fueled hybrids, and is also the supplier of the 70 MPa storage systems for the just-announced GM Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle (earlier post), as well as to GM’s Sequel, HyWire and HydroGen 3, and for the Suzuki WagonR.

Compressed hydrogen storage technology is doing well in some areas, such as cycle life, and the cost of the storage tanks is improving. However it is not meeting gravimetric or volumetric targets set by DOE. The energy density, Abele noted, “is what it is.

About 65% of the cost of the storage systems costs are now the carbon fiber, Abele said. The storage tank industry is competing with aerospace and renewable energy producers (windmills) for the necessary carbon fibers.

Carbon fiber producers, who suffered a glut of capacity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, are increasing capacity, but slightly trailing demand. Given those conditions, it will be a challenge to get system costs down significantly, Abele said, unless there is some breakthrough in fiber manufacturing.

Using a pressure lower than 70 MPa (10,000 psi) could optimize the costs, but storage suppliers encounter resistance to that from OEMs who look to the higher pressures to provide more hydrogen to enable a longer driving range.

Quantum has a plan to meet or beat the 2010 DOE gravimetric standard of 2.0 kWh/kg with an advanced manufacturing program that will include:

  • A storage-centric vehicle design that uses a single, longitudinal 160-liter, 70 MPa storage module running down the centerline of the vehicle. The placement, for one thing, improves safety and can minimize some of the additional system weight currently required for mounting.
  • External low-cost pressure regulation components rather than in-tank systems.
  • Embedded sensors in the tank to monitor its health to allow reduction of some of the weight currently specified for safety purposes.
  • Integrated filament winding w/ fiber placement to use no more fiber than required, along with accompanying revisions of codes and standard enabling that fiber placement.
  • Chilled hydrogen supply for fast fill.

Compressed [hydrogen storage] works, but it is not without its issues. It is enabling vehicles to get on the street and allowing people to get familiar with hydrogen technology.

—Andy Abele

Quantum and DOE Storage Targets
Parameter DOE
* Single 160-liter, 70 MPa tank, 500K production volume, optimized carbon, health-monitored storage system.
Usable Specific Energy
1.5 1.3 2.0 3.0 2.0
Usable Energy Density
1.2 0.8 1.5 2.7 0.9
$6 $10-$17 $4 $2 <$10
Cycle life
(Cycles, ¼ tank to full)
500 15,000 1,000 1,500 $10-$17
Refueling rate
(kg H2/min)
0.5 2.0 1.5 2.0 >2.0




The question I still have is why???

What single advantage other than branding does hydrogen have over electricity as an energy carrier?


I'm wondering if the best thing that will come out of this is lighter tanks for methane based fuels that are hard to liquefy; examples CNG and biomethane.

hampden wireless

I thought one of hydrogens big advantages was 'no battery to replace' yet I am now seeing cycle limits on the tanks to hold hydrogen. So is a carbon fiber high pressure tank a cheap thing? I don't think so.


"What single advantage other than branding does hydrogen have over electricity as an energy carrier?"

Well, it will probably actually work in the short term. Electric batteries are probably ideal, but they almost certainly won't be available at useful costs and capacities in the next five years.


Since when where hydrogen fuel cell cars available at useful costs? At the moment both pure EV and Fuel cell cars both seem to suffer the same problems i.e. high cost, limited range, unknown durability and limited refueling infrastructure. At the moment I think EV looks a better bet. However, this doesn't mean too much as rarely does the best technology win.

What happens in a crash when you have a long tank running the length of the car. In a really bad crash I could see the bending loads potentially rupturing the tank.


I can see it now ...

You get up in the morning and get ready for work. You go out to the garage and push the garage door opener. The spark ignites your garage full of Hydrogen and you are saved from having to drive to work.


One big reason for h2 is batteries will not handle even most of the needs. And we CANT put all our eggs into the biofuel basket alone specialy with global warming garanteed to run its way for as long as we live.

A battery wont haul a horse to show. It wont haul a boar to the lake it wont handle long haul trucking it wont handle long cummtes it wont handle Maine winters it wont handle alaska it wont handle a combo cummter and grocery car that needs to both travel 100 miles cummutes and be ready right after to go to the beach.. it wont go to disneyland it wont go to grandmas house and it wont handle a week long blackout in hurricane season or hwtaever and it wont be cheap and it wont be light and it wont my only car.

1 nights power outage and I miss work.. unaceptable.

With batteries youir slaved to the power you had when you need a recharge. With h2 your only limited by the power you have this year.


"with h2 your[sic] only limited by the power you have this year." What do you mean by this, wintermane? I cannot quite grasp your point here.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will not be doing any long hauling either...diesel/biodiesel will be around for a long time for that need (with various hybridization and apu schemes and other opitmizations for maximizing fuel economy). Any commercial trucking will burn through the useful life of a fuel cell and the tanks in 1-2 years of driving and if I owned a trucking company or if I were an owner/operator I would tell you where you could go if you told me to buy a truck where I had to replace the $100,000 to $300,000 drivetrain every 1-2 years.


Lucas - You may be surprised to learn that the hydrogen is stored on the *inside* of the tank, just like gasoline or diesel.

Paul - Hydrogen cars aren't available at reasonable prices yet either, of course. But my read on the technology is that hydrogen storage will mature faster than will battery technology.


If you have a week long blackout you won't be driving a H2 car either. H2 fueling stations need electricity to operate. I also HIGHLY doubt that you would be allowed to store 1 years worth of h2 in your house. The regulations for large scale h2 storage are very strict for good reasons.

Plus fuel cells don't work well or at all in cold temperatures at the moment. I think the Honda has a cold start limit of -5c and takes 30 to 60 seconds to start.


Matthew - An interesting thing about the Hydrogen atom is that it is the simplest, smallest known. It can go right through steel. It can find a leak so small that it would take examination by an electron microscope for you to see it.

When you store it at high pressures, don't put it in an enclosure. Eventually it will fill it up with a very explosive mixture.

Don't even think about Liquid Hydrogen. It has to be vented constantly.

Even if Hydrogen was a fuel that could be produced cheaply enough to become practical for automotive transportation, it is just too difficult to handle safely.

That alone is a sufficent reason to quit wasting time and resources on it.


Hydrogen technology was selected for development because it was the least practical green technology, just to protect the oil interest.

In the movie "Who killed the electric car?" when George Bush went to a demonstration 'hydrogen gas station', just watch his facial expression; he knows what's going on, that everything is just a sham.

Rafael Seidl

The whole effort to create hydrogen-power cars has been driven by (a) California's desire to "rescue" its zero tailpipe emissions mandate, (b) the promise of thermodynamically efficient fuel cells and (c) the commercial interests of the natural gas and nuclear power industries.

The fact that hydrogen throws up so many problems all at once indicates that it may not be the right technology for the job. LH2 may make sense for certain aviation applications using specially designed low-speed aircraft. Stationar hydrogen installations could one day make sense in conjunction with renewable energy sources, such as PV and wind, once hydroelectric storage capacity is exhausted. It could be produced and stored far from the generating site; its uses would range from load levling the grid to the processing of heavy grades of crude oil and tar.

For vehicles, liquid hydrocarbons for ICEs remain the energy carriers of choice for most applications, possibly assisted by electric hybrid technology. Plug-in hybrid and pure battery concepts are advancing rapidly and could eventually make economic sense for commuter cars. Meanwhile, though, the oil industry should be required to gradually ramp up biofuel production until it matches imports of OPEC oil plus refined products such as gasoline, on the basis of total energy content. This might take 20 or 30 years yet create huge incentives both to reduce imports and to promote energy efficiency - otherwise, it would become very difficult to produce enough biofuel.


Rafael - "Meanwhile, though, the oil industry should be required to gradually ramp up biofuel production until it matches imports of OPEC oil plus refined products such as gasoline, on the basis of total energy content. This might take 20 or 30 years yet create huge incentives both to reduce imports and to promote energy efficiency - otherwise, it would become very difficult to produce enough biofuel."

I really doubt that will happen. The Oil companies have their heads in the same place as American Automobile makers.

You can't see or hear much there.

I've been saying for some time that eventually ADM will be selling more automotive fuels than Exxon-Mobil.

Rafael Seidl

Lucas -

in that case, I'd consider ADM part of the oil industry. It is not strictly neccessary for all of the corporations within it to get into biofuels, it's ok for different companies to specialize. What I had in mind was a policy that coerced the industry as a whole.

Ron Fischer

Gotta love these cost qualifications: "Single 160-liter, 70 MPa tank, 500K production volume, optimized carbon, health-monitored storage system." To keep power control electronics cost from dominating hybrid vehicles Toyota invested in manufacturing. Does any company suckling from the government-filled teat of the fuel cell sham believe enough in the future of this nonsense to invest in carbon fiber production? Meanwhile private companies are springing up to sell EVs. This disparity is telling. Even Burns at GM may be seeing the "Check Engine" light over the fuel cell concept (more here).

Roger Pham

Those who doubt the relevance of H2-FCV can look at the report on the new Honda FCV to be released in 2008.

Efficiency of 60%, range of 350 miles on compressed H2 at 5000psi. This is triple that of gasoline cars at 20%, and double that of gas-electric hybrid at 30%. Except the Prius, which has a tank to wheel efficiency of 37%. A H2 powered Prius with the engine optimized on H2 may deliver up to 45% efficiency. So, even if one has to reform H2 from crude oil, it still will be a much more efficient usage of the dwindling oil resource, and will make the waste biomass energy much more energy-efficient.

Dangers of H2 as fuel? The UL (Underwriter Laboratory) can run tests to find out. To eliminate explosive potential of H2, besure your garage has ventilation port on the ceiling, and your car hood is well-ventilated. H2 is so much lighter than air that it much rather float away quickly instead of accumulate in dangerous quantities. Leakiness of H2? That's a job for material scientist. So far, it has not been found to be significant enough to stop plans on introducing H2-capable vehicles.

Problem with transporting and storing H2? Don't transport H2 over long distance, nor store it in vast quantities. Transport the more energy-dense feedstocks and reform H2 near location of distributiion. Zinc, Boron, Magnesium are metals that can be converted to H2 at the site of usage. The resulting metal oxides can be transported back and converted to metal by solar energy. Thus, solar to hydrogen can be by means of metal carrier. Methane is another H2 dense storage that can boost the range of H2-capable ICE-hybrid vehicles.

Sid Hoffman

Paul, read the aformentioned preview of the 2009 Honda FCX. The old model was capable of -5F, not -5C, it was -20C. The article confirms this when they state the new one can start up 10 degrees colder, -30C. That's -22F. We're talking about a car that isn't even commercially available yet and they have ALREADY figured out how to get it to fire up in extreme cold. Another 5 years or so and they'll probably have it firing up at -40C. If fuel cel technology is still 20 years from mainstream adoptance perhaps they'll have the lower limit at -60C by then.


I stand corrected on the cold start temperature. However the start up times are enough to annoy most consumers. I don't doubt that can't be corrected. However, the big problem with h2 is the barriers to adoption are just so great it will take many decades before enough people switch over to make any difference. I fear it will just be a case of too little and too late. Having said that, I also feel the same about pure EV. To me the only potentially viable stepping stone is some form of plug-in hybrid. No fancy infrastructure to build and the electric grid can be scaled up incrementally (hopefully with renewable sources). Within 4 or 5 years I could envisage the technology being available for widespread adoption.

The other thing that makes me laugh is that people actually believe half the research and press releases they read on all this fancy new technology. I have worked in research and industry and can tell you half the numbers posted are fantasy. Sure given 100% ideal benchmark conditions but not in the real world. There is way too much intellectual masturbation going on and people need to ground there thinking in some form of reality.


Hi Paul,

The 30 second start up delay at -5 F apparently is acceptable to the many people who by V8 engines. After that 30 seconds, one should really let the V8 run for 5 more minutes at -5F before usage. This makes sure that the oil is circulating to the bearings, before any load is put on the engine. This is common practice now and people still buy V8's.

The bigger problem is that electricity is needed to compress the H2. To run the air compressor to suply the compressed air to the pump that actually does the compressing. I think chemical storage is much more realistic than the 70 MPa tank. Besides the enrgy waste to compress the gas, and the waste when its expanded, there is the leakage issue too. Although, I am doubtful of the explosion issue. If it will leak out of a Carbon Fiber tank, its very unlikely it will ever get to explosion densities inside the typical drafty surburban garage.

Ideally, H2 should be stored in a liquid chemical storage for ease of refueling. Either an organic liquid, or an organic solvent with a disolved carrier. Is there a way to go from like hexane to benzene? And free up 8 hydrogens on the Hexane? What H carrying inorganics can be desolved in organic solvents?

I am no chemist, but it seems to me that to make the FC car work, better storage than anybody has put out is needed.


You are making an error of your understanding of efficiancy with regards to the FCX. While the FCX does indeed have a 60% efficiancy, it pales in comparison to an all electric car. Look at the following breakdown.

All electric:
Generation: 60% (optimized steam turbine)
Grid: 90% (on the low side)
Charge: 90% (again on the low side)
Discharge: 90% (about right)
Overall: 43.7% efficiancy

Hydrogen FCX
Generation: 60% (assuming electricity used for H2 gen)
Grid: 90%
H2 generation: 50% (very high for H2 gen)
H2 burn: 60% (this is the FCX's efficiancy)
Overall: 16.2% efficiancy

The biggest loss is not at the fuel cell but at generating hydrogen. Since most hydrogen is stored in the form of water, we must electrolize water (split it if you wil) into its constituient elements: hydrogen and oxygen. This is where all the energy is lost. Electrolosis is very inefficient. Some theoretical technologies have been demonstrated at 90%, but they are far far (read: decades+) from the mainstream. Until then, we are stuck at 50%.

So in lies the achillies tendon of hydrogen powered vehicles. Storage can be overcome. Nanotechnology has been very promising lately in achieving high hydrogen density without high pressure by creating miniature latices that have an affinity to store hydrogen. Until we can electrolize water effectively, hydrogen vehicles will not be practical.

Ron Fischer

At intro of Sequel Burns outlined how H2 storage cost in carbon-fibre tanks destroys the FC cost advantage.

Larry Burns admits that while the fuel cell can provide power at about $12-15 per kilowatt, the complex hydrogen tanks push that figure well beyond the total system cost target of $50 per kilowatt.

Why won't they commit to some liquid H2 carrier (Ammonia, DME, etc)? Likely because there's no longer any urgency, no serious motivation for the FC development except regulatory commitments. Just like with the California MOU and EV-1.


I am still not sure what is the single main advantage of hydrogen. Batteries can operate in low temperatures. Electric motors can haul big loads as most present trains are diesel electric. They can easily converted to hybrids to eliminate idle waste.

A fuel cell car is just an electric car with a gaseous chemical reaction battery rather than an solid state chemical battery so why is H2 better than solid state batteries? Most other things when they change to solid state are smaller, cheaper, use less power and are more compact. Why should we use valves (vacuum tubes) instead of transistors? To me using fuel cells/H2 tanks with hundreds of moving parts is like building a valve computer because you think valves are better. In almost all cases the move to solid state. like a battery electric car or a transistor radio, results in a better product.

There is nothing wrong with the BEV being a plug in hybrid. So if the power is out for the night you can still use the dense chemical battery (the fuel tank) and an energy converter (IC engine) to get to work. Or you could use public transport, ride a bike, or walk which are far far better options for the planet that even battery electric cars. Even in this application it is still hard to pick an fuel cell as IC engines on biofuels are vastly easier and cheaper than a fuel cell/H2 tank will ever be. Even IC engines on hydrogen are better as a plug in hybrid would not need such a high pressure tank.
Used as a small supplement to electric cars and not a replacement for IC cars there may be enough resources to sustainably grow enough biofuels for plug in hybrids.

To me there is not single reason to use hydrogen.

Rafael Seidl

Ender -

in mobile applictions, the energy density by weight and by volume of the energy carrier matters quite a bit. Hydrogen excels at the gravimetric measure but fitting a tank big enough to get decent range remains a challenge that could lead to a redefinition of what the entire car's volume layout is supposed to look like.

Battery cell and pack technology were long considered unsuitable for automotive traction applications, after the market failure of the EV-1. More recently, increasing demand for mobile electric power plus the HEV wave have led to some R&d breakthrough, cp. the Tesla roadster. EVs may indeed prevent hydrogen fuel cells from ever gaining traction in the automotive market, but it will be a long time before ICEs go out of fashion altogether. So far, nothing beats vehicles running on liquid hydrocarbons for cost and range.

That's why it makes sense to also invest in biofuels, particularly next-gen technologies that can use agricultural and other waste as feedstocks.


rafael - "Battery cell and pack technology were long considered unsuitable for automotive traction applications, after the market failure of the EV-1"

There was a bit more to the 'failure' of the EV-1 than battery technology. Suffice to say the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" covers this in some detail.

"So far, nothing beats vehicles running on liquid hydrocarbons for cost and range."

Absolutely correct - but look what the cost has been - having to be dependant on countries that we would rather not and changing the world's climate, possibly forever.

"That's why it makes sense to also invest in biofuels"

Biofuels will only work, waste feedstock or not, if they are used sparingly only where they are absolutely needed. You cannot hope to replace the carefree use of fossil fuels with biofuels. No matter what is used as a feedstock the EROI is too low.

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