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US DOE Issues Request for Information on Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Market Development; Reports to Congress on Program

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen Program has issued a Request for Information (RFI) on potential early markets and deployment opportunities for hydrogen and fuel cells. The information gathered is intended to help DOE to identify key early markets, validate hydrogen and fuel cell system performance through data collection and communicate results, cultivate demand and accelerate market development, and reduce non-technical barriers that hinder market penetration.

At the end of January, DOE also issued the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Activities, Progress, and Plans Report to Congress as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT). Among its findings, the report notes that in DOE’s assessment, “although significant progress has been made”, fuel cell cost is still too high and durability still too low to enable industry to meet the deployment goal of 100,000 hydrogen-fueled vehicles by 2010, as specified in EPACT.

Market development RFI. The RFI solicits any and all public comment on a number of specified topics. All comments are due by the end of 31 March 2009. Topics to be considered include:

  • Early fuel cell market applications with high volume potential. DOE is seeking to facilitate the market penetration of hydrogen and fuel cell products through higher volume purchases (e.g., hundreds to thousands of units) and stimulate market demand for the technologies. The number of fuel cell deployments has begun to grow in the material handling equipment and backup power markets, in particular. Government agencies such as the Defense Logistics Agency (for material handling equipment) and the Federal Aviation Administration (for backup power), as well as private sector entities including grocers, distribution companies, and others, are starting to incorporate fuel cells into their operations, according to DOE.

    DOE is looking for information on other and related potential early market applications, including but not limited to airport ground support equipment, personal mobility applications, and grounds-keeping equipment.

  • Integrated renewable hydrogen systems and public-private community-based partnerships. Hydrogen produced by water electrolysis has the potential to be a useful means of storing excess electricity generated using wind, solar, and other intermittent renewable energy. In an integrated system, stored hydrogen can be converted back to electricity or used as a feedstock with atmospheric or source carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce a liquid fuel for heavy-duty vehicles including trucks and jet planes.

    Such integrated systems produce both hydrogen and electricity using renewable resources and allow electricity produced in off-peak periods to be stored as hydrogen used for energy requirements such as peak electric power or for fueling vehicles (e.g. transit buses or other heavy duty vehicles).

  • Using biogas and fuel cells for co-production of on-site power and hydrogen. Biogas, including anaerobic digester gas, can be reformed to produce hydrogen and used in a fuel cell to produce significant amounts of electricity and heat. When biogas is produced and used on-site in a fuel cell, fuel utilization or overall energy efficiency can reach 90% and can reduce emissions by more than 90% by weight as compared to the emissions associated with grid electricity generation. In addition to fuel cells for on-site power generation, the hydrogen produced using biogas can be used to power vehicles. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), waste streams from food and beverage processing plants, crop farms and animal feed facilities, and municipal landfills are all biogas sources.

  • Combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell systems. DOE is interested in distributed generation CHP projects that use fuel cells as a source of secure, reliable, clean power and heat as an alternative to steam turbines, gas turbines, internal combustion engines, or other traditional CHP prime source.

  • Using combined heat, hydrogen, and power (CHHP) systems to co-produce and deploy hydrogen to early market customers. Stationary fuel cells can be configured to produce hydrogen – effectively providing (1) high quality, grid-independent power for stationary critical load applications, (2) additional electricity generating capacity for several applications including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and (3) hydrogen fuel that can be used for multiple fuel cell applications – material handling equipment, backup power, and light- or heavy-duty vehicles.

  • Analysis of excess and/or waste hydrogen sources. DOE seeks to study the viability of using excess and/or waste hydrogen as a cost-effective and environmentally-clean means for producing the fuel needed as increasing numbers of hydrogen vehicles enter the market. Approximately 90% of hydrogen in the United States is currently produced from natural gas via steam methane reforming. For fuel cell vehicle applications, both near- and long-term hydrogen production options are being explored.

    One of the options that DOE has examined is the potential for hydrogen production from coke oven gas (COG), which results from the coking process in steel mills. DOE seeks information on other sources of excess and/or waste hydrogen, including hydrogen-containing waste gases. Capturing hydrogen that is currently vented, burned, or otherwise not used could have benefits such as cost-effective hydrogen production for the emerging hydrogen vehicle market, increased industrial energy efficiency, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Report to Congress. DOE’s Hydrogen Program was accelerated in fiscal year (FY) 2004, when a number of activities in hydrogen and fuel cell research and development (R&D) within DOE were expanded and integrated into a coordinated effort. Since that time, DOE has dedicated $1.2 billion (FY 2004 - FY 2008), including the competitive selection of nearly $830 million (subject to appropriations) in research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) projects (nearly $1.2 billion with private sector cost-sharing).

In the report, DOE says that it has made significant progress in:

  • Reducing the projected cost of hydrogen production from distributed natural gas (assuming widespread deployment) from $5 to $3 per gallon gasoline equivalent (gge). The 2015 cost target was $2-$3/gge.

  • Reducing the projected, high-volume manufacturing cost of automotive fuel cell systems from $275/kW in 2002 to $73/kW in 2008 and improving the projected durability of fuel cell systems in vehicles from 950 hours in 2006 to 1,900 hours in 2008. The Program’s 2015 targets are $30/kW and 5,000-hour durability (approximately 150,000 miles of driving), which, it says, will enable fuel cells to be competitive with current gasoline internal combustion engine systems.

  • Developing a membrane electrode assembly (MEA) with more than 7,300-hour durability in the lab, with voltage cycling. This has the potential to meet the 2010 target of 5,000-hour durability for MEAs in an automotive fuel cell system.

  • Identifying several promising new materials for high-capacity, low-pressure, on-board hydrogen storage systems. New materials have provided more than 50% improvement in storage capacity since 2004, with some materials achieving nearly 10% material-based capacity by weight. R&D conducted to modify the performance characteristics of these materials has also resulted in enabling room temperature storage in sorbent materials (which would normally require cryogenic temperatures) and has increased the rates at which hydrogen is released from materials (including increasing the release rate from one material by a factor of 60).

  • Developing and demonstrating a novel cryo-compressed tank concept. This tank achieved a system gravimetric capacity of 5.4 wt%, which exceeds the 2010 system target of 4.5 wt%, and has a volumetric system capacity of approximately 31 g/L. System cost remains an issue.

  • Reducing the projected cost of hydrogen production using renewable-based technologies—e.g., electrolysis and distributed reforming of bio-derived liquids (ethanol, sugars)—from $5.90 to $4.80 per gge (assuming widespread deployment)

  • Completing installation and initial testing of a system that directly integrates wind-based electric-power generation and water electrolysis, reducing and simplifying power conditioning between the wind turbine and the electrolyzer and resulting in a significantly reduced hydrogen production cost.

  • Improving hydrogen-from-coal technologies, including developing membranes for separation and purification that show the potential, at laboratory scale, to achieve the 2010 technical targets for flux (200 ft3/hr/ft2).

  • Developing and initiating integrated laboratory-scale experiments for producing hydrogen from nuclear power, using both high-temperature electrolysis (operating three 240-cell modules with a target hydrogen-production level of 5,000 liters/hr) and the sulfur-iodine thermochemical cycle using three integrated modules.

Advances in the understanding of the fundamental science related to hydrogen and fuel cells include:

  • Performing first-principles calculations to understand how the shape of carbon catalysts on sodium alanate (NaAlH4) affects the electron affinity of the bonding of the molecule, which can then reduce the hydrogen desorption temperature of this hydrogen storage material.

  • Improving understanding of size range and spatial distribution of nano-scale water channels in Nafion membranes, commonly used in fuel cells to control water and proton transport, using small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) in conjunction with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging.

  • Creating tailored nanorod structures for hydrogen production from solar water splitting that maximize solar absorption and increase the ability to utilize the photocurrent using less expensive catalyst materials.

  • Developing a unique and highly efficient hybrid hydrogen generator utilizing a special molecular wire to link a highly efficient biological solar absorber with a robust inorganic catalyst; this unique design increases hydrogen generation efficiency by as much as three orders of magnitude over other hybrid systems.

This progress has kept the Program on track to meet critical path technology goals by 2015 and will enable industry to make decisions regarding commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and fueling infrastructure in the 2020 timeframe. However, some targets and milestones relating to non-critical path technologies—e.g., centralized hydrogen production and delivery systems—have slipped.

As noted above, DOE believes that fuel cell cost is still too high and durability still too low to enable the auto industry to meet the deployment goal of 100,000 hydrogen-fueled vehicles by 2010, as specified in EPACT.

Designs for vehicles manufactured in 2010 would need to be locked-in now, but automakers cannot provide vehicles based on current technology at an affordable cost or with a reasonable warranty. For example, a 2008 independent study estimated that the high-volume manufacturing cost of automotive fuel cell systems (using current technology and assuming 500,000 units per year) would be $73/kW, which equates to almost $6000 for an 80-kW system. This current technology would be more than twice as expensive as internal combustion engine systems. And, based on the highest demonstrated durability to date, fuel cell systems would have a lifespan of approximately 1900 hours, which equates to about 57,000 miles and is still substantially lower than today’s estimated vehicular lifespan of 150,000 miles.

Furthermore, while fuel cell technology development is currently on track to meet the Program’s 2015 technology-readiness targets, it is too early to determine whether industry can achieve the 2020 vehicle deployment goal of 2.5 million hydrogen-fueled vehicles identified in [EPACT} section 811(a). However, analyses conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory indicate that such a deployment scenario would not be achieved without substantial supportive policies and incentives.




As with all industries there are 2 very interesting sets of numbers.

1 The set the wonks give to keep from being fired.

2 The set they give to keep research money flowing in.

Those 2 sets never ever match...

When looking at batteries I found it funny that the numbers were so far apart. And here agin its funny to see the two sets of numbers are miles apart.

To not be fired they said they already had reached the 5000 hour lifespan needed.. but now to keep funding going they have only reached 1900?

Reminds me of the magical 330 wh/kg battery that then became an 140 then an 82 when bouncing around between your FIRED your getting some money and oh do you need a ton of money to speed up research?...

And didnt ballard already state they had reached the 70 buck a kw mass production numbers in 2005? And were on track for 30 per for 2010? Why is it now 2015????

And why is it that fuel cells use various amounts of platinum depending on if they need research money or need to not be FIRED?

Gosh its almost as if its politics!


I freely admit that I'm one of the heavy nay-sayers of all this "hydrogen economy" and all things hydrogen. I just don't get it at all.

Wintermane has nailed the problem when it comes to reading anything about depends on which phase of the cycle they were in when they wrote "today's article".

From a common sense perspective, why go through all of this? If you really want to use fuel cells, then why not go for research on a direct methanol fuel cell, or even one of the new direct ethanol fuel cells I've been reading about lately. I'm sure that any of the "ols" would work actually...if you tried hard enough. Go with butanol and I bet you'd find a winner.

Regardless, any of them would at least take the whole hydrogen storage tank "joke" out of the equation. Why not at least focus on one problem at a time? What, the cost of platinum and the durability of the membrane for the cell aren't hard enough problems to solve?

No? Then let's throw in problems like cost effectively producing the hydrogen, storing and transporting it without blowing ourselves up, a tank that is strong enough and holds enough hydrogen to give us any decent range and doesn't cost a fortune. Let's throw in the problem of the space that tank takes up in a car. A whole new infrastructure that costs TRILLIONS of dollars to deal with it all.

Or you could just try to make a fuel cell work that uses a coupld of gallons of ethanol or methanol.

But, hey what do I know.

I guess I have to remember that Wintermane is right, they're in the part of the cycle where they're whining for more research money....or the DOE guys are trying to justify their jobs and the money they're throwing at the guys whining for the money. Whatever.


You're missing the forest behind the trees:

They're being paid to investigate hydrogen so there is a plausible claim that Something Is Being Done, and the country is diverted from the courses of action which would actually replace petroleum.  That's the way the PTB want it.


For the oil companies its very basic and simple.

They wait on the tech and check it ever so often to see WHEN they can expect to go forward on it.

This mainly on thier end has to do with transport and making h2 and that is mostly dependant on mobile storage tech/ pipeline tech.

They already have reached goals on the cost to MAKE the stuff.

As for the pipeline.. they started work on that tech and expected the cost to be cut in half to 1 buck a kg. Thats what they wanted and I assume thats what they actauly expect to get at the end of that program...

On the transport via tube truck.. They were simply looking at making it cheaper then the current methods wich cost 4-12 bucks a kg...

Now concidering the current methods were liquid h2 or a 2500 psi tube truck holding only 350 kg of h2... its safe to say they can do MUCH better now.

Question is when will they bother to try and make the h2 tube truck of the type they plan to run with going forward? I dont realy see them trying it this decade as I realy dont expect them to need to nor do I expect it early in the next decade.

I realy think they are just waiting on a low pressure h2 storage system to pop up so they can pattern all thier tube trucks on it.. and several such systems look promising specialy for tube truck use.. including oddly enough corn cobs...

I think in the next 10 years we will see some interesting stuff pop up and will indeed see some solid and useful fuel cell cars running about in number.

I also expect to see some solid battery cars and even compressed air cars. Gona be fun!


If what Wintermane says is correct (oil companies know how to make the stuff. Really? Out of electricity? Cuz making it from NG is dumb unless you are hydrolyzing crude oil.) then, the reasonable answer is to just go with synthetic methane, or one of the 'ols if the costs can be brought down. No need for pure H2 as a fuel at all.

Infrastructure is already in place for methane. If methane SOFCs can be perfected, all the better, but not necessary.

Incidentally, methane storage for vehicles has improved quite a bit as well. They've improved more than hydrogen storage improvements have in the last few years.

It galls me to no end that the DOE offers these RFIs but no venue for reasonable thoughtful people to question this wasteful enterprise (hydrogen fuel research) in the first place.

The Hydrogen Economy is impractical and unnecessary. We can accomplish the same thing NOW with electricity (batteries) and methane (synthetic, biomass-based, and NG).


Jim its a simple fact that over the next few years you will see alot more h2 being used. Its also a fact that fuel cells are expanding in use greatly and will do so for years to come.

Where they all wind up I dont realy know and no one else can be sure either.

But for now car makers spend a little cash to make sure they know how close or even if they will be able to power cars they can profit from and fuel cell makers continue to make them better and better.

For the oil companies... Its no different then selling butane or hexane or anything else they make. Its a product and they think they can make it cheap enough to sell ALOT of in the future and that is all they need to know to spend money on getting that market in motion.



But if the oil companies are making it from NG, the whole thing makes no sense, if you are using H2 as a fuel in a fuel cell.

The NG is converted to H2 at about 80% efficiency, and then using in a fuel cell at 50% efficiency, net efficiency is 40% (and a heck of a lot of additional infrastructure). Compare this with an Atkinson engine capable of dual-fuel gasoline and NG, running at 30%. A bit less efficient, but a lot less aggravation, and overall, a lower cost.


The fuel cell is 60% eff and will be 75-80% eff by the time they want to actauly have all that many of em in cars.

Also they can use wet ethanol and coal and biomass directly to make h2 depending on what is cheapest where they are. Also direct electrolisys where they have alot of hydro or nuke or wind power.

As for the infrastructure costs.. Every deep sea drilling rig costs 27 BILLION bucks or so.. And how many hundreds of those do they have?

How many massive refineries are there?

How many trillions of dollars worth of oil and fuel pipelines do we have?

How much are the oil companies spending right now per year keeping oil running?

Its not as if they have to build it overnight.



Now you are drifting into vagueness and things that are simply not true. Deep Sea Rigs are about 1 Billion or so. Maybe less. Not 27 Billion dollars apiece.

Yes, maybe fuel cells might get better, but so will batteries. Hydrogen is competing with both battery technology and IC engine technology. (Future vehicles, including FC vehciles will probably have some kind of battery to take advantage of regenerative braking.)

It's not hard to get a FC very efficient at small currents, but very hard to be efficient at full power.


The last few rigs I read up on were 27 billion each but then again they may have been special cases as I dont realy read up on em all that often as in when im impossibly bored and not bussy annoying people on the internet.

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