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DOE releases Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Plan (2010 Draft) for public comment

The roles for hydrogen and fuel cells in the energy mix. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released a draft version of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Plan, which outlines the strategy, activities, and plans of DOE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program. It is initially published as a draft to solicit feedback from relevant stakeholders, with a final version to be published in FY 2011. Comments may be submitted through 30 November 2010.

Over the last several years, DOE, and the broader research community, has greatly advanced the state of the art of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, making significant progress toward overcoming many of the key challenges to commercialization, including reducing the cost and improving the durability of fuel cells, reducing the cost of producing and delivering hydrogen, and developing technologies to improve the performance of hydrogen storage systems. The new plan reflects this significant progress, and updates and expands upon previous editions of the Hydrogen Posture Plan, issued in 2006 and 2004.

Well-to-wheels greenhouse gas emissions. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.

The plan describes the Program’s activities, which are conducted to overcome the technical, institutional, and economic barriers to the widespread commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for transportation, stationary, and portable applications. The plan also identifies the specific obstacles that each Program activity addresses, the strategies employed, key milestones, and future plans for both individual activities and the Program as a whole.

The Program has defined its key goals based on the technical advances that are needed, which have been identified through discussions with technology developers, the research community, and all relevant stakeholders. These key goals are to develop hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for:

  1. Early markets such as stationary power (primary and backup), lift trucks, and portable power—in the 2010 to 2012 timeframe;
  2. Mid-term markets such as residential CHP systems, auxiliary power units, fleets and buses—in the 2012 to 2015 timeframe; and
  3. Long-term markets including mainstream transportation applications with a focus on light duty vehicles—in the 2015 to 2020 timeframe.

The Program has also set goals for developing technologies for the production, delivery, and storage of hydrogen, which will help spur commercialization of fuel cells and maximize their environmental and energy security benefits. These goals are to:

  1. Reduce the cost of producing hydrogen from renewable resources, nuclear energy, and coal with carbon sequestration;
  2. Reduce the cost of delivering, storing, and dispensing hydrogen; and
  3. Improve the performance and reduce the cost of hydrogen storage systems.

Within the transportation sector, the DOE is looking at the application of fuel cells in auxiliary power units (APUs) for trucks, rail engines, aircraft and ships and motive power for specialty vehicles, light-duty vehicles and buses.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Program Activities. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.

The Program conducts activities in the following areas: systems analysis; applied R&D of technologies for hydrogen production, delivery, storage, and fuel cells; basic research; manufacturing R&D; technology validation; safety, codes & standards; education; systems analysis; and market transformation. These areas are necessarily interrelated, with developments in one area relying on corresponding developments in others.

Some of the specific program goals include:

  • Fuel Cell Systems R&D efforts to enable a cost of $30 per kilowatt and a durability of 5,000 hours by 2015 for automotive fuel cell systems. An expanded focus has been placed on stationary and portable power applications, as well as other transportation applications such as buses, aircraft and APUs for heavy-duty trucks.

  • To enable several different domestic hydrogen production pathways, at a variety of scales ranging from large, centralized production to small, local (distributed) production, meeting targeted cost in the range of $2 to $4 per gallon gasoline equivalent (gge), delivered and untaxed.

  • Hydrogen storage technologies that will allow for a driving range of more than 300 miles (500 km) while meeting the packaging, cost, safety, and performance requirements of current and future vehicle markets.

After the final version is published, the Program will continue to periodically revise the plan, along with the research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) plans of participating program offices, to reflect technological progress, programmatic changes, policy decisions, and updates based on external reviews.




Looks like H2 as a vehicle fuel is well into the long grass.....with natural gas starting to take over from coal for making electricity due to the shale gas resource, it will never make sense to use gas to make H2 for a vehicle or to use gas to make electricity to make H2. It will always be better in CO2 and cost terms to just use the natural gas and avoid the expensive (in cost and CO2) conversion step. Good to see GM launching CNG vans.....there is a huge growth in CNG the world over....


Looking at the graft for various scenarios, it makes one realize how good a Toyota Prius III realy is. using regular gasoline. It would even do better with cellulosic ethanol.


Why hydrogen? Why focus is hydrogen? May be better talk about methanol or DME. DME is realy universaly produced type of propulson fuel. Swedish government is developing DME project for heavy road transportation. When I read such stuff getting realy upset.

Chris Jensen

Add ten or fifteen years to each of the estimates and you might be more realistic.

Hydrogen is only an energy medium. A chemically better way to store electricity than batteries. But it will only work when we get the fuel cells right.

Eventually all electricity needs to go carbon less. Mostly that means nuclear.


China has been working on using dimethyl ether (DME) as a transportation fuel for some time. Would that we would do as well. Hydrogen will NEVER be a practical transportation fuel.


Hydrogen has always been the fuel of the future. It will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

The Goracle

Lets look at the track record of the DOE, shall we?!?!

The Department of Energy was formed after the oil crisis on August 4, 1977 in order to end the United States dependence on foreign oil. President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation: The Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977.

The Department of Energy's 2010 budget request is $26.4 billion.

The Department of Energy employs 16,000 federal workers (2009) and 93,094 contractors (2008).

After 33 years, hundreds of thousands of employees, and tens of BILLIONS of dollars spent every year, how has the Department of Energy done with their original charter? Are we now free from foreign oil? Its **only** been 33 years, right?...


Never forget the Bush Hydrogen Age and $billions of research giveaways.


Some favorite George W. Bush quotes:

2003: "With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to take these cars from the laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free."

2006: "America has a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world."


The Goracle,
Private business would not survive for 30 years after achievment of 0 income/benefit.


Goracle. Could you analyse how well the Defense Dept did in the same area and time frame. Half a dozen oil wars, a few trillion $$ and many deaths latter, what have you got?

Kit P

I just love it when the darling programs of the left under Clinton became the hated programs of Bush. Now it is an Obama's program.

This is not a new concept. I remember stuff about it when I was high school in the 60's. Having water come out the tail pipe sounds cool except air is 78% nitrogen. The term 'hydrogen economy' was goes back to 1970.

There is even a book The Hydrogen Economy by the economist Jeremy Rifkin. While hydrogen makes sense to economists and environmentalists, the engineers have a few bugs to work.

In any case, industry uses lots of hydrogen already. Research to improve production efficiencies and safety is a good investment. Recently I read where a company is saving $900,000 a years in electricity cost with a more efficient production system.


Hydrogen is still a boondoggle. Using H2 to store energy by any conventional means (electrolysis) means losing 2/3 or so in the process and multiplying the capital cost several times also. It doesn't matter whose appointee is at the head of the DOE, physics is physics and chemistry is chemistry.

Kit P

“physics is physics”

Yes, indeed it is. For those of us who have taken modern physics we know that fission releases tremendous releases amount of energy. High temperature gas cooled reactors can be used to produce hydrogen through efficient thermal/chemical processes. That is the chemistry is chemistry part of the process.


The cluelessness is amazing.

Because of the pending oil apocalypse industry is gearing up hydrogen based alterative chemical processes.

In short h2 is a massively growing part of our economy taking over from oil.

Now with that the cost of GETTING h2 is comming down as they make better pipelines and tube trucks as well as cheaper production plants. They HAVE to do this as otherwise we all will DIE.

Now that means we will have a metric buttload and a half of h2 and cheap h2 at that. So we WILL USE IT!

fuel cells are replacing engines and lead acid batteries in aplications simply because in those apps the fuel cell is CHEAPER in the long run. And getting cheaper every year.

At some point as fuel cells progress from apus and such to other uses they will be cheap enough and durable enough to put in cars. This will happen its a simple matter of economics.

H2 storage also is growing better for the very simple reason that industry needs so much of it and needs to store it in so many ways.

In cars we will likely see h2 on work trucks suvs and crossovers.. places where a battery cant do the job. We will see it when gas/diesel gets spendy enough to get people off oil and into anything else that works and that they can afford to buy.

The whole process is grinding along quite fast and we are approaching the point where things will get very fun. I for one am happy I live in this age at this moment in history because its gona be one wild ride.

Stan Peterson

It is way past time to terminate this useless research. The market has chosen already two or three alternate technologies and none is hydrogen.

EVs, geniunely non polluting ICEs, and plug-in hybrids of various types, are the much cheaper and just as clean and perhaps cleaner on a source-use basis, than this costly technical approach.


I love to watch the DOE and their pathetic attempts to justify their existence. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I 100% agree with the Goracle on this one. LOL

33 years and they have LESS than nothing to show. And they keep pushing this hydrogen economy despite the fact that nothing supports it. Just use the Natural Gas for god's sake. How hard is that to figure out? You can't gain efficiency by turning it into H2. Transformations NEVER increase efficiency: simple law of physics they are trying to violate. Then you have to pay for the infrastructure to support it all!


Oh, and you gotta love their silly graphs to show why they are spending all this money. Just look how great H2 will be on CO2 emissions when you run it on all renewable sources.
Yet, when they compare BEVs, they only show figures for today's worst case grid.

Next year they'll add a category for H2 produced from Unicorn farts once it becomes obvious that real world BEVs are actually doing the job and the US grid is getting cleaner every year.

The grid improved 4% last year and that rate is growing.


Since most electricity in the US is generated with coal EVs using this power source are less clean than advanced Diesel engines according to a latest report.


True the DOE has been markedly ineffective at it's Congressional mandate. We use more foreign oil today than in 1977. Considering that 90% of all known atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms - it would be prudent to make use of this abundant element.

The only reel barrier to "robust" H2 production is the cracking of H2O. There are ways to do this. But we cannot rely on H2 as our only energy carrier. We still need a broad portfolio of low cost alternatives.

33 years and they have LESS than nothing to show.
You do have to admit that this isn't all, or even mostly, due to screwups at DOE. The Integral Fast Reactor would have powered the whole country for several hundred years on uranium we already have lying around, but it was killed by the Clinton administration and a Democratic congress.

If DOE is doing hydrogen, it's because Congress is allocating funds for hydrogen. Nobody wants to e.g. add another $2/gallon in gasoline taxes with regularly scheduled increases and let the auto companies and consumers work out the details; it's too simple.


The US grid is no longer a majority coal. It is now 44.9% coal and dropping every year in favor of natural gas. Natural gas is 40% cleaner for CO2, orders of magnitude cleaner for aresenic, mercury, etc.

Besides, the H2 will come from either reforming natural gas or that same electricity used for electrolysis on water to produce the it's a wash anyway.

Of course, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on how bad this new "frac'ing" is. Sigh.


Suppose I should write "efficient" cracking of H20. That tends to resonate better.


I think the steps toward reforming liquid fuels has more promise than Hydrogen. It's a lot easier to deal with, wouldn't require a huge infrastructure change, and would match or exceed the Hydrogen energy cycle efficiency.

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