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DOE seeking input on commercialization of fuel cells as range extenders for battery-electric vehicles

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001145) to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to the technical and economic feasibility of commercializing fuel cell range extenders for available battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in the US market.

DOE’s office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) is specifically interested in information on BEV makes and models where an after-market modification to extend the vehicle range using a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell system would be most feasible.

The RFI is seeking input on a number of questions, including:

  • The business case (including capital/operating cost reductions) for using prime battery propulsion with fuel cell range extenders for light-duty vans or delivery vehicles used to deliver parcels, to dispatch service technicians, or to shuttle individuals or small groups of people within service territories.

  • Potential vehicle technical performance improvements for an on-board PEM fuel cell range extender supporting prime battery propulsion, e.g., battery durability, productivity improvements (e.g. low downtime for refueling), or vehicle torque.

  • The potential increase in fleet customers, given an increase in electric range.

  • Potential for reductions in manufacturing cost, weight, and volume of the electric drivetrain by reducing the size of the battery and offsetting with the PEM fuel cell and energy storage.

  • The potential air emissions advantages of fuel cell range extenders as compared to other technologies shown in this table:

      BEV, US grid FCEV, SMR H2 BEV w/FC, SMR H2 Gasoline PHEV40 Gasoline HEV Gasoline ICEV Diesel ICEV
    Elec. drive Wh/mi 300 300 278
    mpgge 61 43 41 32 38
    Max. range, miles 80 (24 kWh pack) 300 40 (12 kWh batt.) + 180 (3 kg H2) 500 500 400 450
    Grams GHG/mi 210 250 240 220 270 340 300

  • Regulatory considerations in terms of a value proposition such as compliance with noise and anti-idling laws.

  • The role of government support in accelerating deployment.

  • The minimum number of vehicles (deployed with government support) needed to: (1) provide enough data and analysis for industry acceptance and (2) enable further deployments without government assistance.

  • present economic and non-technical barriers to commercializing the technology application.

  • Regulation or permitting issues in locating a suitably sized technology deployment project.

  • Challenges in providing refueling infrastructure.

  • Technical advantages that would make fuel cell range extenders more viable than BEVs or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).

  • Technology advances for PEM fuel cell range extenders that would make them more commercially viable.

  • The potential for adding a fuel cell range extender to a commercial BEV to make that vehicle platform more viable.

In addition to responses on the specific issues raised, DOE is also looking for comment on five key general issues for the category: potential impact; additionality (e.g., expanding the number of participants); openness; the proper role of government; and the enduring economic benefit.




Renault and La Poste should be able to provide good input, as they are already doing it:

Where they are using it, in the French Alps, zero emissions at point of use from the FCEV RE are particularly important, as a diesel or petrol model at that altitude especially in the winter would be burning fuel pretty inefficiently with emissions to match.


Researchers at Washington State University have recently come out with a SOFC that can use gasoline as a fuel without reforming- if commercially viable this may prove to be the perfect range extender for BEVs.


Link for the SOFC here:

I don't much fancy it myself, as in addition to the comments in the thread the high temperature of SOFC is a problem for cars, and if you are using gasoline then there are still pollution issues.

Near term at least, good old fashioned PEM and hydrogen would seem to be the way to go.


Volvo started this program years ago. They have a small PEM in a C30 electric with a fuel reformer. They can use ethanol, methanol, gasoline or diesel. No high pressure tank nor filling station availability problems. This makes SO much sense, but I guess going 30 miles on $1 per gallon methanol makes TOO much sense.


If they can get their 25kw S2 stack going it sounds ideal.

Here is how they are getting along:

as can be seen, they need to upgrade from 3kw, increase the cycle life and improve low and high temperature performance.

This data sheet is from 27th Nov 2013, so you can see how far they have got and what is still to do.


My point is they do studies and grants with just enough to go broke. we don't go for it in a big way and get it done. The oil companies have big lobbies, they don't mind them messing around and never achieving a solution that uses less oil.


Technologies take time to mature.

This is an extra challenge on top of fuel cells, as it needs on-board reforming.

I am as up for a tasty conspiracy theory as the next man, but I can't really see anything suspicious here!

No doubt the battery only brigade will fulminate that this is itself a 'cunning plan' to perpetuate fossil fuels! ;-)


I should add that apart from building a lightweight reformer, the fuel cell itself has to be extremely tolerant to residual pollutants.

That is why initially the emphasis is on on board, already reformed pure hydrogen.


It does not have to be a conspiracy, the motives are obvious and the fossil fuel industry is linked by the desire for more profits from fossil fuels.

Under the previous administration coal top mining was allowed to blow off mountain tops then put the rubble into the river canyons. Coal fired power plants we allowed to expand without upgrading to recent standards because they were built prior to 1970 and the creation of EPA.

This was no accident, fossil fuel lobbies made sure this all happened with a willing group in the White House. We will never achieve "sustainable mobility" when the fix is in. We all know which party is all for the fix being in for fossil fuels, that is where big money party donations come from.


?? It is clearly a much tougher challenge to build an on-board reformer AND a contaminant tolerant fuel cell than simply to build a fuel cell, and since the latter has only just come into the realm of production capable reality, I have not got a clue what you are on about.


It is no problem, slightly higher temperature PEM fuel cells (just above 212f) are much more CO tolerant, but you won't see grants for much of that either.

My previous post was in reference to you mentioning "conspiracy". I guess that is one way to sweep truth under the rug, just say it is someones imagination.

Conspiracy requires collusion, there may be no collusion but the link is oil and coal companies want even more profits and anyone who threatens those profits needs to be stopped.


In the Land of the Braves and the Free, Coal and Oil are Kings.

In the Land of the Just and Rightful, Sun and Wind may become Kings.

What is right today may be very wrong tomorrow?

Our children and grand children will hopefully see Oil and Coal burning with different eyes.


The American Petroleum Institute is optimistic it can convince a majority in the House to endorse reforming or repealing the renewable fuel standard (RFS)

Roger Pham

The advantage of PEM FC is that pure H2 is required that would make electrolytic H2 from RE more competitive. This will open up bigger market for RE investment without worrying about intermittency issue that would increase the cost of RE electricity. A BEV does not have such a role in the promotion of RE because a BEV is charged from the grid, for which RE is more expensive.


Good point RP. Unfortunately, not so many posters can see it (yet).

It also applies to NPPs whereby the excess e-power generated during very low consumption hours could be used to produce and store low cost H2?


I can't see anything odd in Government, and its grants, being focussed on the short term more than the long.

However in the case of fuel cells this is not unreasonable, as it is obvious that the challenges particularly in a car are more severe to build a high temperature FC and reformer than a lower temperature PEM without on board reformation.


This is just a request for information, which is my point, it goes no where. Autothermal reformers have been around for decades. PEMs have been around for decades. In 1999 Daimler had NECAR which reformed methanol to provide H2 for a PEM, the car drove across the U.S.

Exxon spent millions of dollars on an ad campaign to discredit global warming. The Koch brothers spend millions of dollars to discredit climate change. Every oil, gas and coal company collectively spends billions of dollars each year to protect their profits.

The price of oil quintupled from 2000 to 2008, it went from $20 per barrel to $100 per barrel. Exxon made $40 billion in profits year after year, it was the world's MOST profitable company of ALL times. You protect those profits, that is my point.

They protect those profit through HUGE lobby efforts in Washington D.C. a part of those effects is making sure wind and solar don't get tax breaks. A part of that effort is to make sure synthetic fuels don't get made. A part of that effort is to make sure cellulose ethanol does not happen then repeal the RFS.

Cellulose ethanol is not made in large quantities not because that is not technically possible, it IS possible, the POET corporation has shown that, IOGEN has shown this for a decade. The oil companies only have to call investment bankers for money to dry up, it is that simple. Then they get on the phone to their lobbyists who button hole Congress to do what they want through campaign contributions.

I am not telling you all anything you don't already know, but sometimes people refuse to add two and two to see what is going on.


The assumption that you are the guy 'in the know' and everyone else is deluded and hoodwinked is not a proposition conducive to constructive discussion.

Clearly everyone and their car tries to buy and influence public opinion.
What is less clear is the degree to which this is either coordinated, or countered by other forces, or successful.

In the present subject under discussion the fairly monumental difficulty of building a lightweight fuel cell and reformer combination capable of dealing with any and all fuels at high temperature seems to me to make conspiracy theories redundant, as it is pretty pointless to conspire against something we are nowhere near being able to do.

A conspiracy against battery cars, or fuel cell cars using hydrogen, would seem to offer the proposed conspirators more bang for their buck in the next ten years.


No, that is your conclusion.
You are not getting my point, it is not a conspiracy to stop batteries nor fuel cells, the oil companies want to stop ANYTHING that threatens their profits.

Roger Pham

IMHO, it is natural for any one to try to protect their business and profit stream. However, that can only go so far. More creative people will look for new opportunities at profits instead of just protecting old business., for example, keep on building horse-drawn carriage instead of autos.

In the case of RE, H2 can be made using RE for about $2, yet can be sold at $5-7 and is still competitive with gasoline...potential for huge profit margin...No need for refining nor transporting of the crude material nor of refined product...No environmental risk to deal w/, unlike oil spill disasters costing billions or tens of billions...New opportunity for the energy business!


I comprehend your point perfectly well.
I simply disagree that that is the reason that fuel cells with on board reformers are not taking the world by storm, for the technical reasons I have already specified.


Each time energy is changed from one form to another, energy is lost and most often costs of the energy increases. The simplest practical form of creating stored electricity for EVs is by charging batteries directly from solar cells. Using reformed oil/gas or electrolysis to create hydrogen and then burning it in the atmosphere to create electricity is wasteful and costly, as is the idea of using gasoline for that purpose. God help us for even considering the idea.

Cleaning up the Earth and air requires not mining or using hydrocarbons and developing renewables. The various methodologies,i.e., PEM to continue on with hydrocarbons are not solving problems, only delaying them; and, it is to the hydrocarbon producers best money interest to delay the advancement of renewables. I believe that is exactly what they are doing; mostly through the Republican Party and their associated lobbying firms.

The key to clean air, water and soil is a more efficient battery; we should vote out of office the politicians who speak for the continued use of hydrocarbons and against progress on this most critical component.


The sun does not shine at night, or so much in the winter outside of the tropics, as in your more perceptive moments you may have realised! ;-)

So it is not a simple as the round trip efficiency to a battery.

Even if you had a storage battery at home, charging your car from that would lead to overall efficiencies of around the same as the present efficiency of electrolysis, even assuming that the process heat for hydrogen production is not captured, as it is for instance by Audi in their wind to grid set up.

Of course, further efficiency losses are incurred in getting electricity back out of the hydrogen etc, but the point remains, everything is lossy, the question is how much.

Once one considers annual variation, the reason that hydrogen storage is favoured by every major country and organisation wanting a high proportion of renewables is obvious.

Even at the latitude of Phoenix, there is only around a third as much sunshine in the depths of winter as in the height of summer.

So you either very wastefully overbuild, or stop running a car.

It would be great is only there were some way of storing the sun from the summer to use as fuel in the winter.
Fortunately there is.
It is called hydrogen, about the only way of storing such massive quantities of energy to cover seasonal variation, especially considering the seasonal swings are much worse in most places than in Arizona.

So there are compelling reasons why people don't 'just use solar and batteries' which you are not looking at.
They are not complete morons as you seem to assume.

Of course, for me, it doesn't matter, as I would be perfectly happy with a massive build out of nuclear, which work just fine with battery cars year round, but if you are an advocate of a lot of renewables there are sound reasons why hydrogen is essential to make it work.


Solar and wind will require access to large storage facilities such as H2, large elevated water reservoirs, large EV fleet and-or future TBD storage facilities but it is not an impossible task.

The worse enemies are going to be fossil fuel producers and politicians who need their money to get elected.

Let's not forget that today's politicians need many $$BBB to buy their election or re-election. Oil and Coal people have known that for a long time. RE people will have to play the same game and even harder to win. Where will RE supporters get the $$ BBB required to buy enough politicians from both parties?

The solution is more and more $$$$. Who will manage to get their hands or the biggest lot.

Roger Pham

Don't worry, Harvey. The energy companies will be able to make a lot of profits from RE H2 and this will grow gradually to displa e fossil fuel. Investment s in oil and gas will stop to make ways for investments in RE and H2. This will be the way of a clean and sustainable future.

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