The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) and the Hydrogen Education Foundation (HEF) launched the $1-million H2 Refuel H-Prize. The two-year competition challenges America’s engineers and entrepreneurs to develop affordable systems for small-scale hydrogen fueling. This H-Prize competition is intended to assist in expanding the hydrogen infrastructure across the country to support more transportation energy options for US consumers, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
The H2 Refuel H-Prize will award a $1-million prize to the top refueler system entry that can produce hydrogen using electricity and/or natural gas (energy sources commonly available to residential locations) and dispense the hydrogen to a vehicle. Systems considered would be at the home-scale and able to generate and dispense 1-5 kg H2/day for use at residences, or the medium-scale, generating and dispensing 5-50 kg H2/day. Medium-scale systems would serve a larger community with multiple users daily, such as a large apartment complex or retail centers to fuel small fleets of vehicles (e.g., light duty automobiles, forklifts or tractors).
The H-Prize, enacted by Congress, authorized the Department of Energy to create a program to award competitive cash prizes that will advance the commercial application of hydrogen energy technologies by dramatizing and incentivizing accelerated research. The H-Prize was originally established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, in Sec. 654. There are several H-Prize categories, including production, storage, distribution, utilization, and prototypes and transformational technologies.
Hydrogen infrastructure remains the most critical barrier to the widespread adoption of FCEVs, the DOE said. The H2 Refuel competition aims to address this barrier through easily deployed small scale fueling systems for home and community use until widespread infrastructure development takes place.
The competition is planned to last two years. In the first year, teams will register for the competition, find partners, design a system, find a site to install the system, and submit data and designs to a panel of independent judges. These judges will select the top teams as finalists to advance to the testing phase.
Finalist teams would then have seven months to build, install, and prepare their systems for testing. The winner would demonstrate that they can meet both the technical and cost criteria as outlined in the final guidelines.
With support from the FCTO, private industry, and the Energy Department’s national laboratories, significant advances in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies have already been achieved. In the last several years, automotive fuel cell costs have been reduced by more than 50%, fuel cell durability has doubled, and the amount of expensive platinum needed in fuel cells has fallen by 80% since 2005.
The H-Prize is managed by the FCTO in the US Department of Energy, which is the lead Federal agency for directing activities in hydrogen and fuel cell R&D. The Hydrogen Education Foundation, the H-Prize administrator, is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes clean hydrogen energy technologies through national competitions and educational programs.