The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced (DOE-FOA-0001224) up to $35 million in available funding to advance fuel cell and hydrogen technologies, and to enable early adoption of fuel cell applications, such as light duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). (Earlier post.)
As FCEVs become increasingly commercially available, the Energy Department is focused on reducing the costs and increasing technical advancements of critical hydrogen infrastructure including production, delivery, and storage. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) covers a broad spectrum of the Fuel Cell Technology Office (FCTO) portfolio with areas of interest ranging from research and development (R&D) to demonstration and deployment projects.
Demonstration subtopics that will help to accelerate adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies with specific interest in mobile hydrogen refuelers, fuel cell powered range extenders for light-duty hybrid electric vehicles, and a Communities of Excellence subtopic featuring hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
Subtopics were determined using a variety of means such as gap analyses, feedback from industry, Requests for Information (RFIs), external peer reviews, workshops and an assessment of the current RD&D portfolio. FCTO is encouraging teaming between universities, National Laboratories, and industry.
The FOA has two primary areas of interest each with several subtopics:
Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies R&D. Subtopics include
- Microbial Biomass Conversion
- Catalysts and Supports
- Integrated Intelligent Hydrogen Dispensers for 700 bar Gaseous Refueling of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
- Innovative Hydrogen Delivery Pipeline Manufacturing
Demonstrations and Deployments to Enable Early Adoption of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies
- Design, Deployment, and Validation of Advanced, Low-cost Mobile Hydrogen Refuelers
- Demonstration and Deployment of Battery - Fuel Cell Hybrid Electric Vehicle
- America’s Climate Communities of Excellence
Subtopic 1a: Microbial biomass conversion. The long-term goal of hydrogen production and delivery R&D is a high-volume hydrogen cost of <$4 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) (delivered and dispensed, but untaxed) to allow fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) to be competitive on a dollar per mile basis compared with gasoline powered vehicles. More specifically, the portion of the cost goal apportioned to production is <$2/gge hydrogen.
Innovative materials, processes, and systems are needed to establish the technical and cost feasibility for renewable, low carbon hydrogen production. Renewable, low carbon production pathways include thermochemical biomass conversion; electrolysis from renewable electricity sources; and photoelectrochemical and solar thermochemical water splitting, which have been included in recent funding opportunities. One renewable, low carbon pathway that has not been included in recent funding opportunities is biological biomass conversion.
Hydrogen production technologies of interest for this FOA are those using biomass through microbial processes such as fermentation or microbially-aided electrolysis systems or hybrid processes that integrate multiple systems. Pathways specifically not considered in this FOA (but may be addressed in a future FOA) include biological processes that utilize sunlight energy such as photolytic or photofermentative systems. Areas of emphasis could include, but are not limited to:
Development of microbial strains or co-cultures with improved hydrogen yields;
Reactor designs to improve hydrogen production yields or reduce costs (e.g., designs that improve the hydraulic retention time or use lower-cost materials);
Hybrid systems to maximize the hydrogen produced per unit of biomass (e.g., integrating systems where the waste product of one process is utilized as the feedstock of the next); and/or
Technologies that reduce external energy inputs (e.g. by removing or reducing the need for feedstock heat-treatments or external electricity inputs).
Project deliverables must include demonstration of hydrogen production of at least 5 LH2/Lreactor/day on average in a system operating for at least 24 hours continuously, at a reactor scale of at least 1 liter, with quantification of rate during the course of the operation time. A pathway to a commercial-scale system of at least 1,000 kg/day production should be included.
Funding for any award resulting from this subtopic will be for technologies at Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) 3-4 only.
Subtopic 1b: Catalysts and Supports. The focus of this subtopic is novel catalyst and support research that will improve mass activity at high potentials; improve performance at high current density; and improve durability while decreasing cost. Studies of interest will decrease loading of platinum group metals (PGM) in the fuel cell and increase performance and durability. These catalyst studies include research on low-PGM loading cathode catalysts for membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with total PGM loadings less than the 2020 target of 0.125 mg PGM/cm2 and 0.125 mg PGM/kW. Support studies include novel carbon-based support materials and structures and non-carbon concepts.
Applications should show the potential to meet all of the 2020 targets (see table below) simultaneously.
|Technical Targets for Catalysts|
|Platinum group metal (PGM) total content (both electrodes)||g/kW||<0.125|
|PGM total loading (both electrodes)||mg/cm2||<0.125|
|Loss in catalytic (mass) activity||% loss||<40|
|Loss in performance at 0.8 A/cm2||mV||30|
|Loss in performance at 1.5 A/cm2||mV||30|
|Mass activity @ 900 mViR-free||A/mgPGM||0.44|
The deliverable in this subtopic is a set of MEAs (6 or more, each with active area ≥ 50 cm2) that is made available for independent testing and evaluation at a DOE-approved location.
This subtopic also has two specified sub-topics: Low PGM cathode catalysts and catalyst supports.
Low PGM Cathode Catalysts. FCTO seeks approaches that show the potential to decrease PGM loadings below the 2020 target, while increasing durability, especially in the high power density region. Rare or precious metals other than platinum group metals can be part of the strategy, but prices of these materials can increase dramatically with demand; therefore, minimizing loading of rare or precious metals is desired.
Applicants should discuss performance issues at current densities of 1.5 A/cm2 and above and strategies for overcoming transport and durability issues for performance at high current density. Performance degradation at high current density has been correlated to a loss in electrochemical surface area. Applicants should outline strategies to decrease ECSA losses with potential cycling as well as strategies to deal with other degradation losses their approach may incur, such as decreased ionomer conductivity due to ion exchange of proton conducting sites with leached metal ions.
Catalyst Supports. Catalyst support composition and structure changes are known to affect electrode performance and durability. FCTO seeks approaches that address support performance and chemical and structural stability by development of novel carbon-based or non-carbon support compositions and/or structures. Concepts should possess appropriate properties such as high surface area, high protonic/electronic conductivities, and facile reactant/product transport.
Subtopic 1c: Integrated Intelligent Hydrogen Dispensers for 700 bar Gaseous Refueling of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) handbook 44 requires that hydrogen fuel be dispensed with an error of no greater than 1.5% to ensure that consumers purchasing the fuel are accurately charged. No system exists today which can dispense hydrogen at this accuracy per the refueling protocol for a fast fill (type A) defined in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard for fuel cell vehicle refueling SAE J2601.
Beyond the challenge of metering, communication between the vehicle and the dispenser which provides the necessary data to ensure a complete fill requires improvement. The infra-red (IR) communication used today lacks robustness often resulting in communication fills going offline and requiring a more conservative approach which results in a less complete fill. Improved communication methods will help ensure the customer has the optimal refueling experience—i.e., fast filling time and a full tank, DOE said.
This subtopic addresses the development of the next-generation of integrated intelligent hydrogen dispensers for 700 bar refueling. The integrated intelligent dispenser includes the hose, meter, and control system necessary to deliver hydrogen safely per SAE J2601 using a Type A dispenser for fast-fill capability. Intelligent controls should allow the dispenser to adapt to other fill methods as necessary. Capability to perform communication fills is required.
The dispensing accuracy must reach at least 4% over the full range of operation; the conditions range from -40 ˚C to +85 ˚C, at flow rates between 2 - 60 g/s and at service pressures up to 875 bar. Designs are encouraged which exceed the 4% target and move the technology toward meeting the 1.5% system accuracy and other requirements as defined in NIST Handbook 44.
Subtopic 1d: Innovative Hydrogen Delivery Pipeline Manufacturing. Hydrogen delivered from the city gate to the end user in pipelines is projected to be more cost-effective than in tube trailers in a mature fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) market. Around 1,500 miles of steel pipeline is in service today to transport hydrogen to industrial end users; however, steel becomes brittle under high pressure, which can eventually lead to hydrogen leakage.
Thus, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) code B31.12 requires hydrogen pipelines to be thicker than natural gas pipelines if the pipe yield strength is greater than 52 kilopounds per square inch (ksi).
Fiber-reinforced composite pipe (FRP) is a cost-effective alternative to steel pipelines. FRP is an existing commercial technology used in the oil and gas industry and is now being considered for inclusion in the ASME B31.12. FRP material is cheaper than steel. Moreover, the cost of labor to install FRP and the transportation costs of FRP are lower because the pipe can be delivered in ½-mile long spools as opposed to natural gas pipeline segments which are typically installed in lengths of 40-80 feet. Segments are joined by compression fittings and sealed with O-rings. Testing has shown that O-rings with insufficient hardness extrude from FRP joints while in service, leading to failure of the joint. Failure of the O-ring increases the cost to install and maintain the pipeline.
The purpose of this subtopic is to develop FRP technology for hydrogen delivery that can be manufactured in high volume while reducing the installation and maintenance costs associated with O-ring failure.
FCTO seeks applications to develop innovative, low-cost processes for manufacturing FRP that eliminates O-ring failure and is capable of carrying hydrogen at 100 bar, is durable for 50 years, and has a reasonable leak rate. The proposed solution should lead to installed FRP costs that are equivalent to or lower than the cost of installing a natural gas pipeline of the same size (~$320,000/inch ID of pipe-mile excluding the cost of right-of-way) and be scalable to high volume manufacturing.
Subtopic 2a: Design, Deployment, and Validation of Advanced, Low-cost Mobile Hydrogen Refuelers. FCTO seeks advanced mobile hydrogen refueler designs and concepts that demonstrate improvements to the state of the technology by meeting or exceeding multiple metrics, including total cost and capacity.
Currently, there are many uncertainties as to when hydrogen fuel cell vehicle demand will ramp-up, and where exactly there will be gaps in fueling capabilities to meet these demands. As vehicle demand picks-up, building-out permanent hydrogen stations to meet the needed capacity will not be easy or quick, as siting, permitting, and construction of stations may take longer than expected, DOE noted.
The main purpose of this subtopic is to develop and validate a low-cost mobile refueler that can support evolving markets by providing service to new station locations, with the aim to fill in gaps in both existing station capacity vs. demand, and in station coverage.
Subtopic 2b: Demonstration and Deployment of Battery - Fuel Cell Hybrid Electric Vehicle. The Class 8 fuel cell electric hybrid drayage trucks in the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office’s Zero Emission Cargo Transport Demonstration use polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems to provide continuous on-board recharging of the battery-electric power systems. To accelerate the introduction and market penetration of electric drive transportation technologies, FCTO is interested in the potential of electric drive transportation technology for other classes of vehicles such as those used by commercial fleet customers for passenger transportation services, light freight transport, and dispatch utility operations where electric drive transportation systems are beginning to be introduced commercially.
FCTO believes that the extended driving range and other benefits provided by hydrogen fueled PEM fuel cell systems for all-electric vehicles offer the potential for electric drive transportation technologies to respond to the growing demand by commercial fleet customers that are willing to purchase electric drive vehicles, provided their operational priorities can be satisfied. FCTO’s concept is a near-term emergence of commercial products with fuel cell electric hybrid systems that are capable of extending commercial fleet vehicle operation time and driving range at performance levels comparable to incumbent vehicle power systems.
Under this subtopic, FCTO seeks projects to demonstrate and deploy battery-fuel cell hybrid all electric vehicles (Class 1, 2, or 3) for parcel delivery or freight distribution, or corporate utility transportation such as service call vehicles. The vehicle fleet applications of interest are commercial available vehicles that would be retrofitted with a battery dominant power train and a fuel cell to extend vehicle range.
Expected outcomes of projects in this subtopic include:
20 to 60 fuel cell power systems (~3 to 20 kW) delivered and installed on commercially available Class 1, 2 or 3 vehicles, and operated from host operator sites, i.e., fleet facility site(s) for a minimum of 5,000 hours per vehicle.
During the performance of the project, applicants must submit fuel cell hybrid vehicle performance data, as well as any safety data and issues identified during the operation of the units. Data are required to be submitted quarterly to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for analysis and aggregation into composite data products.
An economic assessment, including a payback analysis, concerning the use of hydrogen-fueled PEM fuel cells for fuel cell hybrid vehicles used in commercial operations. Intrinsic value proposition factors should be included, such as any operations productivity gains (e.g. avoided recharging times, delivery improvements, reduced down time for charging or scheduled maintenance, emissions reductions and other benefits).
A minimum of one month of cold weather testing (i.e., average ambient temperature during vehicle operation of +30 °F) is required for each vehicle.
Minimum system requirements include the following:
Packaged solutions must be developed for PEM fuel cell systems fueled by hydrogen with the ability to assist in powering an all-electric vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of <6,000 to 14,000 pounds (<2,724 to 6,350 kg) for a minimum daily operation schedule of 8 hours without refueling or recharging.
The battery-fuel cell hybrid vehicle must achieve performance matching state-of-the-art Class 1, 2, or 3 vehicles using conventional internal combustion engine powertrains including a 5,000-hour performance life.
The battery-fuel cell hybrid vehicle must be capable of performing under a use profile consistent with conventional Class 1, 2, or 3 vehicles in operation at the host site.
All power (motive and ancillary) is to be provided by the battery-fuel cell electric hybrid powertrain.
Subtopic 2c: America’s Climate Communities of Excellence. FCTO seeks proposals under this subtopic that meet the dual policy goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing climate resilience while enabling hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
FCTO seeks proposals for projects from local, regional, and tribal government entities that are leading emissions reductions and climate resilience and are in need of technical and financial assistance to further implement hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to reduce greenhouse gases and prepare their communities for the impacts of climate change.