A new analysis of the cost of current (2017) direct hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by a team from the Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory and Strategic Analysis found the lowest estimated system cost to date for high annual production rates.
The highest volume predictions, for 100,000 and 500,000 units per year, result in a total system cost of $50/kWnet and $45/kWnet, respectively. DOE’s 2025 target is $40/kWnet; the ultimate goal is $30/kWnet—essentially cost-parity with ICEVs. The analysis is published in the Journal of Power Sources.
The DOE has devoted funding to analyze and track the cost of automotive fuel cell systems. Cost analysis enables targeting areas of R&D to drive cost reduction by identifying cost drivers and then allocating R&D funding most effectively. The system design and component manufacturing models are updated annually, such that the impact of new technologies and progress towards meeting cost targets can be appraised. The present work is a cost projection summary, performed and updated in 2017 by Strategic Analysis Inc. (SA), for an 80 kWnet direct hydrogen PEMFC system using next-generation components suitable for powering a light-duty vehicle. The cost analysis was performed for manufacture rates from 1000 to 500,000 systems per year.
The particular designs and components are primarily based on non-proprietary public reports, presentations by fuel cell companies and other researchers, and the patent literature. Although a system design and cost estimate based on open-source current technology systems is unable to probe as-to-yet unrevealed proprietary technologies in industry, a reasonable benchmark is possible on the basis of the publicly available information supplemented by quotes and feedback from industry and the fuel cell R&D community. Furthermore, the cost analysis relies on stack performance modeling from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and coordination with experts in manufacturing quality control at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Input gathered from an annual briefing of the assumptions and results to the US DRIVE (Driving Research and Innovation in Vehicle efficiency and Energy sustainability) Fuel Cell Technology Team (FCTT) grounds the baseline system in up-to-date, real-world experience.—Thompson et al.
2017 LDV automotive fuel cell system: fuel cell stack and balance of plant, including air loop, fuel loop, and high- (HTL) and low-temperature liquid (LTL) coolant loops. Hydrogen storage tank and valve (enclosed in dashed lines) not included in cost analysis. Thompson et al.
To identify cost drivers, the team used a four-step approach is used: (1) system conceptual design; (2) system physical design with the creation of a bill of materials based on physical design to include definition of subsystems, components, materials, fabrication and assembly processes, dimensions, and other key information; (3) cost modeling predominately using Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) to estimate manufacturing and assembly cost of the FC power system, and (4) continuous evaluation for cost reduction.
The team found that advances in increasing the power density and decreasing the platinum content of the cathode catalyst (set to a total loading of 0.125 g/cm2 geometric area) enabled the decreased cos. However, the catalyst and bi-polar plate cost remain the greatest contributors to the stack cost at high production volume, primarily due to the Pt and stainless steel content.
The team found that the cost of these commodity materials is less dependent on manufacturing volume; the researchers recommended that alternatives be pursued. The compressor-expander motor (CEM) unit remains the greatest single component cost in the balance of plant (BOP).
The authors said new designs and manufacturing methods are needed to decrease the air loop cost, which causes more variability in system cost than any other factor investigated, followed by air stoichiometry and power density.
Component cost breakdown at a production volume of 500,000 units/yr: a) for the 2017 FC system and b) for the FC stack. Thompson et al.
Overall, the analysis continues to provide direction for the strategic development of fuel cell components to bring FC systems to cost parity, and future efforts to incorporate more information about durability of individual components and materials into the model will provide an improved snapshot of a real system.—Thompson et al.
Simon T. Thompson, Brian D. James, Jennie M. Huya-Kouadio, Cassidy Houchins, Daniel A. DeSantis, Rajesh Ahluwalia, Adria R. Wilson, Gregory Kleen, Dimitrios Papageorgopoulos (2018) “Direct hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle cost analysis: System and high-volume manufacturing description, validation, and outlook,” Journal of Power Sources, Volume 399, Pages 304-313 doi: 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2018.07.100