Professor Héctor D. Abruña, the E. M. Chamot Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) at Cornell University, has been awarded $8.3 million to further his group’s research related to fuel cells and advanced battery technologies.
The funding comes from a cy-près distribution from the 2019 settlement of a consumer class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen Group over clean diesel marketing and fuel economy labeling. After consumers were compensated, the remaining settlement fund of $76 million was offered, in a competitive process, to organizations such as universities and nonprofits whose work mitigates or addresses the impacts of climate change.
The A&S proposal was among 29 selected for the funding, and represents the largest amount awarded to a single department.
Abruña’s research focuses on the development and characterization of new materials for fuel cells and batteries using a wide variety of techniques.
The new funding will support coordinated research, development and demonstration activities to accelerate integrating Cornell’s advanced fuel cell and battery materials into fuel cell and battery powered vehicles, respectively. To do this, it will support new fundamental and applied research in Abruña’s labs focused on these needs.
It will also support the establishment of a small fleet of fuel-cell and battery powered (EV) cars along with a green hydrogen fueling station and EV fast chargers. Cornell will engage automotive manufacturing companies such as GM, Toyota, Tesla, Mercedes‐Benz, Nissan and Hyundai—many of which already have existing collaborations with Cornell—to provide the fuel-cell and battery powered vehicles that would make up the envisoned fleet.
The researchers also plan to modify the fuel-cell stack in one fuel-cell-powered car as well as the battery stack in one of the battery-powered (EV) vehicles to integrate Cornell’s fuel cell and battery technologies, respectively, making it possible to study the technologies under real world conditions.
The funding will include fast-charging battery stations and a hydrogen fueling station. The grant will also support eight researchers who will work on both battery and fuel-cell related activities, Abruña said.