DOE Believes Cost-Effective Commercial Hydrogen Fuel Cells may be Possible

December 16, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $7 million for projects that will help bring cost-effective, advanced hydrogen and fuel cell technologies online faster. This investment – across four projects in Georgia, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee – will increase U.S. leadership in fuel cell-powered vehicles and backup power systems, and give businesses more affordable, cleaner transportation and power options.

“By partnering with private industry and universities, the Energy Department is helping to build a strong 21st century transportation sector that cuts harmful pollution, reduces costs for U.S. businesses and leads to a more sustainable energy future,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Reduced oil dependence is an important part of President Obama’s energy security and climate plans, and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies will help ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation.”

With support from the Energy Department, private industry and the Department’s national laboratories have already achieved significant advances in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies – reducing costs and improving performance. These research and development efforts have helped reduce automotive fuel cell costs by more than 50 percent since 2006 and by more than 30 percent since 2008. At the same time, fuel cell durability has doubled and the amount of expensive platinum needed in fuel cells has fallen by 80 percent since 2005.

Building on this progress, the projects awarded today will help further reduce the cost of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, expand fueling infrastructure and build a strong domestic supply chain in the United States. This investment also supports the Energy Department’s broader efforts to continue U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation. These projects include:

Center for Transportation and the Environment ($3 million DOE investment): Based in Atlanta, Ga., the Center for Transportation and the Environment will develop a fuel cell hybrid electric walk-in delivery van with a 150-mile range per fueling. The project will also retrofit 15 UPS delivery vans with fuel cell hybrid power trains and test these vehicles at distribution facilities across California. The University of Texas’s Center for Electromechanics, Electric Vehicles International, Hydrogenics USA and Valence Technology will also participate in this project.

FedEx Express ($3 million DOE investment): Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., FedEx Express will develop a hydrogen fuel cell delivery truck with a range of up to 150 miles per fueling and test 20 of these trucks at FedEx facilities in Tennessee and California. Plug Power and Smith Electric Vehicles will join FedEx in this project.

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. ($900,000 DOE investment): Located in Allentown, Pa., Air Products and Chemicals partner with Structural Composites Industries will develop a cost-effective tube trailer for hydrogen delivery and storage that can withstand high pressures. Air Products and Chemicals will also test this new technology under real-world operating conditions at hydrogen fueling stations in southern California.

Sprint ($250,000 DOE investment): Headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas, Sprint will deploy fuel cell-powered backup power systems for rooftop telecommunications equipment. The project will demonstrate modular and lightweight fuel cell systems that can be easily installed without heavy cranes and can be refueled from the ground -- overcoming the need for transporting fuel to rooftops. Air Products, Altergy Systems, Burns & McDonnell Engineering Inc., CommScope Inc., First Element Energy LLC, IGX Group, Inc. and ReliOn Inc. will also participate in this project.