Fuel Cell Research Continues: DoE Seeks Viability Feedback

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Like many of the paths towards improving the ways in which we use energy and reducing our dependency on oil, hydrogen fuel cells have their plus and minus points.

To find out just how feasible fuel cells are, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has issued a request for information (RFI) to seek feedback into the commercial readiness of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.

Green Car Congress reports that the RFI isn't yet a funding opportunity announcement, but positive feedback could well lead to funds becoming available - similar to the current DoE loans for developing advanced vehicle technologies.

It's also important to note at this stage, that the research into fuel cells isn't specifically limited to passenger car powertrains, such as you'd find in the Honda FCX Clarity.

The wider interest includes auxiliary power units, like those used in refridgerated vehicles, to replace current diesel generators. Likewise, fuel cell fork-lift trucks are currently in development, and refuelling stations at distribution centers ensure the usual issue of low hydrogen availability is avoided.

The DoE is also looking into fuel cell systems for light and heavy duty trucks, to supplement a mainly battery-run system. These fuel cells would be relatively small and require only a small quantity of hydrogen. The concept appears to suggest using them as a range-extender to a battery.

This too would alleviate some of the concerns about lack of infrastructure, as theoretically, smaller amounts of hydrogen would be required, and less frequently.

We'll have to wait and see whether anything comes of the DoE's information request, but if it eventually leads to another DoE funding scheme then it could be just what hydrogen needs to become a more viable option for future transport.


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Comments (7)
  1. Hydrogen, what hydrogen? Two reason EVs are better, they are easier to build and fuel. They may be slow to charge now but that will soon change. And as for building them, if you have enough know how you can build one at home.

  2. EV's are better??? Better than what... hydrogen or fuel cells? Fuel cells are EV's, and you won't beat hydrogen on emissions and/or flexibility with batteries if that is your point.

    There is enough room for everyone to play in. Why do you feel you have to hog it all?

  3. Well, here are three potential lines of argument: (1) There's no hydrogen distribution infrastructure, and as GM found out, it requires changing local zoning codes and then $1-2 million per station, with a minimum national coverage of 15K stations IF they can be ideally located; (2) It's more efficient to use the energy you spend making H2 to run a vehicle directly than to make & transport H2 and then use it in a fuel cell to power a vehicle; and (3) the wells-to-wheels carbon balance of hydrogen is highly dubious against electric cars UNLESS you can make it all from renewables(because it takes so MUCH energy to split H2 from more complex molecules)--and if you can, see # 2.

  4. Part 1

    Are you arguing fuel cells or hydrogen? That is what I was asking CDspeed. BTW, the article is fine. Just commenting on CDspeed's post.

    1. Sure there is... gas lines/pipes - the 1.5 million miles entering homes and providing natural gas. Only the fittings and valves need to be changed for hydrogen.

    2. Again, are you arguing fuel cells or hydrogen? If you don't like fuel cells, fine. Don't knock hydrogen for it. Hydrogen -- it can be made on demand, on site. The choice then is whether to use it for fuel cells or IC motors/engines.

    3. Then you must hate Tesla Roadsters, because the same process you are alleging to makes your carbon fiber to make your light electric cars. :D The hydrogen comes off before the carbon. ;)

  5. Part 2

    Hydrogen vehicles are NEV's or CEV's, "negative emissions vehicles" or "clean emissions vehicles". When hydrogen is entered into an ICM/E, the exhaust is cleaner than the air entering the intake. That's something EV's can't do - clean up the air.

    Later... ball is in your court.

  6. Just Google hydrogen fuel cell batteries and look at the advancements they have made. GM has had a hydrogen fuel cell battery on wheels now for close to a decade but stored it on the shelf because they wanted to stay with ICE. Hydrogen batteries can already replace lithium batteries and cost a fraction of the cost of lithium and probably get 3 to 4 times the distance. Hydrogen fuel cell batteries are ideal for electric cars.

  7. Hydrogen fuel cells are fuel cells, not batteries, just so we are clear.

    Fuel cells require hydrogen storage and refueling. They cannot be recharged, they need to be refilled with hydrogen.

    I'm not saying they are bad, but they are not batteries.

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