Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell vehicle at Camp Pendleton hydrogen fueling station, photo by Joe TashEnlarge Photo
President Obama might have promised to buy a plug-in Chevrolet Volt when he leaves office, but that doesn’t mean the Obama administration has forgotten about other alternative fuel cars.
On Thursday last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $6 million fund which it hopes to use to gain real-world performance data on light-duty hydrogen fuel cell cars and trucks.
According to its own website, the DoE is now inviting applications from companies and institutions willing to design and implement real-world test programs for hydrogen fuel cell cars.
Under the rather small-scale scheme, research participants will be expected to monitor the performance and durability of advanced fuel cell electric vehicles for a period of up to 5 years.
Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE HybridEnlarge Photo
Any data collected will then be shared with the Hydrogen Secure Data Center at the DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for analysis.
In exchange, the DoE will fund research participants with up to 50 percent of the total research cost, at an expected cost of between $500,000 to $2 million per project.
Importantly, the $6 million fund will not cover research and development of new fuel cell vehicles. Instead, it will focus exclusively on the everyday use of fuel-cell vehicles already in limited production or development from major automakers.
It's also important to note that while the call for participants marks at least some interest in hydrogen fuel cell technology, the $5 million allocation indicates it is viewed by the Obama administration as being much less important than plug-in and hybrid vehicle technology.
But while hydrogen fuel cell technology looks to be making a comeback in popularity, don’t expect to see many hydrogen fuel cell cars to be affordable any time soon.
Last year, Toyota admitted the 2015 hydrogen fuel cell car it plans to bring to market would have to retail for around $110,000 -- not the $50,000 it promised just 18 months earlier.