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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