Celebrating Fuel Cell Day with Energy Department Support and New Northeastern Campaign

Hydrogen, Policy  /   /  By Jim Motavalli

National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day (October 8) is just concluded, and David Friedman, acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), says that in 2016 “we’re keeping the momentum going.”

Friedman is emphatic about the promise of fuel cells. “To be frank,” he said, “I’ve never seen a plausible path to cutting global warming pollution to the levels we need that did not include fuel-cell electric vehicles. And when hydrogen is produced from low-carbon sources, emissions could be reduced by more than 90 percent.”

Friedman added, “I believe that is one of the key reasons almost every major automaker is actively pursuing hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. And that’s why, after working in the field of hydrogen and fuel cells for a quarter of a century, I believe we may be on the verge of a tipping point and it is truly exciting!”

Sunita Satyapal is the director of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office at EERE, and she told FuelCellCars.com that the DOE will invest a further $30 million to advance fuel-cell technology. The funding will support the Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat) to advance less-expensive catalysts without platinum (such as cobalt and iron); HydroGEN Consortium to accelerate hydrogen production at lower costs; and the Hydrogen Materials-Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC) to address “unsolved scientific challenges” in solid-state hydrogen storage.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Satyapal said. “Platinum is expensive, and we’ve cut the amount in fuel cells 50 percent since 2007, with quadruple the durability. The cars are out commercially, and they’re viable technically—there have been great advances in cost and performance.”

Satyapal said there are now 23 retail hydrogen stations open in California, and more than 50 in various states of development (with plans for 100).

At FuelCellWorks, David Friedman cites this progress:

  • Just last year, Hyundai and Toyota both introduced their fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) for commercial sale, and several auto manufacturers including Honda, GM, Daimler and BMW are working toward their commercial production in the near term.
  • In California, hydrogen is a fueling option at more than 20 retail gas stations and there are plans for several fueling stations to be opened soon in the Northeast U.S.
  • The Energy Department has helped fund the deployment of more than 1,600 fuel cells in forklifts, and as emergency power for cell phone towers. The success of these installations has led to the deployment of an additional 18,000 fuel cells without DOE funding.
  • A new hydrogen refueling demonstration station opened for the first-ever government FCEV fleet in Washington, D.C.
  • Federal Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funds have enabled more than 580 patents, and more than 40 commercial technologies have entered the market.
  • We’ve also been conducting the world’s largest independent FCEV validation project of its kind. We’ve independently collected data from more than 220 FCEVs that have traveled six million miles.
  • DOE-funded research has cut the projected high-volume cost of automotive fuel cells 50 percent and quadrupled the life of a fuel cell since 2007.

Friedman also notes the 2013 launch of the public-private collaboration H2USA, which has 50 members—including federal agencies and national labs, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA), hydrogen providers and fuel-cell developers.

To further promote hydrogen, the Washington-based FCHEA launched a new promotional campaign and the website Zeroemissions.org. According to Morry Markowitz, president of FCHEA, the purpose of the campaign is to “piggy back on the successful launch of the vehicles sold in California—doubling to four in 2017 with the addition of Honda and Mercedes-Benz—and help pave the way for possibly having vehicles in the Northeast.”

Markowitz said Boston and New York are the immediate targets outside California, with Washington (which just opened a new hydrogen station) close behind. Toyota and Air Liquide are planning 12 hydrogen stations in the Northeast. “The timing of the campaign, which aims to inform key stakeholders of the advantages of this transformational technology, could not be any more appropriate,” Markowitz said.

Satyapal cited the consortium of seven Northeast states (plus California) that aims to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025 as a catalyst to build infrastructure for zero-emission hydrogen. The other states are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

FCHEA celebrated National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day with Toyota as a partner, bringing the Mirai to the Taste of D.C. event. Toyota and FCHEA also co-sponsored a Capital to Capital Tour, driving a Mirai from Washington to Richmond, Virginia and Annapolis, Maryland.

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