Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman kicked off the Washington Auto Show with the announcement of $119 million in funding and a research “roadmap” aimed at identifying and overcoming the technical and manufacturing challenges associated with the further development of commercially available hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The goal of developing clean, hydrogen fuel vehicles is part of the Bush Administration’s ongoing effort to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“Investments in fuel cell and hydrogen research today will enable America to lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles that will reduce our dependence on imported oil,” said Secretary Bodman. “This funding will help overcome technical barriers and bring hydrogen and fuel cell technology from the laboratory to the showroom.”
Secretary Bodman announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $100 million over four years for research projects seeking to improve fuel cell membranes, water transport within the stack, advanced cathode catalysts and supports, cell hardware, innovative fuel cell concepts, and effects of impurities on fuel cell performance and durability. Through this investment, DOE seeks to improve performance and to lower cost of these technologies by 2010. Further information, research specifications, and application information for interested nonprofit and for-profit private entities, institutes of higher education and state and local governments and government laboratories are available at the DoE website.
In addition, Secretary Bodman announced the selection of 12 competitively awarded, cost-shared projects that will receive $19 million in federal funding over five years for polymer membrane research ($19 million in federal funding; $4.75 million in applicant cost sharing). The membrane is an integral part of a hydrogen fuel cell system and is important in using hydrogen to create electricity that can power a vehicle. The goal of this research is to advance membrane durability and extend shelf-life, while simultaneously bringing down the cost.
Selected organizations include: Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; Giner Electrochemical Systems, Newton, MA; University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN; Case Western Reserve University (two projects), Cleveland, OH; FuelCell Energy, Danbury, CT; Clemson University, Clemson, SC; General Electric (GE Global Research), Niskayuna, NY; Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.
To identify the research and development (R&D) challenges that must be further addressed, Secretary Bodman also unveiled DOE’s Roadmap on Manufacturing R&D for the Hydrogen Economy. The 80-page document addresses challenges to manufacturing, storage and production of fuel cell technologies and proposes R&D solutions to overcome such challenges, focusing primarily on near commercial technologies. The Roadmap is based on the results of a July, 2005 hydrogen workshop made up of hydrogen and fuel cell experts from industry, universities, and national laboratories.
While hydrogen fuel cell technology has the potential to dramatically reduce vehicle emissions as well as America’s dependence on foreign oil, barriers to commercialization continue to exist. Namely, hydrogen fuel cell technologies are significantly more expensive than traditional combustion engines and face challenges in energy storage and durability. Both the Roadmap and $119 million in funding announced today seek to address these challenges over the next ten years with the goal of making vehicles powered by hydrogen available in showrooms by 2020.
Today’s announcement is part of the $1.2 billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative announced by President Bush, in the 2003 State of the Union Address. This initiative has the potential to reverse America’s growing dependence on foreign oil by developing the technology needed for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells – a way to power cars, trucks, homes, and businesses that produces no pollution and no greenhouse gases. Through partnerships with the private sector, DOE’s Hydrogen Program is working to develop hydrogen, fuel cell, and infrastructure technologies needed to make it practical and cost-effective for large numbers of Americans to choose to use fuel cell vehicles by 2020.