The greatest innovations in the world can only have so much impact on a laboratory bench. It’s crucial to bring new ideas out into the world to demonstrate their power. Henry Ford famously said that if he had simply asked his customers what they wanted, “they would have said a faster horse.” It wasn’t until Americans saw firsthand what automobiles could do that they began to demand them and change the face of transportation forever.
Today, a new generation of transportation pioneers is hard at work reshaping transportation through the development of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs. The benefits of the technology are clear. They can fuel in just minutes for a more than 300 mile driving range. You never need to change the oil. And, other than water, they offer completely zero emissions from the tailpipe with no compromise in performance. Because a fuel cell can be more than twice as efficient as an internal combustion engine, you can get much farther on a tank of hydrogen than with a tank of gasoline. (And the journey will be much quieter along the way!)
The technology has made enormous strides over the past several years, with the cost of hydrogen fuel cells dropping by 50% since 2006 with the help of research and development efforts backed by our office and our collaborations with industry partners. That’s why nearly every major automaker is now actively pursuing the development of FCEVs.
But we still have a long way to go in addressing the fundamental challenge of building out a robust national infrastructure to enable the growth of this technology. A critical step in advancing deployment and access to FCEVs involves educating stakeholders – from potential customers and first responders to station owners and permitting officials – on the benefits of hydrogen power as a fuel. That’s why the Department of Energy (DOE) is proud to partner with the Department of Interior’s National Park Service on launching a new technology demonstration hydrogen refueling station in our nation’s capital, where we can highlight the benefits of the technology firsthand throughout the region.
I was proud to attend the official opening of the station today, along with a range of dignitaries and partners from the National Park Service and industry, including several key automakers. This collaboration will showcase cutting-edge hydrogen generation technology and provide opportunities to demonstrate FCEVs at federal agencies and throughout the surrounding region. The station is supported by Proton OnSite – an innovative company based in Connecticut that manufactures hydrogen generators and other gas products – and their corporate partners SunHydro and Air Products. The station incorporates DOE-funded electrolysis technology advancements.
As part of a $1.4 million DOE-funded award made to Proton OnSite in 2012, this station will produce roughly 30 kilograms of hydrogen per day – for some perspective, that can fuel roughly six cars per day for an approximate 300-mile driving range each.
Several automakers who are key partners in our H2USA partnership also plan to provide FCEVs that may be used for demonstrations and for use by federal agencies, to help us truly set an example for the power of hydrogen.
My hope is that the opening of this facility is just one milestone on the path to a more sustainable future – one in which the opening of a new hydrogen station is just another ordinary day.
To learn more, visit the homepage of our Fuel Cell Technologies Office.