A fuel cell electric vehicle is refueled with hydrogen at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado. The H2 Refuel H-Prize is challenging America’s innovators to develop systems that make it easier and more convenient to fuel hydrogen vehicles. | Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Just as charging your electric vehicle at home or place of work is becoming more widely available to the American consumer, what about bringing other fuels to this market? Many gaseous fuels, including propane for your grill and compressed gases at paintball parties, are safe and popular, and millions of homes have natural gas safely and conveniently available for cooking, clothes dryers, fire places, and furnaces.

Even home fueling of your natural gas vehicle is now possible for consumers who can’t easily access a natural gas fueling station. The H2 Refuel H-Prize is challenging America’s innovators to develop systems that make it just as easy to fuel hydrogen powered vehicles, using energy sources delivered to most homes and businesses (electricity and natural gas).

The H-Prize is intended to incentivize researchers and entrepreneurs to think outside the box on topics related to hydrogen.  Because hydrogen used in a fuel cell produces only water, electricity and heat, there are absolutely no other emissions and power can be safely and efficiently produced for a huge range of applications ranging from portable power to charge your laptop and cell phone, to large stationary power plants as well as buses, cars, and forklifts.

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are now available for lease in limited regions both in the United States and in other countries and major automakers have announced plans for the commercial sales, whetting the appetite of consumers.

And consumers are interested. FCEVs take only a few minutes to refuel and can travel 300 miles between re-fueling (one FCEV was even validated by DOE to be capable of driving up to 430 miles on a single fill) and they have great performance—with zero emissions from the tailpipe. Even though states like California have plans to build many hydrogen stations or add hydrogen dispensers to existing gasoline stations, this will take time. If early consumers can make their own fuel to refuel their car, they don’t need to worry about the distance to the nearest hydrogen station.

To help connect consumers to hydrogen fuel, the H2 Refuel H-Prize is offering a $1 million prize to the winner of a competition to design and demonstrate small scale systems for on-site hydrogen generation and dispensing that can be used in locations like homes, community centers, or businesses for fueling vehicles. Small scale hydrogen production systems using either water electrolysis or natural gas reforming have been demonstrated before but meeting all the H2 Refuel criteria for fueling, capacity, pressure and cost, to name a few, has still not been demonstrated. Hence the H2 Refuel H-Prize: teams will have two years to design, build, and demonstrate a system that will be independently validated to meet the criteria described in the H2 Refuel H-Prize Final Guidelines Federal Register Notice. The Energy Department is working with the Hydrogen Energy Foundation, which is the administrator of the H-Prize. 

Whether you just want to find out what’s happening with the competition, read the full guidelines, or ask questions, visit hydrogenprize.org to learn more. If you’re interested in finding others to team up with, you’ll find a place post your information. If you just want to follow the action, registered teams will be able post information and updates.

Sunita Satyapal
Sunita Satyapal is the Director of EERE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.
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