Fuel Cell Technologies Office: 2016 Recap and the Year Ahead

January 18, 2017

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Dear friends and supporters of the Energy Department’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office,

As 2017 begins, I’d like to offer our congratulations to all involved for the outstanding program accomplishments during the past year. Thank you for your dedication and efforts.

Historic Time in Fuel Cell Commercialization

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) enabled a cumulative 580+ patents and 30 technologies in the market and another 75 technologies anticipated to be commercial in the next 3 to 5 years.

Toyota and Hyundai have sold or leased more than 1,100 fuel cell cars in the United States through late 2016, and Honda has just released its commercial fuel cell vehicle featuring a 366-mile driving range and needing only a few minutes to fuel. More than 25 hydrogen fueling stations are online in California and plans are underway for several to be opened soon in the Northeast.

Our Program’s latest Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report shows:

  • 60,000 fuel cells were shipped worldwide in 2015 totaling more than 300 MW of fuel cell capacity; that’s twice as much capacity as in 2014!

With so much DOE-supported activity in the last year, only a few of our highlights are summarized below. More can be seen in the 1,000+ pages of our Annual Progress Report.

Program Highlights

  • H2@ Scale: Developed the H2@ Scale “Big Idea” concept with DOE National Laboratories showcasing the potential for hydrogen across sectors—enabling renewables and nuclear, energy storage, and grid services, as well as transportation and industrial applications. Our recent workshop, Request for Information, and analysis will pave the way for future efforts.
  • Consortia to Accelerate Materials Innovation: Established three new consortia with state-of-the-art capabilities and lab expertise to accelerate the development of breakthrough materials—ElectroCat, HyMARC, and HydroGEN—and continued to leverage the FC-PAD consortium to enable progress in fuel cell performance and durability.
  • Advanced Technology Hydrogen Station in Washington, D.C.: Opened a cutting-edge technology hydrogen fueling demonstration station in D.C. in partnership with the National Park Service, responding to a long-time request by all major automakers to bring hydrogen fueling to the nation’s capital. See the DOE Mannequin Challenge!
  • World’s First Commercial Fuel Cell Cars at Federal Agencies: Began using the world’s first commercial fuel cell electric vehicles at DOE and the National Park Service in routine government operations and for outreach, demonstrating the technology across the government and the surrounding region.
  • HFC NEXUS and Supply Chain Development: Established four regional Technical Exchange Centers to collect and categorize regional hydrogen and fuel cell information and conduct workshops to enable a robust supply base. Set up a nationwide online business-to-business directory, HFCNEXUS.com, to help suppliers connect with buyers.
  • H2USA: Surpassed 50 partners in H2USA and supported H2USA with National Lab experts, creating station rollout scenarios and tools to enable infrastructure plans.
  • National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day: Reached half a million people through numerous outreach activities and a National Press Club event, highlighting October 8 to commemorate the atomic weight of hydrogen (1.008), the simplest and most abundant element in the universe.

Additional Accomplishments in the Past Year… Just a Few Examples

Research & Development

  • Achieved a world record of 16% efficiency in direct photoelectrochemical hydrogen conversion using III-V semiconductor tandem devices.
  • Demonstrated, for the first time, the simultaneous binding of two hydrogen molecules to a single metal site in a porous material, opening the door to significantly enhanced hydrogen adsorption capacity and increased vehicle range at a reduced cost.
  • Demonstrated the first ever liquefaction breakthrough from room temperature through magnetocaloric materials applicable to hydrogen.
  • Developed an 875 bar stationary pressure vessel design, which received approval by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
  • Developed innovative sensor technologies to detect hydrogen contaminants and sense hydrogen leaks.
  • Developed a membrane electrode assembly made with a new platinum-cobalt catalyst that achieved a catalyst-specific power of 6.9 kW/gPGM, meeting DOE 2016 targets.
  • Developed improved nanofiber-supported fuel cell membranes that meet almost all DOE 2020 membrane targets.
  • Developed and demonstrated manufacturing quality control technology, detecting defects at web line speeds of up to 100 ft/min; now transferring technique to commercialization partner.

Demonstrations and Enabling Market Penetration

  • Achieved more than 23,000 hours of fuel cell operation in buses, far exceeding the 2016 fuel cell bus target of 18,000 hours.
  • Demonstrated the world's first zero emissions electric generator for on and off board ship auxiliary power in collaboration with the U.S. Maritime Administration.
  • Completed data analysis for a total of 6.4 million miles of driving fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). See the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Fuel Cell Technical Evaluation Center (NFCTEC).
    • Demonstrated over 4,100 hours fuel cell durability for FCEVs, on track to meet 5,000 hour target by 2020, and average hydrogen fueling rates of 0.87 kg/minute plus fill times of 3.7 minutes.
  • Developed and deployed the Hydrogen Station Equipment Performance (HyStEP) testing device at three stations to validate operation as new stations come online. The open-source designs can now be used to accelerate deployment.
  • Completed the prototype designs for fuel cell range extender electric parcel delivery vans.
  • Added 20 retail stations to the existing 7 for a total of 27 stations currently participating in the Station Operational Status System (SOSS), an app that informs customers of station fueling availability.
  • Continued to update the materials contaminant database and an interactive material screening data tool to aid developers and material suppliers in determining contamination and performance impacts.
  • Released a quantitative risk assessment tool, Hydrogen Risk Assessment Model (HyRAM) version 1.0, for public use—a first-of-its-kind tool that meets a critical need in infrastructure rollout.
  • Selected the H-Prize H2Refuel finalist, demonstrating a small-scale home/community hydrogen fueler.
  • Reached over 36,000 code officials and first responders through our training material and the one-stop-shop online portal, H2Tools.org.

This year, tracking the most cited peer-reviewed publications across all of EERE shows that those supported by the EERE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) topped the list— 4 out of the top 10. Wu, More, Johnston, and Zelenay’s historic Science article on platinum group-metal-free catalysts had the most citations of all EERE-funded papers—more than twice as many as the nearest competitor.

In FY 2016, the Program published more than 130 success stories through news articles, blogs, press releases, and media announcements, and conducted 13 webinars, averaging more than 150 attendees per webinar. The FCTO monthly newsletter reached more than 15,000 subscribers.

Looking Ahead in 2017

As we move forward in 2017 and beyond, we continue our commitment to effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars and our mission to enable the widespread commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as part of DOE’s broad portfolio. Key plans include:

  • Launch H2@ Scale, including a strategic plan and roadmap.
  • Continue to strengthen the Energy Materials Network consortia—ElectroCat, HyMARC, and HydroGen—and increase emphasis on low-cost renewable hydrogen production.
  • Develop an infrastructure roadmap.
  • Create innovative technology transfer mechanisms to accelerate lab-generated innovation to commercialization partners and incentivize investor engagement.
  • Continue our strong analysis activities, as well as our manufacturing, safety, codes and standards, and technology acceleration efforts across the program.

Save the date for the DOE 2017 Annual Merit Review—June 5–9 in Washington, D.C.

Thank you again for your part in last year’s accomplishments and for your unwavering support. This is a critical time for hydrogen and fuel cells, and for all of us, if we want to continue commercial growth and impact. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your feedback or ideas. We look forward to working with you in the coming year and wish you a healthy, happy, and productive 2017!

—On behalf of the entire Fuel Cell Technologies Office

Sunita Satyapal
Fuel Cell Technologies Office