Fuel Cell Technologies Office: 2017 Recap and Year Ahead

January 16, 2018

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Dear Friends of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Fuel Cell Technologies Office,

As 2018 begins, I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year and offer our congratulations to all involved for the outstanding program accomplishments during the past year. Thank you for your tireless efforts, dedication, and passion for hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. Many of your efforts contributed to the following.

Program Impact

Based on 2017 analysis, our funding through the Office of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has enabled:

  • A cumulative 650+ U.S. patents granted in hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
  • Roughly 30 technologies that were commercialized by industry, such as electrolyzers and various components for hydrogen and fuel cell systems, and approximately 75 innovations and technologies, that could be commercial within the next few years, all traced back to the impact of EERE funds.
  • Three R&D 100 Awards granted in 2017 covering sensors, metal joining, and platinum group metal (PGM)-free catalysts.

Commercialization by Private Sector

While we focus on early-stage R&D, we rely on the private sector for commercialization and deployment, and we've seen significant progress. Our Program's 2017 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, capturing 2016 data, shows:

  • For the first time in history, fuel cell shipments reached half a gigawatt in one year—500 MW of fuel cell power and 62,000 fuel cell systems shipped worldwide.
  • Nearly tripled growth in the transportation sector—attributed to fuel cell light-duty vehicles.
  • Industry revenues in the emerging fuel cell industry topped $1.6 billion in just one year.

By the end of 2017, roughly 3,500 fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) had been sold or leased in the United States to the general public, and there are now more than 30 public retail stations in use. Industry launched new applications such as heavy-duty trucks and created the Hydrogen Council, now with over 20 global company CEOs committed to move the industry forward. Its roadmap cites the potential for $2.5 trillion in revenues and 30 million jobs globally by 2050.

Program Highlights

  • H2@ Scale:
    • Launched the H2@ Scale initiative, assessed resource potential across the United States, and selected 25 projects through our national lab consortium that leverage private sector and state funding.
    • Designed a world-class high temperature electrolysis laboratory and demonstrated the potential to achieve a modeled cost of $2/kg for hydrogen from solid oxide electrolysis.
    • Demonstrated sub-second response times and real-time simulation of the grid through a first-of-a-kind capability linking Idaho National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • H2Refuel H-Prize: Awarded SimpleFuel the winner of the $1 million prize for a home hydrogen fueling appliance using just electricity and water to refuel fuel cell cars at home.
  • L'Innovator: Successfully launched the "L'Innovator" pilot program (stands for 'lab innovator') to transition national lab innovations to the private sector.
  • Energy Materials Network (EMN) Consortia: Strengthened early-stage R&D through three EMN consortia (ElectroCat, HydroGEN, and HyMARC), making unique national lab capabilities more accessible.
  • FCEV and DC Hydrogen Station Outreach and Events:
    • Secretary Perry drove the FCEV on loan to DOE, Principal Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons did a Facebook Live fueling, former Secretary Chu gave a keynote at the Electrochemical Society meeting and was driven to the event in an FCEV, and the Smithsonian museum showcased our FCEVs, reaching many thousands in total.
    • In 2017, the Program published more than 85 success stories through news articles, blogs, press releases, and media announcements and conducted 15 webinars with over 1,500 attendees. Subscriptions to our monthly newsletter rose to nearly 17,000.

Additional Accomplishments in the Past Year… Just a Few Examples

Research and Development

  • Exceeded the fuel cell catalyst specific power target of 0.2 kW per gram of PGM, through innovative catalyst R&D.
  • Developed and demonstrated a completely innovative compression consolidation strategy that could reduce fueling station cost by 40%, now receiving significant industry interest.
  • Demonstrated a ~30% increase in total hydrogen produced from the fermentation of biomass feedstock with genetic microengineering of microbes.
  • Enabled a potential for 25% lower hydrogen pipeline installation cost by developing materials used in the modification of the ASME B31.12 Code for Hydrogen Piping and Pipelines.
  • Delivered a prototype of an alane solid-state hydrogen system to the Navy, based upon success of early R&D on hydrogen storage.
  • Conducted critical modeling and research to inform code officials on hydrogen use in tunnels and enable rollout of infrastructure.
  • Enabled a modified hydrogen metrology standard of 5% through collaboration with the National Institute for Standards and Technology, which now allows for commercial sale of hydrogen at public fueling stations.
  • Partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation, validated fuel cell bus durability of 25,000 hours, meeting our 2020 target.
  • Enabled new applications including pier-side power in marine applications and medium-duty cargo trucks through early-stage design development and testing to guide future R&D.
  • Completed significant expansion of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Nexus website, adding more than 350 companies, as well as matchmaking capabilities to jump start a domestic supply base.

Looking Ahead in 2018

As we move forward into 2018, we continue our commitment to effective stewardship of taxpayer dollars and our efforts to enable the widespread commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as part of DOE's broad portfolio. Priorities include:

  • H2@ Scale and enabling infrastructure through R&D and private sector collaborations:
    • Continue support of foundational R&D and comprehensive analysis as part of our national lab-private sector consortium.
    • Gather stakeholder input on how we can reduce regulatory barriers to enabling the widespread deployment of hydrogen and fuel cells, in coordination with other agencies.
    • Develop regional strategies and a national blueprint for H2@ Scale.
    • Continue to work on critical technologies such as materials, as well as liquefaction, enabling larger, lower-cost liquid stations; and address safety, codes and standards through the required early-stage R&D.
  • Energy Materials Network Consortia:
    • Increase emphasis on consortia to accelerate the outcomes from early-stage R&D to meet DOE targets. Focus areas include PGM-free catalysts, advanced water splitting, and hydrogen storage materials, including hydrogen carriers.

Save the date for our 2018 Annual Merit Review, June 13–15, in Washington D.C. For the first time, we will have multiple DOE offices and multiple agencies presenting their work related to hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.

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. 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 2018!

– On behalf of the entire Fuel Cell Technologies Office

Dr. Sunita Satyapal
Fuel Cell Technologies Office
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
U.S. Department of Energy