On July 7 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $36 million from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO) to fund 19 projects to advance next-generation clean hydrogen technologies.

Topic Area 1A: Fuel Cell R&D for Heavy-Duty Applications—Low-Cost, Durable Bipolar Plates

Fully Unitized Fuel Cell Manufactured by a Continuous Process

Plug Power, Inc. (Latham, New York) will leverage their domestic manufacturing facilities located in Rochester, New York, to develop a novel bipolar plate assembly compatible with continuous, roll-to-roll, manufacturing methods. This three-year project, carried out in conjunction with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, focuses on high throughput methods for large format (400 cm2) heavy duty fuel cells. Advanced cell voltage measurement capabilities are harnessed to enhance cell/stack performance and health monitoring. These manufacturing and monitoring developments are expected to significantly advance the state of the art for large format heavy duty PEM fuel cell stacks.

DOE Funding: $1,838,486; Non-DOE Funding: $480,000; Total Value: $2,318,486

Development of Low Cost, Thin Flexible Graphite Bipolar Plates for Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Applications

Neograf Solutions, LLC (Lakewood, Ohio) will team with Ballard Power Systems to develop next-generation, flexible, and economic graphite-based bipolar plates for heavy-duty fuel cell applications capable of meeting DOE durability and cost targets. This three-year project targets a significant cost reduction for bipolar plates, along with a lifetime of 25,000 hours,  which represents a significant step toward DOE's 2030 truck system cost and durability targets.

DOE Funding: $1,643,157; Non-DOE Funding: $410,789; Total Value: $2,053,946

Fuel Cell Bipolar Plate Technology Development for Heavy Duty Applications

General Motors, LLC (Pontiac, Michigan) will partner with Penn State University and Northern Illinois University to yield a comprehensive manufacturing solution for bipolar plates capable of meeting DOE 2030 cost, performance, and durability targets. By focusing on ferritic stainless steel stamping, coating, and welding over the course of the three-year project, this team aims to demonstrate the potential for 25,000-hour durability with low performance degradation via low-cost metal bipolar plates.

DOE Funding: $1,998,642; Non-DOE Funding: $773,400; Total Value: $2,772,042

Development and Manufacturing of Precious Metal Free Metal Bipolar Plate Coatings for PEM Fuel Cells

TreadStone Technologies, Inc. (Princeton, New Jersey) teams with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as well as the University of Tennessee to develop an economic and durable plate coating for proton-exchange membrane fuel cell bipolar plates. The team, working closely with Austin Power Engineering, will target materials processing and coating approaches to produce low-cost metal bipolar plates tested against the accelerated stress tests developed by the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck (M2FCT) consortium. Upon conclusion of this three-year project, TreadStone will deliver ten sets of bipolar plates for testing and validation by M2FCT members.

DOE Funding: $1,415,162; Non-DOE Funding: $353,950; Total Value: $1,769,112

Low-Cost Corrosion-Resistant Coated Aluminum Bipolar Plates by Elevated Temperature Formation and Diffusion Bonding

Raytheon Technologies Research Center (East Hartford, Connecticut) teams with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and TreadStone Technologies to fabricate a defect-free low-cost corrosion-resistant coated aluminum for use as bipolar plates in fuel cells by developing a low-cost manufacturing process that combines diffusion bonding of corrosion-resistant material, elevated temperature forming of the aluminum sheet, and TreadStone's proprietary DOT coating process. This three-year project will progress this technology from proof-of-concept to the fabrication of a full-size bipolar plate test article that meets the DOE cost and technical targets for bipolar plates for heavy-duty fuel cell applications.

DOE Funding: $1,252,404; Non-DOE Funding: $313,102; Total Value: $1,565,506

Topic Area 1B: Fuel Cell R&D for Heavy-Duty Applications—Innovative, Low-Cost Air Management Components

Leveraging ICE Air System Technology for Fuel Cell System Cost Reduction

Caterpillar, Inc. (Mossville, Illinois) along with partners Ballard Power Systems and Borg Warner will produce a 350-kW fuel cell air system that may be scaled to 1,000 kW and is suitable for a wide variety of heavy-duty fuel cell applications. This three-year project focuses on the development of an efficient electrically driven centrifugal compressor expander system that meets or exceeds DOE efficiency, cost, reliability, durability, volume, and weight targets. Targeted applications include trucks, buses, construction and mining equipment, marine, and rail.

DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $500,000; Total Value: $2,500,000

High Efficiency and Transient Air Systems for Affordable Load-Following Heavy-Duty Truck Fuel Cells

Eaton Corporation (Southfield, Michigan) teams with Ballard Fuel Cell Systems and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop an efficient and highly durable Roots-type fuel cell air system. This air system will be capable of less than two-second response times and wide turndown ratios, ideal characteristics for rapid response to changing driving conditions for heavy-duty fuel cell transport applications. This 30-month project concludes with a system demonstration coupled to a test cell for metric verification and component validation.

DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $1,691,311; Total Value: $3,691,311

Foil Bearing Supported Compressor-Expander

R&D Dynamics Corporation (Bloomfield, Connecticut) builds on decades of development in high-speed compressor systems and turbomachinery to produce an air foil bearing based centrifugal compressor-expander system, which eliminates the risk of cathode catalyst contamination from oil-based bearing lubricants. The team, partnering with Loop Energy for fuel cell operating parameters, combines precision machining with high efficiency direct current permanent magnet motors and state of the art silicon carbide switching power electronics to yield a compressor-expander system capable of meeting and exceeding DOE performance and cost targets at the conclusion of the 30-month project.

DOE Funding: $1,600,000; Non-DOE Funding: $320,000; Total Value: $1,920,000

Durable and Efficient Centrifugal-Based Filtered Air Management System and Optimized BOP

Mahle Powertrain, LLC (Plymouth, Michigan) is a U.S. subsidiary of Mahle, GmbH, a leading global automotive component manufacturer specializing in automotive filtration and control systems. Mahle Powertrain builds on an international network and teams with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, GM Propulsion Systems, Navistar, and Adaptive Energy over this 30-month development effort focused on a novel water-lubricated 3D bearing at the center of a centrifugal compressor expander system for a heavy-duty fuel cell air system. The team intends to demonstrate the viability of the proposed water-lubricated bearing and to develop additional techniques for enhancing stack lifetime and durability via improved cleanliness of the air delivered to the fuel cell stack.

DOE Funding: $1,600,000; Non-DOE Funding: $400,000; Total Value: $2,000,000

Topic Area 2A: Manufacturing Techniques to Produce Advanced Components, Stacks, Subsystems, and Systems for Multi-MW-Scale High Temperature Electrolyzers at Large Production Volumes

Low-Cost Manufacturing of High Temperature Electrolysis Stacks

NexTech Materials, Ltd. (Lewis Center, Ohio) builds on their established solid oxide cell format and materials subset to develop stacks capable of meeting a DOE hydrogen production cost target of $2/kg H2. Reduction in stack capital costs to less than $100/kW is targeted through a combination of high production volume-compatible cell/stack manufacturing and assembly advances including 25% thinner cells with up to 100% greater cell active areas, as well as a reduction in the number of components in a stack repeat unit from nine to three. At the conclusion of the three-year project, testing and validation of the final (ca. 14 kW) electrolyzer stack, based on manufacturing advances made in this project, will occur at Idaho National Laboratory. Collaboration with Strategic Analysis will incorporate the validated stack performance and manufacturing costs to develop a future path toward a further 50% stack cost reduction at large manufacturing scales.

DOE Funding: $3,333,257; Non-DOE Funding: $833,316; Total Value: $4,166,573

Automation of Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cell (SOEC) and Stack Assembly

Cummins, Inc. (Milpitas, California) builds upon its established  thermal spray deposition process that is well suited for high-volume SOEC fabrication. The project leverages recent developments in additive manufacturing and automated quality control and assembly to support the automated production of metal-supported solid oxide stacks, with a reduction in costly sintering requirements and a 50% reduction in the quantity of seals required. This three-year project will result in the automated assembly of a 60 kW prototype solid oxide electrolyzer cell stack with low direct labor input, increased cell throughput, and a 100% quality control check. The automated production line created will establish a 94 MW/yr electrolyzer production capacity.

DOE Funding: $5,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $2,165,181; Total Value: $7,165,181

Topic Area 2B: Innovative Hydrogen Production from Biomass Waste Streams

Novel Microbial Electrolysis System for Conversion of Biowastes into Low-Cost Renewable Hydrogen

Southern Company Services, Inc. (Birmingham, Alabama) will de-risk, develop, and demonstrate a high-efficiency and low-cost renewable H2 generation system, while diverting food/organic wastes through fermentation and microbial electrolysis processes. Final deliverables include demonstration of a 1 m3 integrated pilot system capable of converting raw food waste into 99.999% pure H2 with 40% yield enabling a path to $2/kg H2 production. Partners include Electro-Active Technologies, Inc. and T2M Global with expertise in bioprocessing, waste and biomass to bioenergy conversion and engineering of bioelectrochemical systems, and Wegmans as a potential end user supplying food waste.

DOE Funding: $997,897; Non-DOE Funding: $485,000; Total Value: $1,482,897

Novel Microbial Electrolysis Cell Design for Efficient Hydrogen Generation from Wastewaters

Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania) puts forward an innovative microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) concept that effectively addresses important barriers to the current state-of-the-art, such as diffusion limitations and localized low pH environments that have limited performance and durability of previous MEC designs. The innovative cell design facilitates efficient ion transfer, reduces the need for expensive corrosion-resistant materials, and targets a hydrogen production rate of 20 LH2/Reactor-day in a 100 cm2 MEC with real wastewater feedstock. Working with Island Water Technologies for scale up and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for fermentation aspects, this three-year project leverages previous microbial fuel cell (MFC) and MEC work to demonstrate the use of AEM as solid electrolyte MFC to both mitigate wastewater management and produce hydrogen at a low cost with a pathway toward $2/kg-H2.

DOE Funding: $1,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $250,000; Total Value: $1,250,000

Topic 3A: Domestic Supply Chain for High-Flow Hydrogen Fueling Stations

Advanced High Throughput Compression System for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Transportation

Czero, Inc. (Fort Collins, Colorado), in collaboration with PDC Machines and Argonne National Laboratory, will develop a diaphragm compressor capable of delivering hydrogen at 600 kg/h, more than ten times faster than the current state-of-the-art. This will be done at 1,000 bar to support fast fill applications and will be tested at a pilot customer’s site. Innovations will include hydraulic actuation and valve optimization to enable flexible operation (i.e., high turndown ratio) and modularity. These concepts are expected to enable efficient operation, faster maintenance, and scalability. 

DOE Funding: $2,729,167; Non-DOE Funding: $700,000; Total Value: $3,429,167

Cost-Effective Pre-Cooling for High-Flow Hydrogen Fueling

Gas Technology Institute (Des Plaines, Illinois) will develop a multi-stage 200-kW hydrogen chiller to pre-cool hydrogen to -40°C with 50% less power than expected from conventional concepts. Innovations in this project include a two-stage ammonia/CO2 cycle that will achieve higher efficiency than conventional one-stage processes. This project will deliver a full-scale validated high-flow chiller design ready for manufacture and installation in a heavy-duty hydrogen fueling station with commercialization partner MyDax Inc.

DOE Funding: $1,998,186; Non-DOE Funding: $500,000; Total Value: $2,498,186

Autonomous Fueling System for Heavy-Duty Fuel Cell Electric Trucks

Nikola Corporation (Phoenix, Arizona) will develop and test a first-of-a-kind integrated autonomous fueling system for heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks optimized to ensure fast, efficient, and safe fueling of >80 kg-H2 in 15 minutes. The use of robotic equipment developed in this project is expected to ultimately expand design choices for fueling components. Additionally, the team will explore the use of sensors within the autonomous equipment to monitor station performance and leaks to allow for safer, more reliable operation. Nikola will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to evaluate the fully integrated system (robotics, sensors, and heavy-duty components) under weather conditions expected for widespread deployment across the continental United States.

DOE Funding: $2,010,214; Non-DOE Funding: $524,939; Total Value: $2,535,153

Topic Area 4: Cost and Performance Analysis for Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Production, and Hydrogen Storage

Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Production, and Hydrogen Storage Cost and Performance Analysis

Strategic Analysis, Inc. (Arlington, Virginia) will conduct a techno-economic analysis to address system designs for various applications based on interaction with an industry group of original equipment manufacturers, suppliers, and system experts. The result will provide DOE with accurate and up-to-date hydrogen production, hydrogen storage, and fuel cell cost estimates for a wide variety of hydrogen pathways.

Fuel CellsDOE Funding: $1,499,960; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $1,499,960

Hydrogen ProductionDOE Funding: $999,998; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $999,998

Hydrogen StorageDOE Funding: $999,998; Non-DOE Funding: $0; Total Value: $999,998