Hydrogen storage is a significant challenge for the development and viability of hydrogen-powered vehicles. On-board hydrogen storage in the range of approximately 5–13 kg is required to enable a driving range of greater than 300 miles for the full platform of light-duty automotive vehicles using fuel cell power plants.

Hydrogen Storage Technologies

Current on-board hydrogen storage approaches involve compressed hydrogen gas tanks, liquid hydrogen tanks, cryogenic compressed hydrogen, metal hydrides, high-surface-area adsorbents, and chemical hydrogen storage materials. Storage as a gas or liquid or storage in metal hydrides or high-surface-area adsorbents constitutes "reversible" on-board hydrogen storage systems because hydrogen regeneration or refill can take place on-board the vehicle. For chemical hydrogen storage approaches (such as a chemical reaction on-board the vehicle to produce hydrogen), hydrogen regeneration is not possible on-board the vehicle; and thus, these spent materials must be removed from the vehicle and regenerated off-board.

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System Requirements

On-board hydrogen storage system performance targets were developed through the US DRIVE, a collaboration among DOE, the U.S. Council for Automotive Research, and the major energy and utility companies. The targets developed are system-level targets and are customer-driven based on achieving similar performance and cost levels as competitive vehicles. The storage system includes the tank, storage media, safety system, valves, regulators, piping, mounting brackets, insulation, added cooling capacity, and any other balance-of-plant components.

In 2009, the On-Board Hydrogen Storage System Targets were revised to reflect knowledge gained in hydrogen-fueled vehicles since the original release of the targets. Learn more about DOE Targets for Onboard Hydrogen Storage Systems for Light-Duty Vehicles. For an explanation of the revisions and why they were made, see the full document: Targets for Onboard Hydrogen Storage Systems for Light-Duty Vehicles.

In order to achieve system-level capacities of 1.8 kWh/kg system (5.5 wt.% hydrogen) and 1.3 kWh/L (0.040 kg hydrogen/L) in 2015 and the ultimate targets of 2.5 kWh/kg system (7.5 wt.% hydrogen) and 2.3 kWh/L (0.070 kg hydrogen /L), the gravimetric and volumetric capacities of the material alone must clearly be higher than the system-level targets.

Low-cost, energy efficient off-board storage of hydrogen will also be needed for stationary and portable applications and throughout the hydrogen delivery infrastructure. For example, storage is required at hydrogen production sites, hydrogen refueling stations, and stationary power generation sites. Temporary storage may also be required at terminals and/or intermediate storage locations.

Technical Publications

A variety of technical reports and other publications offer detailed information about hydrogen storage technologies.