U.S. Hydrogen Highway Paved With Public-Private Research Funds

DETROIT, Michigan, April 28, 2004 (ENS) - The hydrogen cars of the future got a $575 million jumpstart Tuesday as Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced federal funding and private matching funds for dozens of science and research projects to establish a hydrogen economy.

The federal government will spend $350 million on projects involving 30 lead organizations and including more than 100 partners, Abraham said. Recipients include industry, universities, and Energy Department national laboratories.

Private matching funds of $225 million were also announced. "The financial commitment of the private sector dramatically increases the probability of success that we will overcome the technology challenges in this important endeavor," Secretary Abraham said.

fuel cell

A fuel cell is a device that uses hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity by an electrochemical process. Fuel cells emit only heat and water as a byproduct. (Photo courtesy DOE)
Most of the funds go to American organizations, but two foreign entities will be funded - hydrogen industry leader Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, Canada; and the Russian State Scientific Research Institute of Moscow for a chemical hydrides project.

The secretary made his announcement in Detroit where the auto industry has already spent billions to get hydrogen powered cars rolling. Many of the largest automakers used the federal announcement to showcase their fuel cell vehicle plans funded by cost-share contracts from the Department of Energy (DOE).

Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG each publicized new initiatives to put fuel cell cars on American roads this year. DaimlerChrysler intends to add 37 fuel cell cars to U.S. fleets by summer.


The Ford fuel cell vehicle, the Focus (Photo courtesy Ballard Power Systems)
Ford and BP held joint news conferences Tuesday in Detroit, in Sacramento, California, and in Orlando, Florida to announce the roll out of 30 Ford Focus fuel cell cars later this year and BP's plans to build fueling stations to support them in these three cities.

The Ford Focus uses an 85kW fuel cell stack supplied by Ballard Power Systems, a world leader in proton exchange membrane technology. The fuel cell vehicle is hybridized with the addition of a nickel metal-hydride battery pack and an energy producing regenerative braking system.

Another partnership led by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. includes four automakers who will roll out a total of 80 fuel cell vehicles, and test the use of hydrogen as a fuel in real-world conditions. Partnership members Toyota, Honda and Nissan will contribute a total of 65 fuel cell vehicles to the project. BMW, will provide up to 15 7 Series cars, the only test vehicles using internal combustion engines.

This five year program will use federal funds, as well as donations from partnership members, to finance construction and testing of 24 hydrogen filling stations in California. The stations will vary from using renewable resources such as wind power to using a hydrogen pipeline. Some stations will be fixed; others will be relocatable.

Energy company ConocoPhillips, the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California at Irvine, the University of California at Davis, and the California South Coast Air Quality Management District are all partners in this project.


President George W. Bush examines a hydrogen fueling system by Air Products at the National Building Museum, February 2003. (Photo courtesy DOE)
Karl-Heinz Ziwica, vice president of engineering U.S. with BMW of North America, said his company has been researching liquid hydrogen technology for 20 years. "Our research has demonstrated that hydrogen is completely viable as a fuel and the technology exists to advance its use in vehicles with internal combustion engines or with fuel cells," he said. "The more challenging step to the realization of hydrogen powered vehicles is the development of a supporting infrastructure of fueling stations and service facilities."

Another DOE cost-share contract was awarded to ChevronTexaco, in cooperation with Hyundai Motor Co. and UTC Fuel Cells. ChevronTexaco intends to provide the design and construction of up to six hydrogen fueling stations to be operated in California, including sites at the University of California-Davis and the Hyundai America Technical Center in Chino. An additional station may be located in the Northeast to test performance under cold climate conditions. Hyundai will provide a fleet of up to 32 Tucson fuel cell vehicles, powered by UTC Fuel Cells power plants.

"Public-private partnerships are key to addressing transition challenges for a hydrogen economy," said Dr. Donald Paul, ChevronTexaco vice president and chief technology officer.

The partnerships to showcase hydrogen fleets and fueling stations formed in response to the Energy Department's solicitation to companies to build and demonstrate a fuel cell vehicle fleets and the infrastructure to support them.

The federally funded projects come under four general headings:

  1. Centers of Excellence for exploratory research in hydrogen storage will each include a DOE national laboratory leader and several university and industry partners. These centers will address the major technical barrier to on-board hydrogen storage - storing enough hydrogen to enable greater than 300 mile driving range without impacting cargo or passenger space.

    In addition, individual universities, research institutes, and small businesses will explore new materials for hydrogen storage.

    The Department of Energy (DOE) share for this National Hydrogen Storage Project is $150 million over five years with an additional private cost share of about $20 million.

  2. Vehicle and infrastructure learning demonstrations. Automakers and energy companies will work together with their teams under this project to demonstrate integrated and complete system solutions operating in real world environments. These demonstrations will assess the research program’s progress toward meeting the goal of making a commercialization decision by 2015. The expected DOE share is $190 million over five years with an additional private cost share of about $190 million.

  3. Fuel cell research projects that address critical cost and durability issues for consumer electronics and other applications. These teams will develop fuel cells for consumer electronics devices, for auxiliary power generation, and for off-road applications. The DOE share is $13 million dollars over three years with an additional private cost share of approximately $10 million.

    These selections are in addition to the $75 million in fuel cell awards announced by Secretary Abraham last year.


    Ballard technicians compare different generations of fuel cells. (Photo courtesy Ballard Power Systems)
  4. Hydrogen technology education projects include middle school and high school curricula and teacher professional development. These projects pair hydrogen technology experts with professional educators and experienced curriculum developers to create hands-on activities and lessons to engage students in the developing hydrogen economy.

    Teacher professional development is an essential component. Teachers nationwide will learn how to use the materials and receive training to build their expertise and enhance their ability to educate students.

    The hydrogen education projects also include the development of materials to introduce the public to the hydrogen vision, as well as provide a better understanding of how fuel cells work; how hydrogen is produced, delivered, and stored; and the facts about hydrogen safety.

At the opening session of the National Hydrogen Association's annual conference in Los Angeles Tuesday, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District and ChevronTexaco announced a cooperative agreement to build a state-of-the-art hydrogen energy station in Oakland, California, that will produce hydrogen fuel for fuel cell fleets.

Dr. Paul of ChevronTexaco unveiled an image of the AC Transit/ChevronTexaco hydrogen energy station during his keynote speech. The station is now under development and is scheduled to be completed by August 2005.

The hydrogen produced at the station will fuel AC Transit's fleet of three 40 foot Van Hool/UTC/ISE fuel cell buses which are under construction and due to be delivered for passenger service in the fall of 2005. It will also fuel future fleets of cars, SUVs, and small trucks.


Honda FLX fuel cell vehicle goes for a test drive at the 2003 Clean Cities Conference in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Tom Brewster courtesy NREL)
The station will have the additional capability of utilizing excess hydrogen production to generate high quality electrical power from a stationary fuel cell. Unique to the station's design is the use of small scale, onsite steam reforming of natural gas, to produce hydrogen in the most cost efficient manner for commercial applications.

Both AC Transit and ChevronTexaco are members of the California Fuel Cell Partnership which conducts real world demonstrations that aid in hydrogen technology development.

On April 21, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an Executive Order officially launching California's Hydrogen Highway Network. To turn this plan into reality, several leading auto manufacturers have said that they could have tens of thousands of competitively priced hydrogen fuel cell cars on the road by the end of this decade if the fueling infrastructure were available. The governor outlined plans for a public-private partnership to ensure that before 2010 California has such a network of hydrogen fueling stations in place.

Abraham said that President George W. Bush has made a $1.2 billion commitment for research funding to bring hydrogen and fuel cell technology from the laboratory to the showroom.

A hydrogen economy has "the long-term potential to deliver greater energy independence by reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy,” said Abraham Tuesday in Detroit. “It offers immense environmental benefits that current energy technologies cannot meet. This multi-million dollar commitment to research is a down payment on a more energy and environmentally secure future.”

Abraham will make additional stops at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, which will coordinate a research group, and at the National Hydrogen Association meeting in Los Angeles.