• May 8th 2009 at 7:55AM
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Honda FCX Clarity - Click above for a gallery

The message has been hinted at before, but the federal government is now serious about shifting the focus away from hydrogen and onto plug-in vehicles. In an important statement yesterday, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that hydrogen vehicles are still 10 to 20 years away from practicality and that millions in federal government funding for hydrogen programs will be cut from the 2010 federal budget. Chu said, "We asked ourselves, 'Is it likely in the next 10 or 15, 20 years that we will covert to a hydrogen car economy?' The answer, we felt, was 'no'" (well, duh).

Did we mention this is a big reversal? Just a few weeks ago, Chu announced $41.9 million for hydrogen projects. A major switch, but not totally surprising. During the presidential campaign last fall, Obama did call for a million PHEVs by 2015.

The U.S. Fuel Cell Council the National Hydrogen Association quickly released a joint statement against the budget cuts. The statement reads, in part:

The cuts proposed in the DOE hydrogen and fuel cell program threaten to disrupt commercialization of a family of technologies that are showing exceptional promise and beginning to gain market traction. Fuel cell vehicles are not a science experiment. These are real vehicles with real marketability and real benefits. Hundreds of fuel cell vehicles have collectively logged millions of miles.

Read it in full after the jump. There will be much more to come on this, without a doubt. The fallout will take months (years?) to fully understand.

UPDATE: Greg Blencoe writes in to remind us of the 25 things he wishes Obama knew about hydrogen cars.

[Source: Green Car Advisor, U.S. Fuel Cell Council the National Hydrogen Association, NYTimes]


Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Associations Criticize DOE Program Cuts

Official Joint Statement

Washington, DC

May 7, 2009-The National Hydrogen Association (NHA) and U.S. Fuel Cell Council (USFCC) issued the following joint statement regarding the Obama Administration's FY 2010 budget request for the U.S Department of Energy:

"The cuts proposed in the DOE hydrogen and fuel cell program threaten to disrupt commercialization of a family of technologies that are showing exceptional promise and beginning to gain market traction.

"Fuel cell vehicles are not a science experiment. These are real vehicles with real marketability and real benefits. Hundreds of fuel cell vehicles have collectively logged millions of miles.

"Both the National Academy of Sciences and NHA's recent Energy Evolution report conclude that a portfolio of vehicle technologies is needed to achieve the nation's energy and environmental security goals and that hydrogen is essential to success. Hydrogen also advances the Obama Administration's goals of greener power generation and a smarter power grid.

  • Image Credit: Photo credit: Vince Bucci/Getty Images
  • Image Credit: Photo credit: Vince Bucci/Getty Images
  • Image Credit: Photo credit: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

"The newest fuel cell vehicles get 72 miles per gallon equivalent with no compromise in creature comforts. Fuel cell buses operating in revenue service achieve twice the fuel economy of diesel buses. Hydrogen production costs are already competitive with gasoline. Projected vehicle costs have been reduced by 75%. These are accomplishments of the Department's own program in partnership with industry. It would truly be a government waste to squander them by walking away just as success is in sight.

"The National Academy recommended a portfolio approach and we are frankly puzzled at the Energy Department's decision to ignore that recommendation even as the Department uses other material from the same report to justify its proposed cut.

"We are also concerned that the Department appears to be walking away from its Market Transformation activities, which support fuel cell deployment in early commercial applications. This Congressionally-mandated program is demonstrating the ability of fuel cells to provide a competitive and green alternative to battery-based systems in vehicles and in power supply.

"Finally, we are concerned that the Department has proposed to cut funds for the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA). SECA success could dramatically lower the cost of carbon sequestration, improve power plant efficiency, and enable a virtually pollution-free coal plant in the future. Additional funding will hasten SECA progress."

The NHA and USFCC collectively represent more than 200 companies and organizations.

# # #

About the U.S. Fuel Cell Council

The USFCC is an industry association dedicated to fostering the commercialization of fuel cells in the United States. Our members include the world's leading fuel cell developers, manufacturers, suppliers and customers. www.usfcc.com

About the National Hydrogen Association
The National Hydrogen Association (NHA) is the premier hydrogen trade organization led by over 100 companies dedicated to supporting the transition to hydrogen. Efforts are focused on education and outreach, policy, safety and codes and standards. Since 1989, the NHA has served as a catalyst for information exchange and cooperative projects and continues to provide the setting for mutual support among industry, research and government organizations. www.HydrogenAssociation.org

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      @Chris M - your comments are usually informed, if selectively biased towards EVs, but you still need to do some fact checking -

      Check - "Half million dollar fuel cell"

      Let's look at a state-of-the-shelf automotive fuel cell (80kW):
      400 cells (makes about 300V at normal driving condition - 15% rated power)
      x 300 cm^2 (x2 sides = 600cm^2)
      x 0.15mg platinum/cm^2 (State of the art is 0.1mg/cm^2)
      =36g platinum, which a bit more than 1 troy oz, which retails for about $1200. Not half million $. (Note: Automotive catalytic converters contain 2-7g of platinum today...)

      The goal is complete elimination of platinum using nickel, cobalt, iron, manganese, and other non-noble metals. Note that this research leads to breakthroughs in cathode structures for lithium batteries, as well.
      @ Others Cheering the DOE Cutting H2

      Battery vehicles have issues too, and mass consumer acceptance is not a sure thing:

      Power at cold temperatures (poor power performance at cold temp - even hybrids suffer from this today. Much worse with EVs as there is no ICE crutch...)
      A/C and heater use (big energy use penalty with EV)
      Power density (need a big battery to get high power)
      Energy density (need a very big battery to get long driving range)
      Battery manufacturing cost (FC making is simpler than battery making. The battery industry makes several billions of cells per year, and I would call that high volume. And an EV battery is still >$1000/kWh? Tough to claim you can reduce costs with higher volume, while also solving the other problems...)
      Recharging locations (Your own garage is one thing. Who installs the public spots for those of us without a dedicated parking spot? Who pays at apartments?)
      Cost of infrastructure (ever priced a charging station, plus installation? Who maintains it? Put 500-1000 of them out there, and now it costs the same as a hydrogen station that would serve the same number of cars...)
      Charge time (even 240V/70A is a 3+ hr charge for a moderate size EV battery)
      Durability (how about the resale value on your EV?)
      EV charging losses (ANL measures today's PHEVs at 75% to 80% efficient at charging. Not 99% as people here often claim. http://www.transportation.anl.gov/pdfs/HV/434.pdf page 11.)
      Durability (Lithium batteries degrade over time just sitting there, plus temperature effects, plus SOC effects.)
      Self discharge (even Tesla Roadster - see owner's manual - http://www.teslamotors.com/images/owners/Owners_Manual_online_wo_chapter_breaks.zip)

      Anyway, EVs are not so simple either. Even the National Academy of Sciences (of which Mr. Chu is a member) shows we need H2 technology to get to -80%GHG by 2050. So it's a sad day for the prospect of achieving international climate goals, not a happy day for EV proponents.


        • 6 Years Ago
        I used a much simpler method of estimating the cost by finding out what a fuel cell really sold for. A 1 Kw H2 fuel cell was selling for $5,000 and since both batteries and fuel cells are modular, the price should scale somewhat linearly. Therefore, a 100 Kw H2 fuel cell should cost about a half million dollars. Of course, we have to use roundabout estimation methods, because the automotive H2 fuel cell companies and the auto companies refuse to release any cost information

        The irony is that all those problems you state for batteries also apply to fuel cells.

        Cold temperatures also reduces power output from fuel cells, indeed they won't function at below freezing temperatures, while some LiIon batteries will still produce some power down to -22F. Toyota partially solved the cold weather problem for H2FC vehicles by relying on batteries to run the car until the fuel cell can be sufficiently warmed up, either by power from the batteries, or by burning some of the H2.

        A/C and heaters draw the same amount of power, whether it comes from batteries or H2 fuel cells, but batteries are much more efficient at storing electrical energy. Plug-in hybrids can rely on waste heat from the "range extender" for heating if necessary, reserving electricity for propelling the vehicle.

        Power density is quite high in batteries, and much higher in terms of "watts per dollar" than H2 fuel cells. That is another reason why all the H2FC prototypes on the road use batteries to supplement the fuel cell during peak acceleration - adding batteries allows the use of a smaller less expensive fuel cell, reducing the overall cost.

        Energy density by weight for H2 is much higher than for batteries, but that advantage is reduced considerably if the weight of the H2 storage system is added in. That advantage is reduced even further in terms of driving range when the lower efficiency of the fuel cell enters the calculation. Result, the 270 mile range of the FCX Clarity is only slighly greater than the 244 mile range of the Tesla Roadster, and the 300 mile range of the GM Sequel will be matched by the Tesla Model S. Energy density by volume is another matter, it is very low for H2, requiring the use of very high compression or energy robbing cryogenic liquification or heavy and expensive metal hydrides, to reach a reasonably high range and still be able to fit the big H2 tanks in the vehicle. By the way, the volumetric energy density of H2 fuel has reached its physical limits, but new techniques already demonstrated in the lab indicate the energy density (by weight and by volume) of batteries could be increase 5x to 20x, making practical EVs with far greater range than any ordinary H2 vehcle could achieve.

        Fuel cells are MORE complicated to make than batteries. Both batteries and fuel cells have: Anodes, cathodes, electrolytes, separators to keep anode from touching cathode, case, power connectors, seals, heating and cooling systems. But fuel cells also require fuel and air flow plates, catalysts, pressure regulation for both fuel and air, air compressor, drains to remove excess moisture, and moisture regulation to prevent drying out. The only thing batteries need that fuel cells don't is voltage regulation for charging - but only because fuel cells aren't charged. So fuel cells are a lot more complicated, with more components. Sorry, but the complete battery pack replacement cost for the Tesla Roadster, including installation labor and cooling system and interconnects and case, is $30,000. Divide that by the 53 Kwh capacity, and it clocks in at only $566 per Kwh. While that currently is the best cost per Kwh, the cost per Kwh could get even lower with mass produced batteries specifically designed for EV use.

        There are only about 8 H2 refueling stations in the US, only a few are open to the public. There are, of course, millions of electric outlets, and thousands of 240 volt outlets available to the public at RV parks, and even several dozen dedicated publicly available EV charging stations! Moreover, the cost of installing an EV charging outlet is considerably less than a single H2 dispensing pump, and the restrictions on location far less, so we will be seeing public EV charging outlets appearing in parking lots all over the place, as a potential customer draw for restaurants and stores, and even as a source of extra revenue for parking lot owners and landlords. Sorry, but considering the similar range, 500 to 1,000 charging outlets should serve several hundred more customers than a single H2 station.

        Charge time can be slow, but it isn't necessary to monitor the charging, electricity won't leak or spill, so unlike gasoline or H2, the driver can go do other things while "refueling". Also, someone who has actual experience driving the FCX Clarity mentioned that refilling with H2 can take as long as 15 minutes,
      • 6 Years Ago

      Darryl McMahon
      Author, The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy
      • 6 Years Ago
      I’m glad he has done this, it is about time someone shut down the Hydrogen Lobby! Too many companies getting rich off our tax dollars and not really showing anything for the money they spend. Hydrogen is a poor energy carrier period! Spend the money on renewable energy sources and advanced batteries instead!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hydrogen may have been our last best hope.
      Should the Shuttle repower with corn fed, ethenol powered APU's too.
      N1 is going to lift his pals out of the stone ages and put the rest of us in it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      IMO, It makes sense to direct DOE funding towards automotive electrification in the near term. As the economy gains traction, energy prices will rise accordingly and put a hard ceiling on any recovery. National lab funding is not the most effective means to develop a consumer products. This has to be market driven and developed by the corporations which have the ability to bring the technology to market.

      That being said if the nation commits to level of funding it has in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and you are committed to sustainable energy, you can't risk taking the hydrogen option off the table. Nobody can tell you what the best way to meet our energy needs will be in 5 years or 10 years. If battery technology can't meet all of our consumer and social needs, energy deficiencies will hold our economy down. If the current Li-ion battery technology isn't a long term solution as Toyota (metal-air batteries then fuel cells) and Honda (fuel cells) suggest, we could have even bigger problem down the line.

      We need to find away to keep hydrogen development going in the private sector when our corporations are financially restricted from doing so. Hydrogen offers too much potential and forgetting about it means accepting an enormous risk to our prosperity.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hydrogen fuel cells remain a far flung future dream, locked behind barriers raised by lack of basic science. A few breakthroughs have been slowly made, but plugin hybrids and EVs have been feasible at orders of magnitude less cost for decades. The problem has never been technology, the problem is that gasoline is sold at prices held low by more than a century of legislation, tax law, and land-rights favoring the oil industry.

      Which points out that another push behind hydrogen is exclusivity; it creates a vehicle industry whose technologies are deeply patented and inaccessible to the average vehicle mechanic. A battery EV is so simple, any competent mechanic can build one. A fuel cell vehicle is so complicated that none of the rolling testbeds built by GM and Honda can be mass produced for less than 100x the cost of current vehicles.

      Hydrogen? Sure. Get back to me when the costs come down. Until then we should just fund basic research in that area.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Exactly one month ago California announced a grant of 6.8 million for 4 hydrogen filling stations. Let's hope the state also does an about face.

      3 http://www.autobloggreen.com/2009/04/08/carb-grants-6-8-billion-for-four-hydrogen-refueling-stations/
      • 6 Years Ago
      H2 is a waste! You need electric energy to convert the fuel into electrical energy which is inefficient. Plug-ins and moving to renewable energy is the best thing for America.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jaime, the combination of electrolysis and PEM fuel cells only give back 30% of the electricity put in. Subtract the energy needed to compress H2 for storage, and you've got around 23% efficiency.

        Batteries are 3x more efficient than going the H2 route.

        If you want higher efficiency, a "powered highway" to deliver power on the go can hit even higher efficiency than batteries.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Batteries only gice back 80% of the energy you put in and get worse over time. H2 is the way to go!
      • 6 Years Ago
      And the financing for greatly expanding our power distribution nets is coming from where?

      And the new power generating plants are coming from where?

      Oh, forgot, this is coming from probably the most scientifically illiterate group of liberal arts clowns that ever has disgraced the White House.
        • 6 Years Ago
        DaCoyote, may I point out that the previous president didn't have a science degree, either, and was even more scientifically illiterate. The most recent president with a science or engineering degree was Jimmy Carter, before Carter it was Herbert Hoover. A science or engineering degree isn't required for political success, and doesn't seem to be all that helpful.

        Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, an accomplishment far beyond your abilities. I suspect you wouldn't be able to pass his freshman Constitutional Law course, either.
        • 6 Years Ago
        And the gasoline to power your small-minded, ignorant, d-bag, probably SUV-driving self is coming from where, Mr. Scientist? And how many years of it do you think we have left? And how many months do you think it will be before it's above $3.00 a gallon again?

        I hate it when people call people stupid who provide ample evidence to indicate how lacking in mental facilities they themselves are that you almost feel sorry for pointing out how asinine they are. But this happens all too frequently.

        • 6 Years Ago
        These "clowns" have actually read these magical things called "peer reviewed studies" about our electrical grid, which state that EVs actually help *stabilize* it and primarily charge on off-peak power, which is a *boon* to grid operators.
        • 6 Years Ago
        MikeG, DaCoyote, did you realize that the man Obama chose as his Energy Secretary, the man who advised Obama to concentrate on plug-ins and drop the H2 subsidies, is an actual scientist who has done actual science? Turns out Dr. Steven Chu won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. See:


        So, have either of you won a Nobel prize? Somehow, I doubt it. Until you do, you really don't have any standing to criticize the scientific credentials of the Obama administration.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Rog. I do some of that "peer reviewing". I also have the requisite degrees and actually do some of that "peer reviewing".

        Obama couldn't pass my freshman multivariable class.

        He's a scientific loon. Period. So is his lib arts staff. Period.
        • 6 Years Ago
        We will need new capacity and better management for the grid even without any EVs. As meme mentions, EVs actually help the grid. First look at the reaction of the utilities, they are all positive, and in fact they are even promoting EVs. Why? Because EVs primarily charge overnight, offpeak. Which means for virtually no increase in capacity they can get drastically more business, which in terms gives them extra money to invest on more capacity and improvements on the grid.

        Looking into the future, if you take into account of smart grid, with the possibility of EVs being a distributed power supply, it means EVs can even help prevent blackouts and brownouts.
      • 6 Years Ago
      As an electricity storage medium (effectively) hydrogen is still appealing, but the lack of a fueling grid makes it impractical for cars. For planes, however, and other vehicles there's no reason not to move forward. Of course, planes and trains have far different power storage needs than your average family sedan.
      • 6 Years Ago
      While this is encouraging news I think I'll save my celebration until we get a more sensible bio-fuels policy that moves the U.S. away from corn-based ethanol.

      That will be a tough political nut to crack.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Chris, I am involved in a company that makes electrolyzer, AS1 and we also have recently completed of our Tubular Alkaline Fuel Cell NOT PEM Fuel Cell. It is more efficient (60% as compared to 40% of PEM Fuel Cell), uses cheaper catalyst Nickel and Silver powder (instead of platinum) and doesn't use the expensive acidic Nafion membrane. The Alkaline Fuel Cell was the kind used in the Apollo Program.
      Current pricing of PEM Fuel cell is approximately $10,000- 15,000 for a 1 Kw output.
      We will be able to sell retail our Tubular Alkaline Fuel Cell for $750- 1,000 for a similar 1 Kw output depending upon peripherals. Yes, 1/10th the price of PEM Fuel Cell.
      The only drawback with the alkaline fuel cell is the use of Caustic KOH as electrolyte but our system is designed to work in a closed-loop with our AS Electrolyzer. Once the system is charged, it is sealed "like a battery". Water is split into H2 & O2 (powered by solar panels) and fed into our Tubular Alkaline Fuel cell when electricity is need. Water formed by the electrolyzer is returned into the tank. Water is constantly used and re-used with no net loss or gain. No need to add water. This system is not intended for automobiles at the moment, but it can be improved further.

      We planned to build our show-and tell "Solar Hydrogen Casita" with 3 kw Output but refused building permits in several states. Total cost, including solar panels which is the most expensive component, still under $15,000. Not as sophisticated nor as powerful as M. Strizky's multimillion solar hydrogen system in N.J., but it works and, yes, affordable.
      We had no choice but to do it outside the country, including our manufacturing facility.
      Our AS Electrolyzer is shown at www.fuelcellstore.com Our Tubular Alkaline Fuel Cell will also be available soon but we are seriously considering exclusion of export to U.S.
      As it stands today, making, storing and using H2 in a residential area is illegal. Are we, Americans, ready to embrace this technology or have we been intrumental in blocking it through our elected leaders. We will be seeing more of this but not in the U.S., after all we still have not comitted to the Kyoto Protocol.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Jamie, the AS Electrolyzers and our newly finished Tubular Alkaline Fuel cell were all developed in California. Limited production are now being done domestically. Penalty for installing these hardwares in a residential area is substantial with fine and imprisonment. Average fine is $10k per occurence and varies from each state and county.We had no choice but to export the jobs created (not in Europe nor China) but into a "Third World" Asian country. We are not upset that the funding for fuel cell research has been cut drastically because we never depended on it for our R&D in the first place. Mostly the big universities and companies get this funding and they give themselves a big fat salary. On the contrary, we should be happy as it slows down our competition,but, our mission is to make a real difference for our children and our grandchildren. We are truly saddened by this perplexing but somewhat expected decision. It is only the Hydrogen technology that is a real threat to our big revenue generating Oil business. Yes, we maybe importing Oil but at the same time we have refineries all over the world and we are cashing in from its sales worlwide. If you have travelled lately, you will realize that unlike in the 70's and before US products are nowhere to be found even here at home and yet we wonder why our economy is weakening and our jobs disappearing. When we used to give aids, we now owe the world trillions of dollars. We have lost our competitive edge and we cling to the Oil as it is one of our last few profitable business. How can we give it up? The more logical way is to keep it alive for as long as there is Oil to be found. NO to Hydrogen there is no such "economically feasible" technology...just Plug-In Hybrid. We still have to buy gasoline and when we get home we plug it in to use the energy from Coal. Everyone is happy.
        • 6 Years Ago
        That is interesting information. I wondered about whether or not I would be able to implement a system like yours in a residential area. I think I may make it my person mission to push to get legislation to allow people to make their own fuel through solar/electrolysis, perhaps with a modest storage capacity.

        My first project however it to convert an old ford ranger I have to gaseous injection, so I may run the car on H2 in the internal combustion engine (ICE). I will check out the systems you sell at the fuel cell store. You manufacture them exclusively in Europe, you said?

        Your comments are very encouraging.
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