- Jun 22, 2012
Obama may be charging up support for fuel-cell technology
The president's administration is indicating it might increase support for hydrogen fuel-cell technology, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. As regular readers surely remember, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cut funding for H2 vehicles back in 2009, but the government's recent statements have hinted at future more favorable to fuel cell fans. Last month, for example, DOE Secretary Steven Chu made remarks supportive of more research into hydrogen vehicles.
Now, National Fuel Cell Research Center Director Scott Samuelsen referred to a "dramatic turnaround in the past six to nine months" on the part of the administration. Obama has so far pushed hard for battery-electric technology, calling for a million plug-in vehicles to be on U.S. roads by 2015.
Hydrogen fuel-cell supporters hope the government reverses the trend of declining federal funding for hydrogen and fuel cell research, which will decline to $80 million for the 2013 fiscal year from $103.6 million for the current year, Bloomberg said, citing Energy Department spokesman Bill Gibbons. Proponents of hydrogen fuel-cell technology cite the fact that the vehicles have a full-tank range and can be filled up in about the same amount of time as conventional, gasoline-powered cars, but without the greenhouse-gas emissions.
That said, cost remains an issue because of the limited number of both fuel-cell vehicles and hydrogen refueling stations. There are fewer than 60 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S., according to the DOE. That compares with about 1,000 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations and more than 10,000 electric-vehicle charging stations (not counting standard outlets). Automakers such as Toyota, GM, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Hyundai have said they plan to start mass-producing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in 2015.