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Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles Make Progress in Range, Durability

Is hydrogen fuel cell technology a viable option for the long term, as a propulsion mode for our cars?

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently completed a seven-year project to demonstrate and evaluate hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and hydrogen fueling infrastructure in real-world settings.

GM, Daimler, Hyundai-Kia, and Ford are the four manufacturers who were involved in this study.

The report, titled National Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Learning Demonstration Final Report, shows progress in extending vehicle driving ranges and increasing fuel cell durability and discusses NREL’s key findings from the demonstration project.

This effort, funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), supports the Department’s broader strategy to advance U.S. leadership in hydrogen and fuel cell technological innovation and help the industry bring these technologies into the marketplace at lower cost.

The report communicates the results of the National Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Learning Demonstration — the world’s largest single FCEV and hydrogen fueling infrastructure demonstration to date — which generated data from more than 500,000 individual vehicle trips covering 3.6 million miles traveled and 152,000 kg hydrogen produced or dispensed.

“The project results show that fuel cell electric vehicles have advanced rapidly,” said Keith Wipke, acting manager of NREL’s Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies Program and the report’s lead author. “As vehicle manufacturers and other researchers worldwide continue to focus on the remaining challenges of balancing durability, cost, and high-volume manufacturability, there is optimism that manufacturers will introduce FCEVs to the market within the next few years.”

NREL’s Hydrogen Secure Data Center (HSDC) plays a crucial role in the independent, third-party analysis of hydrogen fuel cell technologies. While the raw data are protected in the HSDC, the public may see aggregated results through composite data products (CDPs), which communicate relevant technical results without revealing proprietary data. NREL has published 99 CDPs related to fuel cell durability, vehicle driving range, on-site hydrogen production costs, and a wide variety of other topics.

DOE established interim, high-level technical targets in 2003 for FCEVs and hydrogen fueling infrastructure with the goal of achieving them by 2009. The targets were:

• 250-mile driving range

• 2,000-hour fuel cell durability

• $3 per gallon gasoline equivalent for hydrogen production cost.


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