Fuel cell powered bus in London. Credit: Tom Page, Creative Commons.

Fuel cell supporters have generally been disappointed that the DOE hasn’t done more for the technology or hydrogen-based technologies, but the agency hasn’t totally lost interest. A few days ago, DOE announced grants of nearly $7 million (over five years) for four cost analyses related to fuel cells and hydrogen storage systems.

In a news release, DOE describes the deliverables as “rigorous cost estimates for manufacturing equipment, labor, energy, raw materials, and various components that will help identify ways to drive down production costs of transportation fuel cell systems, stationary fuel cell systems, and hydrogen storage systems.”

“These projects will help advance our fuel cell and hydrogen storage research efforts and bring down the costs of producing and manufacturing next generation fuel cells,” says Secretary Steven Chu in the release.

Here are the four projects:

Directed Technologies Inc. ($3 million for two projects): One project will focus on the cost of light-duty vehicles and bus transportation fuel cell systems. The other project will focus on cost analyses of hydrogen storage systems with particular emphasis on capital equipment, raw materials, labor and energy “to gain an understanding of system cost drivers and future pathways to lower system costs.” Wisely, the company has been asked to build sensitivity analysis into its models to determine which variables (fuel cell system design, platinum price, power density, operating pressure and temperature, number of cells in stack, etc.) affect manufacturing costs the most.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab ($1.9 million): The lab will focus on costs related to low- and high-temperature stationary fuel cell systems up to 250 kilowatts. This project will look at several variables, including manufacturing techniques, production volume and system designs.

Battelle Memorial Institute ($2 million): Battelle will have two areas of focus. The first is on stationary fuel cell applications up to 25 kW, e.g., forklifts, backup power and primary power units. It will also examine combined heat and power systems. The other will look at 100 to 250 kW systems, again including backup power, primary power and CHP systems.