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Promoting Innovation and Competitiveness
A New Generation of American Innovation

Hydrogen Fuel Technology: a Cleaner and More Secure Energy Future

“With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these (hydrogen fuel cell) cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.”

-- President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

Executive Summary

Hydrogen Fuel Technology: A Cleaner and More Secure Energy Future

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  • For too long, environmental policy in America has been dominated by a sterile debate between those who believe that pollution is the price of progress, and those who believe that we must limit and scale back our progress. The President believes that progress, innovation, and technology can help America leapfrog beyond these false choices – and meet the energy needs of a growing economy in environmentally responsible ways.
  • On April 26, 2004, President Bush announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) has selected partners through a competitive process to fund new hydrogen research projects totaling $350 million ($575 million when private sector cost-sharing is included) to overcome obstacles to the development of hydrogen fuel technology. This represents nearly one-third of the President’s $1.2 billion commitment in research funding to bring hydrogen and fuel cell technology from the laboratory to the showroom. The projects will include 28 awards to academia, industry, and national laboratories. The new hydrogen projects address four key areas:
    • Creating effective hydrogen storage: Current hydrogen storage systems are inadequate for use in the wide range of vehicles that consumers demand. Exploratory research and development is needed to overcome the grand challenge for hydrogen storage: to store the amount of hydrogen required for a conventional driving range (more than 300 miles), within the vehicular constraints of weight, volume, efficiency, safety, and cost. The Department of Energy is working to develop three primary options (chemical hydrides, metal hydrides, and carbon materials) in addition to 15 individual projects to explore new materials for hydrogen storage. Over 45 organizations will be involved, including DOE national laboratories, universities, research institutes, and industry.
    • Conducting limited hydrogen vehicle and infrastructure “learning demonstrations”: To complement laboratory research, automakers and energy companies need to work together to develop integrated technology solutions for a national infrastructure. Eight automakers and six energy companies (under five major awards) will work together with their teams under this project to demonstrate integrated and complete system solutions operating in real world environments. Government and industry are providing matching funds. Teams also include utilities, universities, and small businesses. These demonstrations will provide important data on fuel cell vehicle and hydrogen-refueling infrastructure performance, cost, and durability and allow refocusing of research priorities as progress is made. These demonstrations are critical so that all stakeholders (including Congress) can track progress towards a commercialization decision in 2015.
    • Developing affordable and durable hydrogen fuel cells: Currently, fuel cells and associated systems are as much as ten times more expensive than internal combustion engines. New cost-shared projects will be formed with five businesses to develop fuel cells for consumer electronic devices, and auxiliary power and off-road applications.
    • Developing a hydrogen education campaign: In direct response to the National Energy Policy, a hydrogen education effort will aim to build the next generation workforce, engage students in science and technology, and overcome the public education and acceptance barriers to achieving the hydrogen economy. Middle school and high school curricula and teacher training will be developed. These projects will complement current education efforts for public and safety officials at all levels.

Background – President Bush’s Hydrogen Fuel Initiative

  • The President’s FY 2005 budget proposes $228 million for the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, a $69 million increase (43%) over the FY 2004 budget.
    • The FY 05 request includes $29 million for basic science within the DOE’s Office of Science and $18 million for safety, codes, and standards activities – consistent with the program’s needs and the recently released peer review report by the National Research Council.
    • The FY 05 budget request also includes an increasing emphasis on exploratory research for hydrogen production, storage, and fuel cell technologies and continued technology validation.
    • A mix of diverse energy feedstocks to produce hydrogen is needed to gradually make the transition to a secure, affordable, and environmentally safe hydrogen energy system; these include renewables, nuclear, and natural gas and coal with carbon management strategies.

    Fuel Cell Technology

    • Lowering the cost of hydrogen: Hydrogen is four times as expensive to produce as gasoline (when produced from its most affordable source, natural gas). The hydrogen fuel initiative seeks to lower that cost enough to make fuel cell cars cost-competitive with conventional gasoline-powered vehicles by 2015; and to advance the methods of producing hydrogen from renewable resources, nuclear energy, and even coal.
    • Creating effective hydrogen storage: Current hydrogen storage systems are inadequate for use in the wide range of vehicles that consumers demand. New technology is needed.
    • Creating affordable hydrogen fuel cells: Fuel cell-based propulsion is now as much as ten times more expensive than internal combustion engines. The FreedomCAR initiative is working to reduce that cost to affordable levels.
  • America's dependence on foreign oil is increasing:
    • America imports more than 55 percent of the oil it consumes; that is expected to grow to 70 percent by 2025.
    • Nearly all of our cars and trucks run on gasoline, and they are the main reason America imports so much oil. Two-thirds of the 20 million barrels of oil Americans use each day is used for transportation. Fuel cell vehicles offer the best hope of dramatically reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Hydrogen fuel will help reduce America's dependence on energy imports:
    • Vehicles are a significant source of air pollution in America. Hydrogen fuel cells create electricity to power cars without any tailpipe pollution.
    • The hydrogen fuel and FreedomCAR initiatives may reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions from transportation alone by more than 500 million metric tons of carbon equivalent each year by 2040. Additional emissions reductions could be achieved by using fuel cells in applications such as generating electricity for residential or commercial uses.
  • Hydrogen is the key to a cleaner energy future:
    • It has the highest energy content per unit of weight of any known fuel.
    • When burned in an engine, hydrogen can produce effectively zero emissions; when powering a fuel cell, its only waste is water.
    • Hydrogen can be produced from abundant domestic resources including natural gas, coal, biomass, and even water.
    • Combined with other technologies such as carbon capture and storage, renewable energy, and fusion energy, fuel cells could help make an emissions-free energy future possible.