Fuel Cell Vehicles Speeding Towards Commercialization

With a new funding announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and several automakers showcasing new vehicles and major technical developments, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are driving back into the advanced vehicle technology conversation.

With a new funding announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and several automakers showcasing new vehicles and major technical developments, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are driving back into the advanced vehicle technology conversation.


DOE awarded more than $7 million in funding for four projects in California, Oregon, and Washington to advance hydrogen storage systems for use in FCEVs. These projects aim to cut costs and increase the performance by developing innovative materials and advanced tanks. The selected organizations are providing close to $2 million in cost share. With this announcement, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu spoke positively about fuel cells and hydrogen, as he has several times this year.

"Targeted investments in cutting-edge hydrogen storage technologies will spur American ingenuity, accelerate breakthroughs, and increase our competitiveness in the global clean energy economy," said Chu. "As we focus on energy security, strengthening our portfolio to include domestically-produced hydrogen and American-made fuel cells for transportation and energy storage applications will create new jobs and reduce carbon pollution."

Reinforcing the value of government support and investment, two recent studies– one from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and Element Energy, and another from the DOE's Argonne National Laboratory – highlight the progress of FCEVs toward achieving major cost reduction and underscore that FCEVs are an essential component of the advanced energy portfolio. Both studies stress that the investment is necessary to help move the vehicles towards commercialization, since technical improvements will continue to bring the cost down.

There have been exciting advancements from automakers as well:

Nissan unveiled its next-generation fuel cell stack, which it claims is the world's best as far as power density. The new fuel cell also boasts a significantly reduced weight and cost. Nissan, best known as a leading proponent of battery electric vehicles, aims to launch its FCEV by 2016 as part of its goal of selling 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles.

Toyota's latest fuel cell vehicle, the FCV-R Concept, recently debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show. This new mid-sized sedan is a completely new design, veering from previous Toyota models based on the Highlander SUV. The FCV-R has an improved fuel cell stack and high pressure hydrogen tank that provides 430 mile range or more.

At the Frankfurt Auto Show, Mercedes Benz showcased its F125! concept car, which includes its F-CELL plug-in HYBRID technology, combining its next generation fuel cell and a high-performance lithium-sulfur high-voltage battery. This vehicle is able to achieve 620 miles on a tank of hydrogen, thanks to a new tank that is integrated directly into the body of the vehicle.

A recent article in the German business magazine WirtschaftsWoche reported that General Motors and BMW are planning to collaborate on hydrogen fuel cell technology for passenger cars. Previously BMW has dabbled in hydrogen internal combustion engines and smaller fuel cell auxiliary power units for its vehicles, so taking advantage of the fuel cell development and experience of GM could help both companies make significant progress advancing FCEVs.

For a comprehensive chart detailing every fuel cell vehicle ever produced, Fuel Cells 2000 offers its Fuel Cell Vehicle chart. For more information about fuel cell vehicles, recent developments and announcements or fuel cells in general, please visit Fuel Cells 2000.

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