In addition to the technical challenges being addressed through research, design, and development, there are obstacles to successful implementation of fuel cells and the corresponding hydrogen infrastructure that can be addressed only by integrating the components into complete systems. After a technology achieves its technical targets in the laboratory, the next step is to show that it can work as designed within complete systems (i.e., fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen refueling infrastructure).
Technology validation confirms that component technologies can be incorporated into a complete system solution and that system performance and operation are met under anticipated operating scenarios. DOE is developing and testing complete system solutions that address all elements of infrastructure and vehicle technology, validating integrated hydrogen and fuel cell technologies for transportation, infrastructure, and electric generation in a systems context under real-world operating conditions. Data will be collected to determine whether targets have been met under realistic operating conditions, to provide feedback on progress, and to efficiently manage the research elements of the program while providing redirection as needed.
Technology validation addresses the following key challenges to pave the way for commercialization of fuel cell and hydrogen infrastructure technologies:
- Fuel Cell Cost and Durability. Statistical data for fuel cell vehicles that are operated under controlled, real-world conditions are very limited and often proprietary. Vehicle drivability, operation, and survivability in extreme climates and emissions (hydrogen ICE) have not been proven yet. Development and testing of complete integrated fuel cell power systems is required to benchmark and validate for optimal component development.
- Hydrogen Storage. Statistical cost, durability, fast-fill, discharge performance, and structural integrity data of hydrogen storage systems will be needed to proceed with technology commercialization. Current technology does not provide reasonable cost and volume for transportation or stationary applications. An understanding of composite tank operating cycle life and failure due to accident or neglect is lacking. Cycle life of hydride storage systems need to be evaluated in real-world circumstances.
- Hydrogen Production and Delivery. The high cost of hydrogen production, low availability of the hydrogen production systems, and the challenge of providing safe production and delivery systems are all early penetration barriers. There are few data on the cost, efficiencies, and availabilities of integrated coal-to-hydrogen/power plants with sequestration options. Data on the high-temperature production of hydrogen from nuclear power are limited. Likewise, there is little operational, durability, and efficiency information for renewable hydrogen production systems. Hydrogen delivery options need to be determined and assessed as part of system demonstrations for every potential production technology. Validation of integrated systems is required to optimize component development.
- Public Acceptance. The clean energy economy will be a revolutionary change from the world we know today. Education of the general public, training personnel in the handling and maintenance of hydrogen system components, adoption of codes and standards, and development of certified procedures and training manuals for fuel cells and safety will foster hydrogen's acceptance as a fuel.
A detailed list of the barriers to technology validation and the tasks required to meet these challenges is presented in the Technology Validation section of the Program's Multi-Year Research, Development, and Demonstration Plan.