U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Fuel Cell Technologies Office


Energy Department Awards More than $5 Million to Reduce Cost of Advanced Fuel Cells

March 27, 2012

The Energy Department today announced the investment of more than $5 million in two projects—led by 3M Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Eaton Corporation in Southfield, Michigan—that will lower the cost of advanced fuel cell systems by developing and engineering cost-effective, durable, and highly efficient fuel cell components. In support of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce America's reliance on foreign oil, the 3-year projects were awarded under DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement DE-FOA-0000360 and will focus on meeting specific cost targets and boosting the performance of fuel cell systems for vehicles and stationary applications, such as stand-by power systems. These investments are a part of the Department's commitment to U.S. leadership in innovative fuel cell technologies that give American families and businesses more options that reduce petroleum use.

"Advancing hydrogen and fuel cell technology is an important part of the Energy Department's efforts to support the President's all-of-the-above energy strategy, helping to diversify America's energy sector and reduce our dependence on foreign oil," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "These investments will help fuel technology breakthroughs, drive down costs, and bring innovative, job-creating clean energy technologies to market faster."

Overall, the Energy Department's fuel cell R&D efforts have successfully generated more than 300 patents and assisted approximately 30 products getting to market. At the same time, fuel cell durability has doubled, expensive platinum content has been reduced by a factor of five, and the cost of fuel cells has already fallen 80% since 2002.

To accelerate commercialization, the industry must continue to reduce costs and meet performance targets for fuel cell systems for vehicles and stationary power applications. DOE targets for vehicles include direct hydrogen fuel cell systems that, by 2017, have a peak efficiency of 60%, cost $30 per kilowatt, and have 5,000 hours durability, which is equivalent to 150,000 miles of driving. The two projects selected for award today will help drive technical innovation to meet these key targets.

3M Company—St. Paul, Minnesota—Up to $3.1 million

3M Company, in collaboration with General Motors, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Michigan Technological University, will develop a durable, low-cost, and high-performance membrane electrode assembly for use in mass-produced fuel cell electric vehicles. The approach is based upon integration of 3M’s state-of-the-art nanostructured thin film catalyst technology platform with other components of the membrane electrode assembly.

Eaton Corporation—Southfield, Michigan—Up to $2.1 million

Eaton Corporation, Kettering University, Ballard Power Systems, and Electricore, Inc., will leverage advanced blower technology to develop and demonstrate an efficient and low-cost fuel cell air management system. Eaton will modify their existing twin vortices series advanced blower supercharger for this project that will deliver more power and better fuel economy in a smaller package as compared to other supercharger technologies.