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

Fuel Cell Technologies Office


Energy Department Announces Milestone in Fuel Cell Use

May 14, 2012

In support of President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Energy Department today announced that more than one thousand fuel cells were deployed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Over the last three years, nearly 1,200 fuel cells have been deployed in emergency backup power units and material handling equipment, such as forklift trucks. This investment is a part of the Department's commitment to U.S. leadership in innovative fuel cell technologies to give American businesses more options to cut energy costs and reduce petroleum use.

"Supported in part by the Recovery Act, these projects underscore the President's commitment to American-made energy and increasing energy security," said Dr. David Danielson, the Department of Energy's Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. "Targeted investment in critical fuel cell research, development, and deployment will help spur American ingenuity and increase our competitiveness in the global clean energy economy. Fuel cells are an important part of our energy portfolio and these deployments in early markets are helping to drive innovations in fuel cell technologies across multiple applications."

Increasingly, companies are installing fuel cells to generate onsite primary or backup power to buildings, data centers, and cell phone towers, because of their high reliability and low emissions. To date, close to 700 fuel cells have been deployed to provide backup power with $18.5 million in Recovery Act funding. Fuel cells are quiet and don't need petroleum, so they produce few pollutants and emissions. Fuel cells also typically require minimal maintenance and can easily be monitored remotely to further reduce maintenance time.

In addition, many leading American businesses are also choosing fuel cells to power their materials handling equipment because of the productivity, cost, and performance advantages of fuel cell lift trucks. Funded with $9.7 million under the Recovery Act, more than 500 fuel cell powered lift trucks are now operational at end-user sites, along with fueling systems, data collection and analysis, and operator training to support them. Hydrogen fuel cells do not emit any harmful air pollutants and can be rapidly refueled, boosting productivity. Fuel cells also maintain full power capability between refueling. Data collected from all of these projects is aggregated to provide relevant technology status results and fuel cell performance data without revealing proprietary information. These publicly available data products provide critical information to future investors and customers.

Targeted fuel cell demonstrations like these Recovery Act projects increase the scale of deployment and help improve the cost-effectiveness of the technology, leading to faster market adoption. The success of DOE's fuel cell deployment and market transformation projects have led industry to plan additional purchases of more than 3,000 fuel cell powered lift trucks without any DOE funding. The majority of these fuel cell systems will be supplied through U.S. fuel cell manufacturers, supporting President Obama's blueprint for an economy fueled by homegrown, alternative energy sources designed and produced by American workers.

Over the last decade, DOE has invested in research and development projects to advance key fuel cell components such as catalysts and membranes at several companies including 3M, Dupont, Gore, Johnson Matthey, and BASF. This research has helped decrease the amount of platinum used in catalysts by a factor of five and reduced the costs of transportation fuel cells by more than 80% since 2002. Many of these innovations are now being used in the fuel cell units being deployed through these Recovery Act projects. DOE's Fuel Cell Technologies Program has funded research and development of catalysts, membranes, and other fuel cell components, resulting in more than 300 patents and 33 commercially available technologies.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Find out more about DOE's support of research, development, and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. For a full list of Recovery Act projects, see the selected awards, and for more information about each of the projects, see self-reported project details from Recovery.gov, the portal to all data related to Recovery Act spending.