Same as it ever was. Green Car Congress covers a DOE report (pdf) to the U.S. Congress on its $1.2b Hydrogen fuel cell development caucus, and the conclusion is clear: keep waiting. The DOE had harbored a shockingly naive hope that OEMs would be able to field 100k fuel cell vehicles by 2010, but the new report seems pretty clear on the chances of that happening. According to the report, “a 2008 independent study estimated that the high-volume manufacturing cost of automotive fuel cell systems (using current technology and assuming 500,000 units per year) would be $73/kW, which equates to almost $6000 for an 80-kW system. This current technology would be more than twice as expensive as internal combustion engine systems. And, based on the highest demonstrated durability to date, fuel cell systems would have a lifespan of approximately 1900 hours, which equates to about 57,000 miles and is still substantially lower than today’s estimated vehicular lifespan of 150,000 miles.” Sound familiar?
But, don’t worry. That $1.2b went to good use, “improving understanding of size range and spatial distribution of nano-scale water channels in Nafion membranes; . . . Developing and demonstrating a novel cryo-compressed tank concept” for which “system cost remains an issue”; and countless other “breakthroughs” which somehow don’t make hydrogen any less of a pipedream than it was two decades ago. The best part? “While fuel cell technology development is currently on track to meet the Program’s 2015 technology-readiness targets, it is too early to determine whether industry can achieve the 2020 vehicle deployment goal of 2.5 million hydrogen-fueled vehicles identified in [Energy Policy Act] section 811(a). However, analyses conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory indicate that such a deployment scenario would not be achieved without substantial supportive policies and incentives.” Fantastic. But hey, the DOE wants your feedback on their hydrogen dreams. Check out their request for information (RFI) here.