DOE flushes $15 million down the hydrogen toilet

There are only three sure things in life — death, taxes, and you won’t be buying a hydrogen fuel cell car. Sadly, the US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has not gotten any of the memos (see “The Last Car You Would Ever Buy — Literally” and “This just in: Hydrogen fuel cell cars are still dead”).]

As GreenCarCongress reports:

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 10 cost-shared hydrogen storage research and development projects to receive up to $15.3 million over five years, subject to annual appropriations.

The selected projects seek to develop hydrogen storage technologies to enable fuel cell vehicles to meet customer expectations for longer driving range and performance. The projects include development of novel hydrogen storage materials, development of efficient methods for regeneration of hydrogen storage materials, and approaches to increase hydrogen binding energies to enable room temperature hydrogen storage.

It would be difficult for “fuel cell vehicles to meet customer expectations for longer driving range and performance” given that there are no customers for fuel cell vehicles nor are there going to be any time soon and I mean soon in the sense of Hell-freezes-over soon.

I predict that by the end of the first term of the next president — whoever he is — the hydrogen fuel cell budget will be cut in half. If it were up to me, it would be cut 90% or more. Depending on what you include, the current budget is close to $300 million a year. All of that money should be shifted towards developing advanced batteries and cellulosic ethanol — and deploying plug-in hybrids.

This latest DOE announcement shows just how bad an investment hydrogen technology has become for taxpayers:

DOE will negotiate the terms of 10 cost-shared projects currently planned for a total of approximately $18 million, with up to $15.3 million total government share, subject to annual appropriations, and $3 million applicant cost share.

In the good old days, we tried very hard to get 50–50 cost share. Now, at a time when the nation and the world has simply run out of time for pursuing high-in-the-sky projects, if you can’t get the private sector to cough up half of the project cost, that is a pretty good sign that you are not pursuing a technology that is going to make much of a contribution for decades to come.

In case you want to know what rabbit hole your taxpayer dollars are disappearing down, here is the list of the 10 projects:

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos, N.M.) Up to $2.3 million for a novel concept using an electric field to increase the hydrogen binding energy in hydrogen adsorbents.
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Up to $2.2 million to design novel multi-component metal hydride-based mixtures for hydrogen storage.
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Up to $1.3 million for novel hydrogen adsorbent materials with increased hydrogen binding energy through metal doping.
  • Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) Up to $1.1 million for development of high capacity, reversible hydrogen storage materials using boron-based metal hydrides.
  • Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pa.) Up to $1.5 million for development of novel nanoporous materials for use as hydrogen adsorbents.
  • US Borax Inc. (Greenwood Village, Colo.) Up to $600,000 for development of a high-efficiency process for the regeneration of spent chemical hydrogen carriers.
  • University of Missouri (Columbia, Mo.) Up to $1.9 million for development of boron-substituted, high-surface area carbon materials made from corncobs for use as hydrogen adsorbents.
  • University of Oregon (Eugene, Oregon) Up to $640,000 for novel boron and nitrogen substituted cyclic compounds for use as liquid hydrogen carriers.
  • University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles, Calif.) Up to $1.7 million for novel hydrogen adsorbent materials based on light metal impregnation for increasing hydrogen binding energies.
  • Sandia National Laboratories (Livermore, Calif.) Up to $2.0 million for development of materials with tunable thermodynamics through the stabilization of nanosized particles.

Flush!

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