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NREL Evaluates Fuel Cell Technologies in Early Market Applications

A photo of twelve fuel cell forklifts parked in a row in a warehouse

NREL is working to validate how fuel cell systems fare in the real world.

February 8, 2010

Last April, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an impressive $114.3 million in funding—$41.9 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $72.4 million from industry—for the rapid deployment of approximately 1,000 fuel cell systems. Many of these systems are now operating in backup power, combined heat and power, and material handling (i.e. forklift) applications across the United States.  And the technology validation team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is watching. 

NREL's Jennifer Kurtz, Todd Ramsden, Keith Wipke, and Sam Sprik are charged with providing an independent assessment of how these fuel cell systems fare in the real world, with a focus on performance, operation, and safety.  The team is poised to release its first set of findings later this month. 

“DOE selected these applications for fuel cell system deployment because they’re seen as key early markets where fuel cells can compete with conventional power technologies,” Kurtz said.  “The unprecedented speed and scale of this deployment provide us with a unique opportunity to gather a significant amount of operational data very quickly.” 

Accelerating the use of fuel cell technologies in these early market applications supports commercialization and helps build a domestic manufacturing and supplier base. It also expands the growth of the green job market, with new opportunities in manufacturing, fuel cell maintenance and support systems, and hydrogen production.

This new assessment builds on NREL’s six-year history of working with automotive companies and fuel providers to evaluate the performance of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and the refueling infrastructure.