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Automakers Drive toward Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

February 4, 2013

A recent Science Friday segment on National Public Radio (NPR) featured Jen Kurtz of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) discussing the current state of fuel cell electric vehicles. The interview followed announcements by major automakers about alliances to work together to develop common fuel cell technologies.

What has NREL been doing with these cars?

“We’ve analyzed fuel cell vehicles ranging from compact sedans all the way up to SUVs,” Kurtz said. “Hydrogen stations and vehicle deployments are very targeted right now, so that investments aren’t spread too thin. For instance California, Hawaii, and the Northeast all have focused activities in fuel cell vehicle and infrastructure deployments.”

“There are a number of ways to produce hydrogen. We have four fuel cell vehicles on loan from Toyota. Our hydrogen is actually produced through electrolysis that's powered by wind and solar. So a colleague has stated that our fuel cell vehicles are driving around today based on hydrogen produced from wind that blew last week.”

Is driving a fuel cell car a different kind of experience?

“The car has some unique characteristics, one of which is zero tailpipe emissions. It’s also quite quiet,” Kurtz added. “But once you start driving it, it’s really easy to forget that you’re driving a fuel cell vehicle. It's just like a standard, traditional driving experience.”

Science Friday is a weekly science news show heard on about 300 NPR stations around the country. It attracts 1.4 million listeners with the live broadcast, 600,000 podcast downloads, and another 60,000 unique website visitors every week.

Learn more about NREL’s fuel cell and hydrogen technology validation projects.