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NREL Validates $1-Million H-Prize Submission for DOE

Photo of a man attaching a hydrogen dispenser nozzle to a receptacle.

SimpleFuel's Chris O'Brien performs the first fill with the system in September 2016. Photo by Chris Ainscough, NREL

February 9, 2017

On January 19 the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Fuel Cell Technologies Office and the Hydrogen Education Foundation (HEF) announced SimpleFuel as the winner of the $1 million H2 Refuel H-Prize Competition to develop a home hydrogen fueling system. NREL acted as the independent validator for the competition by collecting and analyzing three months of system performance data and presenting the results to the independent H-Prize judges' panel.

The two-year H2 Refuel H-Prize competition asked applicants to design, install, and test fueling systems for use in homes, community centers, businesses, or similar locations to generate and dispense hydrogen to fuel cell vehicles. Home fueling projects like these could be an integral part of the continued deployment of hydrogen infrastructure across the country to support more transportation energy options for U.S. consumers, including fuel cell electric vehicles.

DOE and the HEF established technical criteria against which candidate systems would be judged, including maximum fill pressure, amount of hydrogen dispensed per day, number of standard fills per day, system availability, and cost. To ensure data integrity and impartial evaluation of the system performance, NREL was asked to be the neutral third party validator for the competition.

NREL designed a custom data collection system (DCS) and installed it on SimpleFuel's candidate system in Pennsylvania in September 2016. NREL developed the DCS to allow remote telemetry of key variables to flow back to NREL's National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center for validation. The DCS allowed NREL to monitor the test unit's operation on a real-time basis, download summary data, and receive alarm conditions relating to power outages and other upset conditions.

This novel approach to collecting data minimized cost to the participants while ensuring data integrity. NREL collected data from September to December 2016, over which time SimpleFuel's system dispensed more than 180 kilograms of hydrogen. During this testing period the DCS was sealed in a locked box at the demonstration site, and NREL provided daily dashboard reports on system performance to SimpleFuel, DOE, and the HEF.

In January 2017 NREL presented its analysis to DOE and the H-Prize judges' panel. The panel determined that the system met the technical criteria as outlined in the final competition guidelines and declared SimpleFuel the winner of the H2 Refuel H-Prize.