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NREL Serves as the Energy Department's Showcase for Cutting-Edge Fuel Cell Cars

Jan. 25, 2016

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently received a 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle on loan from Hyundai through a one-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and a B-Class F-CELL on loan from Mercedes-Benz to support a one-year Technical Services Agreement with the automaker.

NREL is partnering with Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai to evaluate the interaction of the vehicles' high-pressure hydrogen storage systems with NREL's hydrogen fueling system equipment and to test the user experience by refueling fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) at the lab's new state-of-the-art hydrogen fueling station.

"The data gathered by NREL will be used to analyze station reliability and performance of the refueling infrastructure components," said Keith Wipke, NREL Laboratory Program Manager for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Technologies. "This analysis will be used to help address infrastructure reliability, which is the leading economic and technical challenge facing the widespread adoption of fuel cell vehicles in the United States."

The vehicles are fueled with renewable hydrogen produced at the Hydrogen Infrastructure Testing and Research Facility (HITRF) located at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). NREL is using the HITRF to demonstrate hydrogen fueling technologies and infrastructure as part of the Energy Department's Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure Research and Station Technology (H2FIRST) project. The goal of the H2FIRST project, led by NREL and Sandia National Laboratories and coordinated through the Energy Department's Fuel Cell Technologies Office, is to ensure that fuel cell vehicle customers have a positive fueling experience similar to conventional gasoline and diesel stations. These activities directly support H2USA, the public-private partnership co-launched by the Energy Department and industry in 2013 to address the challenge of hydrogen infrastructure.

The addition of the Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz vehicles to NREL's FCEV test and evaluation fleet—which also includes two Toyota fuel cell hybrid SUVs and a Toyota Mirai—allows NREL to both educate the public about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and evaluate the hydrogen fueling experience and equipment using a variety of vehicle types that reflect what will happen at a commercial hydrogen fueling station.

As NREL employees drive the vehicles for business and research purposes, they will record their driving and fueling experiences. Researchers will gather data from the hydrogen fueling station, combine it with the vehicle logs and driver feedback, and analyze the combined information to understand how to optimize the driver-station interface as well as vehicle and station performance. NREL will publish the resulting data and feedback for use by auto manufacturers and hydrogen fueling station stakeholders.

The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, the world's first commercially available fuel cell electric sport utility vehicle, is currently being sold in Korea and parts of Europe and is available for lease in Southern California. The Mercedes-Benz B-Class F-CELL can also be leased in select U.S. markets.

In addition to using the FCEVs to transport visitors around the lab's campus, NREL will showcase the vehicles on loan at a variety of events to educate the public about advanced vehicle technologies and hydrogen fueling infrastructure.

The HITRF is designed to support projects funded by the Energy Department's Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as well as industry, government, and university partners.

Learn more about NREL's hydrogen and fuel cell research.

—Sara Havig