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National laboratory to build one-of-a-kind hydrogen vehicle research facility: 'Will serve as a national resource'

"The testing infrastructure will help advance fuel cell performance."

"The testing infrastructure will help advance fuel cell performance."

Photo Credit: iStock

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding hydrogen fuel cell research for heavy-duty and off-road vehicles. According to Electrek, the study aims to test the validity of hydrogen as a viable fuel source for these machines. 

The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office is spending about $4 million to build a new facility for this research at Argonne National Laboratory. The new facility is expected to open in fall 2025. 

Argonne has extensive experience researching fuel cells. For example, its Fuel Cell Test Facility operated from 1996 to 2012. 

As Electrek reported, the new facility will research "new polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems ranging from 150 to 600 kilowatts" to determine whether they're viable for railroad locomotives, heavy trucks, marine vessels, and machines used in the mining and agriculture industries. 

"The facility will serve as a national resource for analysis and testing of heavy-duty fuel cell systems for developers, technology integrators, and end-users in heavy-duty transportation applications," said Ted Krause, Argonne's laboratory program manager for hydrogen and fuel cell programs, per Electrek. 

Krause continued: "The testing infrastructure will help advance fuel cell performance and pave the way toward integrating the technology into all of these transportation applications."

According to the UN Environment Programme, heavy-duty vehicle polluting gases have increased over 30% since 2000. Per the UNEP, these vehicles also account for 40% of "on-road nitrogen oxide pollution," over 60% of fine particulate matter, and 20% of black carbon, the "sooty black material" released from gas and diesel cars. 

Green hydrogen — a clean-burning fuel that is low-impact because renewable energy is used to produce it — has the potential to cut polluting gases. Among other effects, cutting the gases would help protect communities from crop failures caused by rising temperatures and extreme weather, such as heat waves and storms

The DOE and Argonne aren't the only ones trying to find a solution to the pollution problem by exploring hydrogen. Hyzon, a fuel cell developer, and New Way Trucks, a garbage truck manufacturer, have announced the first American hydrogen fuel cell garbage truck in Las Vegas. According to Hyzon, this hydrogen-powered truck only produces water vapor. 

While hydrogen has great potential as a fuel, its benefits depend on how it is produced, used, and managed. The gas itself is leak-prone and can contribute to Earth's rising temperatures, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. If made using renewable energy, it's considered green hydrogen. Finding the most potential out of this resource depends on crucial research. 

The director of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, Sunita Satyapal, said of the new facility, per Oil Gas Daily: "Providing the opportunity for independent, rigorous testing of first-of-a-kind, large-scale fuel cell systems will accelerate technology development and help identify challenges requiring further R and D."

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