General Motors has struck a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help speed up and reduce the cost of developing automotive fuel cell stacks. Many automakers have made great strides in fuel cell development, but deploying the technology on a larger scale will require cost reductions, which has led to the partnership between NREL and GM.
“The goal of this partnership is to help advance fuel cell materials and manufacturing technologies that have the ability to result in improved performance and durability while also meeting cost targets,” explained NREL Group Manager for Electrochemical Engineering & Materials Chemistry, Bryan Pivovar. “Collaborating with GM allows NREL the ability to leverage a knowledge and material base beyond what is publicly available, and ensure the most relevant research areas are being addressed as efficiently as possible.”
GM and NREL will focus on overcoming the challenges faced when developing next-generation fuel cells, which include reducing platinum loading in the cells, achieving higher power densities, understanding the effects of contaminants on fuel cell performance and durability, as well as accelerating the manufacturing process. The joint effort gives GM access to NREL’s state-of-the-art Energy Systems Integration Facility and will also include staff collaboration and the exchange of equipment, knowledge, and materials between the two organizations.
“The Department of Energy has developed significant capability in fuel cell R&D, both in people and equipment, within the national lab system,” said Executive Director of GM’s Fuel Cell Activities, Charlie Freese. “This arrangement provides the framework to efficiently apply the fundamental perspective and tools at NREL to address the real-world development challenges we are currently working to resolve.”
Last year, GM also announced a long-term partnership with Honda to co-develop next-generation fuel cell and hydrogen storage systems. The two automakers are also working together to further advance and grow the refuelling infrastructure, which is critical if the technology is to one day reach mass market levels.