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As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced up to $2.5 million available this year to demonstrate and deploy fuel cell electric vehicles for transporting passenger baggage at major U.S. airports. The projects selected for funding will demonstrate first-generation, fuel-cell-powered baggage towing tractors under real-world operating conditions, and collect and analyze data to test their performance and cost effectiveness. This funding, reportedly part of the DOE’s commitment to U.S. leadership in advanced fuel cell research and development, will help industry bring advanced fuel cell technologies into emerging markets and provide airlines and airports with new choices for ground support operations that cut energy costs, air pollution, and petroleum use.
Although the majority of DOE fuel cell funding is for research and development, the department has previously supported other early market applications, such as fuel cell forklifts and backup power for telecommunications. After the DOE catalyzed these early fuel cell applications, private financing has been used to deploy thousands of forklifts and backup power devices. In addition, support for these early markets provides near-term manufacturing opportunities and experience that can be leveraged to inform more mainstream applications, such as light-duty vehicles, which can significantly reduce petroleum use.
The DOE seeks applicants to demonstrate and test the performance and economic viability of advanced fuel cell systems for up to three years. The 50% cost-shared projects will supply information on fuel cell system operation and data on the economics of these vehicles to the Hydrogen Secure Data Center at the department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for analysis and comparison. Data will be collected from actual airport operations so that engineers and economic analysts can assess the technology’s performance, durability, and cost effectiveness under the real-world conditions of commercial airports. Conclusions will be drawn from the data to evaluate the commercial viability of this fuel cell application, and the data will be shared with fuel cell manufacturers, helping to improve their designs and optimize overall performance and costs.
For additional information, visit https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/default.aspx#b354ca47-7a0c-44b0-b23e-7199c9074aef.