In an effort to overcome cost and durability barriers associated with hydrogen fuel cell research, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will award $100 million to fund 25 hydrogen research and development projects. The goal of the projects will be to help break the United States' addiction to oil by creating a diverse portfolio of clean, affordable, and domestically produced energy choices, with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles playing an integral role.

The DOE will negotiate these 25 cost-shared projects for an approximate total of $127 million--$100 million DOE cost; $27 million applicant cost over the four fiscal years 2007 to 2010.

The projects will focus on fuel cell membranes, water transport within the stack, advanced cathode catalysts and supports, cell hardware, innovative fuel cell concepts, and effects of impurities on fuel cell performance and durability.

The funds are awarded to national laboratories, universities, and private corporations. The largest single award, $8.9 million, goes to 3M Co. for work on membranes used in proton exchange membrane fuel cells. The second largest award also goes to 3M for work on catalysts.

Awards include stationary fuel cell demonstration projects that will help foster international and intergovernmental partnerships.

Advanced research funded by these awards is intended to support the Bush administration's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative, HFI, which seeks to make it practical and cost-effective for large numbers of Americans to choose to purchase fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

The projects will explore hydrogen production from diverse domestic sources, hydrogen storage, and polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells.

The President's 2007 budget requests $289 million for the HFI, an increase of $53 million over FY2006, to accelerate the development of hydrogen fuel cells and affordable hydrogen-powered cars. As a result of the President's initiative, the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell has been cut by more than 50 percent in just four years.

Fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity, with only water and heat as byproducts. They can power small portable devices and provide heat and electricity to buildings, and can be used to power vehicles with two to three times the efficiency of traditional internal combustion technologies. However, fuel cells currently are more expensive and less durable than internal combustion engines.