needed for R&D, demonstrations, skilled people, and infrastructure;

  1. determine what actions are required to meet the goal established under paragraph (1);

  2. examine the need for expanded and enhanced Federal research and development programs, changes in regulations, grant programs, partnerships between the Federal Government and industry, private sector investments, infrastructure investments by the Federal Government and industry, educational and public information initiatives, and Federal and State tax incentives to meet the goal established under paragraph (1);

  3. consider the role that the use of hydrogen in stationary electric power applications, as well as advanced vehicle technologies, will play in stimulating the transition to hydrogen-fueled hybrid electric vehicles. Also consider whether other technologies would be less expensive or could be more quickly implemented than fuel cell technologies to achieve significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and oil imports;

  4. take into account any reports relating to fuel cell technologies and hydrogen-fueled vehicles, including (a) the National Academies report issued in 2004 entitled Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs; and (b) the report prepared by the U.S. Fuel Cell Council in 2003 entitled Fuel Cells and Hydrogen: The Path Forward;

  5. consider the challenges, difficulties, and potential barriers to meeting the goal established under paragraph (1); and

  6. with respect to the budget roadmap (a) specify the amount of funding required on an annual basis from the Federal Government and industry to carry out the budget roadmap; and (b) specify the advantages and disadvantages to moving toward the transition to hydrogen in vehicles in accordance with the timeline established by the budget roadmap.

  7. Write a report documenting its study and assessment.

The committee’s priorities from the statement of task were as follows:

  • Establish as a goal the maximum practicable percentage of vehicles that can be fueled by hydrogen by 2020;

  • Determine the funding, public and private, to reach that goal;

  • Determine the government actions required to achieve the goal;

  • Establish a budget roadmap to achieve the goal;

  • Evaluate the synergy between the use of hydrogen in stationary electric power applications and in hydrogen-fueled vehicles; and

  • Assess other technologies which could achieve significant CO2 and oil reductions by 2020.

This report builds on an earlier NRC report prepared for DOE, The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs (NRC, 2004). That study examined how the hydrogen economy might work and the track the nation might follow, especially with regard to research and development (R&D), to get there. This report updates the review of the rapidly improving technology and focuses on the resources needed to have a significant number of HFCVs in operation by 2020. Increasing concern over both petroleum imports and climate change suggests that an earlier introduction of HFCVs, relative to the projections in the 2004 report, could be desirable. In assessing the potential of HFCVs to achieve significant reductions in oil imports and CO2 emissions, the committee also benefited from interactions with the NRC’s Committee on Review of the Research Program of the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership, which evaluated progress in the R&D programs related to fuel cell vehicle technologies and hydrogen production technologies in the partnership between DOE, the three domestic automotive companies, and five energy companies (NRC, 2008). Many of the technical conclusions in this report stemmed from that cooperation. The present committee also conducted its own analysis on a variety of issues and heard from many experts in industry, academia, and research centers, as listed in Appendix B.

In this report:

  • Chapter 2 presents a framework for considering an accelerated transition to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

  • Chapter 3 then reviews the progress of the technologies that will be necessary to make the introduction of HFCVs feasible. This includes hydrogen production as well as the vehicles themselves.

  • Chapter 4 examines two alternative approaches to reducing the use of petroleum and emissions of carbon dioxide from vehicles—advanced conventional vehicles and fuels derived from biomass (biofuels)—to compare their potential to HFCVs.

  • The possible relationship between hydrogen for transportation and the electric power system is explored in Chapter 5. This includes an examination of electrolysis for hydrogen production during the transition, as well as central station plants producing hydrogen that could also be used for stationary electricity production.

  • Chapter 6 presents several scenarios designed to analyze the transition and its impacts. Building on the technology assessment in Chapter 3, one scenario examines the rapid introduction of HFCVs. Two others look at the rapid improvement in conventional fuel economy and at the use of biofuels, as discussed in Chapter 4. Finally, another scenario projects the impact on fuel use and CO2 emissions if all paths are pursued simultaneously. Variants of these scenarios also were analyzed, as reported in Appendix C.

  • The funding for research, development and demonstration (RD&D), as well as the investments in vehicle production and hydrogen infrastructure that will be required for a transition to HFCVs, are discussed in Chapter 7. The chapter culminates with the budget roadmap mandated in the statement of task above, plus a discussion of how costs might be shared between the private sector and government.

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