The level of DOE funding in FY 2012 for the hydrogen production portion of the U.S. DRIVE Partnership will be 8.6 percent lower than the FY 2011 level, which was significantly reduced from FY 2009. Pressures to reduce expenditures are likely to have important impacts on program areas outside of U.S. DRIVE that provide important technology input. The Partnership is dependent on DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) and Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), as well as the Biomass Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), for technologies relating to hydrogen generation, biofuels, and electricity, all of which affect the U.S. DRIVE Partnership strategically.
The Fuel Cell Technologies Program (FCTP) has done an admirable job of coping with these changes and the uncertainty, and it has provided coordination links with programs in other parts of DOE. However, managing the various programs under U.S. DRIVE to ensure that the required fuel technologies will be available as new vehicle technologies emerge remains a challenge, and there is a compelling need to maximize the impact of funds spent toward completing critical fuels and vehicle programs at the same time. The Partnership has diligently involved its various technical teams to gain “user” input, but these teams have not provided overall guidance across all fuel categories. Given the changes that have taken place, the continuing environment of uncertainty, and the approaching dates for planned commercial readiness, the committee believes that U.S. DRIVE should seek strategic “user” input from its Executive Steering Group (ESG) on the program direction, focus, and timing to ensure that critical fuel technologies are available when needed.
Recommendation 4-1. The DOE should seek the strategic input of the Executive Steering Group (ESG) of U.S. DRIVE. The ESG could provide advice on all DOE fuel programs potentially critical to providing the fuel technologies needed in order for advanced vehicle technologies to achieve reductions in U.S. petroleum dependence and greenhouse gas emissions, and DOE should subsequently make appropriate program revisions to address user needs to the extent possible.
Hydrogen Fuel Pathways
In the United States today, hydrogen is a major industrial gas with an annual production and consumption, mostly from centralized natural gas reforming plants, of approximately 20 million metric tons (20 billion kg) (NHA, 2010).1 A study of the transition to alternative transportation technologies (NRC, 2008, pp. 31-35) concluded that 2 million fuel-cell-powered vehicles would be the maximum practical number in 2020. Two million vehicles would increase hydrogen
1 The figure of approximately 20 million metric tons reported by the National Hydrogen Association (NHA, now called the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association) includes hydrogen produced from merchant plants.