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Novel PEM Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assemblies for High Efficiency and Durability in Heavy Duty Applications


a.      Novel PEM Fuel Cell Membrane Electrode Assemblies for High Efficiency and Durability in Heavy Duty Applications

This subtopic solicits proposals for novel and innovative concepts that advance the development and integration of electrocatalysts, membranes, ionomers, and/or gas diffusion layers for use in heavy-duty direct hydrogen polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, with a focus on high durability and high fuel efficiency.


Medium- and heavy-duty PEM fuel cell electric vehicles operating on hydrogen offer several advantages over incumbent technologies, including higher efficiency, reduced emissions, higher torque, and no noise pollution. Medium- and heavy-duty truck applications require a lifetime of up to one million miles, and therefore require fuel cells with innovative membrane, catalyst, and electrode structures with enhanced durability. Significantly longer vehicle lifetimes and range requirements also mean that hydrogen fuel costs comprise a greater proportion of vehicle lifecycle cost. As such, increased fuel cell efficiency is a key parameter for economic viability.


The heart of the PEM fuel cell is the membrane electrode assembly (MEA). MEAs rely on expensive Platinum Group Metals (PGM) as catalysts within the electrodes. A critical path to reducing fuel cell cost, in support of DOE’s Critical Minerals Initiative, is to reduce the amount of PGMs used in fuel cells, while maintaining fuel cell durability and efficiency. For state-of-the-art MEAs, durability and power output decreases with lower PGM loading. This makes it difficult to meet 2030 DOE target of 25,000 hours durability for medium- and heavy-duty transportation applications while simultaneously meeting targets for system cost ($80/kW) and efficiency (68% peak) [1]. In the most demanding applications, the conditions include operation in the presence of fuel and air impurities, starting and stopping, freezing and thawing, and humidity and load cycling that result in mechanical and chemical stresses on fuel cell materials, components, and interfaces.


To expedite heavy-duty fuel cell competitiveness, the DOE launched the Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium (M2FCT), which includes national labs in partnership with universities and industry to accelerate R&D that would enable meeting a fuel cell durability of a million miles. M2FCT is a large-scale, comprehensive effort to enable widespread commercialization of fuel cells for heavy duty applications. The M2FCT cross-disciplinary fuel cell R&D Consortium is focused on achieving aggressive targets for fuel cell MEAs that meet efficiency, durability, and cost [2].


Designs for fuel cell MEAs submitted in response to this subtopic should demonstrate significant progress toward meeting the M2FCT 2025 MEA target of 2.5 kW/gPGM power output (1.07 A/cm2 current density at 0.7 V, <0.3 mg/cm2 PGM loading) after running a heavy-duty accelerated stress test equivalent to 25,000 hours.[1]


In addition, applications must include the following:

·         Details of any novel low-PGM cathode oxygen reduction catalyst synthesis, novel membrane synthesis, improved gas diffusion and ionomer materials, and electrode layer design and integration;

·         Details of how the approach improves durability and efficiency of low-cost fuel cells under realistic conditions; and

·         Details of how the approach decreases degradation in new and state-of-the-art material sets.


Phase I proposals should provide substantial evidence that the proposed MEA design and materials represent a significant improvement in efficiency and/or durability over state-of-the-art PEMFC MEAs that are used in current fuel cell vehicle applications. Applicants should collaborate with M2FCT where possible, including testing and utilizing appropriate accelerated stress tests (ASTs).


Questions – Contact: Donna Ho,


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