DoE Seeks Feedback On Fuel Cell Range Extenders For Battery Electric Vehicles

JUL 16 2014 BY MARK KANE 44

Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell

Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell

According to Green Car Congress, The US Department of Energy (DOE) seeks for feedback on commercialization of fuel cell range extenders for battery-electric vehicles.

“The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001145) to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to the technical and economic feasibility of commercializing fuel cell range extenders for available battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) in the US market.”

“DOE’s office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) is specifically interested in information on BEV makes and models where an after-market modification to extend the vehicle range using a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell system would be most feasible.”

This indicates that the government is looking for a way to support this technology and it will be interesting to see economic feasibility opinions.

It’s rather unlikely that we will see new kinds of range extenders (with fuel cells) any time soon if ever. It’s even hard to imagine currently available battery-electric vehicles like Nissan LEAF with range extenders coming before the next-gen LEAF debuts with more range.

On the other side, we see some fuel cell cars like Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan or Hyundai Tuscon Fuel Cell, which have a long road to mass commercialization on higher scale than the limited availability we’re seeing now.

Source: Green Car Congress

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44 Comments on "DoE Seeks Feedback On Fuel Cell Range Extenders For Battery Electric Vehicles"

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I can’t wait for a trailer based range extenders to take off.

Why such a great idea, eg based on fuel cells, has not been able to catch on?

Francis L

A range extender with a fuel cell is useless with so few hydrogen station around.

And as the range of EVs will go higher in only a few years, with more fast chargers, we wont need range-extender for many years.

So a range-extender-trailer using gasoline is probably a much better solution, as it wont be useful for long anyway.


If they’re looking for feedback, how is this for a start?

From Dr. Robert Zubrin’s essay “The Hydrogen Hoax”:

“The spokesmen for the hydrogen hoax claim that hydrogen will be manufactured from water via electrolysis. It is certainly possible to make hydrogen this way, but it is very expensive — so much so, that only four percent of all hydrogen currently produced in the United States is produced in this manner.

The wholesale cost of commercial grade liquid hydrogen (made the cheap way, from hydrocarbons) shipped to large customers in the United States is about $6 per kilogram. High purity hydrogen made from electrolysis for scientific applications costs considerably more. Dispensed in compressed gas cylinders to retail customers, the current price of commercial grade hydrogen is about $100 per kilogram. For comparison, a kilogram of hydrogen contains about the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline. This means that even if hydrogen cars were available and hydrogen stations existed to fuel them, no one with the power to choose otherwise would ever buy such vehicles. This fact alone makes the hydrogen economy a non-starter in a free society.”

Chris O

As a rule of thumb electricity will get triple the range in an electric car as it would generating hydrogen for HFCV’s through electrolysis so no, that’s not a very promising approach.

The cheapest way to make hydrogen is from natural gas which of course isn’t very durable or green ( the waste product being CO2), but it is expected to achieve $4/gallon gasoline equivalency eventually.

Not sure how that could ever compete with $1,50 gallon gasoline equivalency homecharging and free to use Supercharging though.


1 kg of hydrogen would be converted into about 22 kWh of electricity. This gives a good idea of the advantage hydrogen has over batteries. How much does a Leaf battery weigh? Yes there are technical challenges to fuel cells and hydrogen but that doesn’t warrant giving up on them entirely. As for the cost I think $6/kg is not that far from the mark. Yes it is a lot more expensive than electricity but, IMO, that is why you’d use it as a range extender rather than primary drive.

Chris O

Here is a thought: why not save billions in infrastructure and use IC engines as range extenders? Or better yet: just put in more battery capacity to extend that range. It’s not as if fuel cells are a cheaper alternative for that for decades to come.

scott franco
scott franco

Great idea. Lets use a technology that costs 10x as much as batteries to extend batteries.

Whats next, range extenders that run on diamonds?


“‘New Scientist’ magazine reported on Wednesday that in the future, cars could be powered by hazelnuts. That’s encouraging, considering an eight-ounce jar of hazelnuts costs about nine dollars. Yeah, I’ve got an idea for a car that runs on bald eagle heads and Faberge eggs.”

– Jimmy Fallon

Jesse Gurr

No not diamonds. Di-lithium crystals maybe… 😀


Oh, this will be interesting. I’m curious what some of the automakers who are pro-FCV will respond with. I’m also curious what academics who have no vested interest (beyond sound science and engineering principles) will have to say. I’ll be watching this one closely.


I’m not even going to bother with some of the highly prejudicial and prejudiced comments here.

Back in the real world, here is what is happening so far:
-In operation

And here is FedEx:


EV Range: 100 miles
Hydrogen Range: 200 miles

Now this is more like it! After finding out about the Renault (aka Nissan) partnership with Ford and Daimler to make fuel cells, this makes me wonder if something like this is the direction they’re going. Downsizing the stack would solve the cost issues.

The only question mark would be infrastructure. To go beyond the “hydrogen range” you’d need to overcome the infrastructure issues, but that could be quite awhile.

Infrastructure is not a big problem for delivery vehicles, as they return to base, just like fork lift trucks where fuel cells are also popular. If much higher specific energy batteries come along, fair enough. Until then if a fuel cell RE can give a better range to weight than putting in more batteries then they are an option worth considering, and as a bonus waste heat means that in winter range is not greatly reduced by providing heating. The rationale for the La Poste FCEV RE in the Alps is as follows: In winter especially batteries can’t manage the full round without recharging, and where they can get to in the round before needing that depends on the weather etc. so it is not obvious where to site them. A fuel cell RE provides heating. Diesels are inefficient and produce even more pollution at altitude. The optimum solution between relatively clean ICE/diesel, batteries and fuel cells will alter depending on how good each of the technologies is at the time. It seems to me unwise to rule out some solutions based on theoretical predispositions. Ad hoc small scale deployment and testing of a variety of potential solutions would seem… Read more »



I don’t know if you noticed, but you gave links to 5kW and 10kW range extenders.

Maybe some delivery routes have enough idle time for that to be enough, but otherwise these are going to be just limping along when the battery runs out.

These don’t really make much sense except for isolated scenarios meeting all of the following conditions:
-gas range extenders are banned or otherwise out of the question
-the FC-REx isn’t used frequently (otherwise a bigger battery would be cheaper)
-the route requires low average power

The whole point of a range extender is that it is not used as the primary power for the vehicle. The useable battery of a leaf is about 18.5 kWh if that gives you 2 hrs of driving that would mean a 9.25 kW range extender would be fine. The battery gives the power, the fuel cell gives the range. You normally run fuel cells off their maximum power point so if you needed a 10-25% boost you could probably do that for a short period without shortening the life of the cells too much, so you don’t really have to totally over engineer the system. The question that needs to be asked is can a battery fuel cell rex combination be cheaper than a really big battery or a really big fuel cell. My personal opinion is for long range cars there should be an advantage, for the FC-rex, time will tell, even in their most bullish moments I am yet to here anyone talk about a $15k zero emission car that can do 200 miles. Is the FC-rex a possibility? who knows. I know with current battery technology it isn’t. IMO Fuel cells are going to get cheaper… Read more »
Yeah, I read them pretty carefully actually, which it the way I form my opinions which are usually along the lines of figuring out why the engineers are trying particular approaches. I guess I am just not on the level of many of the universal genius’s prevalent on blogs and rarer in the real world who instantly know all about everything based on first principles, and can dismiss them with a wave of the hand! 😉 I was surprised at how small the RE needed to be. It is really horses for courses, and for applications where you are providing cruising power for cars on the highway you need more like 25kwh. Putting a small FCEV in a BEV though instantly solves winter problems of considerable portions of the battery being used for heating, simply from the waste heat without considering the electric power output. On top of that you have the actual power output, so a 10kw fuel cell over the hour is going to give you enough for another 30 miles or so of range at ~333Wh/mile That is not going to last long if you are barrelling along at 70mh, but in delivery applications depending on the… Read more »

Its worth noting that for that sort of power output direct methanol fuel cells may become viable, although for the moment hydrogen fuel cells are a long way ahead.
Here is Audi’s research:

In my view too much is made of the supposed problems of building out hydrogen infrastructure.
That is not to say that DMFCs would not have real advantages if their power output can be radically increased.

They would save the weight and cost of the carbon fibre tanks containing the hydrogen at pressure, which is the main advantage IMO.


I forgot about Taiwan’s methanol fuel cell scooters, which are on the road, not prototype, and which have an output of 1.5kw, 2.5kw peak:

Nail 3 or 4 of those together, and you have an interesting idea for a range extender.

I haven’t got a clue about the weight of their set-up, but there has to be potential for its use as an RE.

Mike I

“Downsizing the stack would solve the cost issues.”

The question is: Does a 25kW fuel cell cost a quarter as much as a 100kW fuel cell? If it does, then there is a chance that a 100 mile all electric range plus a 25kW fuel cell with enough H2 on board for an additional 200 miles would make some economic sense versus a 300 mile EV. Can you do DCFC and H2 fill simultaneously? Any code against that?


Yes, fuel cells (and batteries) are both pretty scalable from about 500W to 1 kW, so a 25kW fuel cell would probably be 25% the cost and weight of a 100kW fuel cell.


The fuel cell might, but not necessarily the whole system. Unlike a battery, the fuel cell also needs a hydrogen tank, oxygen input, and water exhaust to work, so the entire system cost must be considered.


Yes, it may even be less than 25% of the cost. If a 60 epa mile range uses electric for 80% of the miles then the duty cycle would be easier on plug in stack.

The other cost is the tanks, which IIRC are around $4K. That cost will not come down as much as you need it for range, but needs a technological breakthrough. Perhaps a methanol reformer would work here. Methanol requires only a plastic tank, and has easier infrastructure.

The range extender in the i3 costs less than 10,000 psi hydrogen tanks, but cfrp breakthroughs are on the horizon to lower tank costs.


Fleet use like those cases might make sense. But so far there’s no evidence it’ll extend to passenger cars (which is what this solicitation is about given the “light duty vehicle” description).

Any add-on for cars that makes sense would have to use readily available infrastructure as presumably it’ll be used mainly for road trips. I don’t see hydrogen infrastructure rolling out any quicker than quick charging infrastructure in this regard, so it doesn’t really solve the problem.

Ocean Railroader

What is dumb about this with the Hydrogen Range extender is that Tesla next year is going to sell a 400 mile range battery for their existing Tesla Roadsters. The 2008 Roadsters have 220 mile range batteries. If you think about it that is a doubling of range in the same space for the same car. Also a 400 mile range battery could allow you to drive four to six hours none stop without having to charge up. The 400 mile range Tesla once it gets into production will destroy the Hydrogen industry once it gets built in that you could never need anyone for your fuel again due to owning solar panels.

Suprise Cat

Tesla promised…blablabla…CHAdeMO adapter available in may….blablablabla


Real “awesome” isn’t instant. Despite your lack of instant gratification, Tesla is doing all it can, with all its available– yet still very limited resources; to make the near future as awesome as possible.

Given their current track record, having some faith and giving them some time to accomplish their awesome goals, would not be unreasonable…



Randy Bryan

The hydrogen station cost, equipment [generation and compression], emissions and safety of hydrogen as an infrastructure station render it suspect. The cost, space and safety of storing highly compressed hydrogen in the vehicle make it a concern. The cost and non-robustness of a hydrogen fuel cell stack make it suspect. Yes, these products are being improved, but not fast enough as other ideas.
My vote for best current range extending tech is Phinergy and it’s aluminum air-water fuel cell/battery.
Batteries are also being improved and involve fewer infrastructure/vehicle changes and costs. I think it will be game over for ICE and most REs when batteries get to 400+ wh/kg, 10C charge rating and 4000+ cycles, especially if this occurs about 2020-2025 as predicted,


Companies looking at Fuel cell RE’s may surprise some:

It is SUCH as shame to learn that Nissan has now joined the conspiracy by the oil companies!

Of course, Toyota’s participation was obvious, as they have long provided the vehicle of choice for the good old boys to hoon in, the Prius!


Hmm, Why present interest is in hydrogen fuel cell REs not methanol becomes obvious from:
25kgs for 1.1kw

2kw per kg.

That leaves a considerable margin for balance of plant and the carbon fibre tank! 🙂

Lindsay Patten

In terms of passenger vehicles, the two vehicles that come to my mind are the Tesla S (or X) and the Tuscon FCEV. Looking at the H2 tank in the Tuscon it is hard to imagine sticking that into any of the existing BEVs other than the S or X. The S, and presumably even more so the X have enough storage capacity that you might be able to fit a tank and FC in. On the other hand the S and X don’t really need a range extender. I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to add batteries to the Tuscon instead of adding a FC to a BEV.

Or perhaps something like the Nissan e-NT400 would be a better application than a passenger vehicle. I guess the e-NV200 would also be a good candidate if it didn’t compromise cargo capacity too much – or perhaps for the passenger version.


The Kangoo’s which have RE’s fitted running around for La Poste are pretty much Nissan NV200’s with another brand name.

They fitted those instead of more batteries because it is a lighter and more effective solution.

The link to the data sheets I posted above seems to be dead now, so here is info which works:

If trials on the HyKangoo work, they will work in the Nissan.

George Bower

The comment I keep coming back to is the one by just-chris:

“The question that needs to be asked is can a battery fuel cell rex combination be cheaper than a really big battery or a really big fuel cell.”

In the case of the Volt. It is pretty obvious that the RE is cheaper than the batteries. If the batteries are the most expensive component then just make the batteries big enough for the average 40 mile commute. Then fill in the rest with a cheap RE.

In the case of the FC RE it’s not so clear cut.

So why don’t one of you geniuses like dave or chris or mint go away and put some numbers together.

You can assume some $/kw numbers for range extenders and we know the best numbers in $/kwh for batteries.

My guess is that one big battery is cheaper but who knows.

Crank the numbers.


To the extent that ‘cranking the numbers ‘ for costs is possible based on early production prototypes, it has already been done for instance in the link to Sybio I have given above.

Until we are somewhere nearer to full production though it is difficult to put authoritative numbers on it.
That is what trials that are happening now are for, to test durability, real world maintenance costs and so on.

The solid figures that we do have are on weight/range where it is clear that a hydrogen RE beats putting in more batteries by a country mile, as I believe the links I have given show, and if not you can easily google.

George Bower

Take the advertised selling price for the Toyota FCV and back calculate the cost of the fuel cell.

Then scale the $/kw for the cell down to a kw rating for a RE.

Is it cheaper than just the batteries?

If it is still too expensive go to a smaller RE (or assume a cost reduction or both) and see where it starts to pay off.


DoE. Please don’t waist any money on Hydrogen Fueling Stations. If you want to get behind a worthy cause, help Tesla build out their Supercharging Stations in rest stops along interstate highways.


Thanks for the analysis!


All they have to do is go to and see how little gas the median PHEV Volt uses to understand how little value there is in making such a drastic and expensive change in extender side of the technology.

More effective changes for PHEV’s that will save more fossil fuels at a much lower price:

1) Grow EV range (like Volt is slowly doing, and BMW i3 REx).

2) Shrink the gas motor (Original Volt concept 3-cyl vs. production 4-cyl, BMW i3 scooter motor).

3) Improve charging so more miles can be done on electricity instead of on the range extender.

There are a whole lot of Volt owners who report going months without filling their gas tank. Hydrogen tanks going through heat/cool cycles would end up losing hydrogen to venting in these conditions.

Even under ideal conditions, there is little to no little benefit for the vast majority of typical passenger car drivers, with high implementation overhead and even higher infrastructure costs.


More EV, less FC always good. I welcome a plugin FCEV.

Bronson S
A technically viable, cost effective BEV range extender already exists! Take a look at this YouTube video: I saw this Real Power recharge truck at the 2014 Pikes Peak Road Rally in June. It was high on the mountain, charging the Mitsubishi cars that placed first and second in the BEV division – second and third overall! According to folks I talked with on the mountain, this recharge truck has supported Mitsubishi the last three years. The truck appeared to be based on a standard Chevy 3500 with a bio-diesel compatible engine. It was equipped with a Level 3, 50 kilowatt DC fast charger, powered by the truck’s bio-diesel engine, and was charging the Mitsubishi battery packs quite quickly. I think they had larger batteries than standard cars – maybe 40 kWHr or so. Anyway, it took less than an hour to completely fill depleted batteries. The guy running the truck said the whole thing cost about $100K. All the other BEVs in the class were forced to keep their charging equipment at the bottom of the mountain due to elevation limits of the equipment. Not so this truck! It operated ever day, both practice and race, right where the… Read more »
Rob Kasper

Two simple observations make hydrogen fuel cells worth investigating as a range extending technology for BEVs:

1. HFCs create electricity, not kinetic energy. There is no unnecessarily complex, heavy, inefficient, voluminous, maintenance hungry and polluting internal combustion engine needed, much less a generator to further reduce efficiency. A stack and a tank replace the entire ICE, transmission, coolant system, fuel system and lubrication system mess.
2. Hydrogen fuel and nuclear power plants are a marriage made in heaven. Nuke plants cannot throttle up and down to match demand. Their output is constant, and any excess energy that cannot be sent elsewhere is thrown away into massive heat sinks. Siting hydrogen fuel production facilities close to nuke plants would allow otherwise wasted “free electricity” to be productively utilized. As demand for hydrogen fuel increases, we can build more and more nuclear generating capacity, as output would no longer need to be limited to the bottom of the duck curve.


The problem is that they pick the wrong fuel cell for a range extender. If they were choosing a direct bioethanol fuel cell it would already be much more logic. Indeed bioethanol is easy to transport contain and store in a tank. It is very dense and will stay there for months. Since it is bioethanol it means it is renewable and carbon neutral. The more, as a range extender is not used often, you will also not use a lot of bioethanol on a year basis, therefore the present supply is more than sufficient.