A Connecticut company called FuelCell Energy, Incorporated has received a contract from the U. S. Department of Defense to produce high quality hydrogen on the cheap. The hydrogen is expected to rival the current costs of gasoline and may be used to help build the hydrogen highway infrastructure. Currently, the cost to produce hydrogen is 3 to 4 times as expensive as the price of gasoline.
According to FuelCell Energy’s chief executive Dan Brdar, “We actually become an enabler for the hydrogen highway. It clearly opens a whole new market segment for us.” The unit that they are being contracted to produce will provide enough output to run 300 hydrogen autos.
The Department of Defense is awarding FuelCell Energy $1.36 million to further develop its Electrochemical Hydrogen Separator (EHS) for use with its Direct FuelCell DFC power plants. A scaled down version of this same unit currently exists and operates at the University of Connecticut Global Fuel Cell Center. Unlike other current methods of separating hydrogen from gas mixtures, the EHS unit does not use compression and has no moving parts, which makes it more efficient, reliable and cost-effective.
General Electric has also announced in June 2006 that it has developed a unit the also produces hydrogen on the cheap (competitive with gasoline prices). This unit uses electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. According to GE, the cost savings comes from building the unit and replacing the metal parts of the stack with an innovative plastic called Noryl.
As more companies develop new technology to produce hydrogen in a more efficient and cost-effective manner, a key piece of the necessary hydrogen infrastructure will be built right before our eyes. In addition, the consumer will also benefit in a truly competitive environment with hydrogen companies not only competing with one another, but competing with the gasoline producers as both hydrogen and gasoline producers will compete for each and every consumer dollar.