Affordable Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

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OPEN 2009
Newark, Delaware
Project Term:
02/15/2012 - 12/31/2014

Critical Need:

Fossil-fuel-powered cars and trucks create 25% of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and they consume 2/3rds of the oil that the U.S. imports. Cars powered by clean-burning hydrogen fuel cells are a promising alternative. These fuel cells, which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, can run continuously without having to be recharged as long as they receive fresh supplies of hydrogen, and the only byproduct they create is water. However, conventional hydrogen fuel cells are made with precious metal materials like platinum, which makes them too expensive for widespread use.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of Delaware (UD) is developing a new fuel cell membrane for vehicles that relies on cheaper and more abundant materials than those used in current fuel cells. Conventional fuel cells are very acidic, so they require acid-resistant metals like platinum to generate electricity. UD is developing an alkaline fuel cell membrane that can operate in a non-acidic environment where cheaper materials like nickel and silver, instead of platinum, can be used. In addition to enabling the use of cheaper metals, UD's membrane is 500 times less expensive than other polymer membranes used in conventional fuel cells.

Potential Impact:

If successful, UD would significantly lower the cost of hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered vehicles—helping to facilitate their widespread use.


Domestically produced alternatives to fossil fuels, like hydrogen fuel cells, would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of fuel and improve U.S. energy security.


Affordable, clean-burning, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could drastically reduce the use of fossil-fuel-powered cars and trucks and the greenhouse gas emissions they create.


A successful fuel cell vehicle industry could contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. Widespread use of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles could also help stabilize gasoline prices for drivers.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. John Lemmon
Project Contact:
Yushan Yan
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Project Contact Email:

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