This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 09, 2002

"FreedomCAR" Program to Advance Fuel-Cell Vehicles

DOE announced last week a new government-industry program for the advancement of high-efficiency cars: "FreedomCAR". The new program will focus on fuel cells and hydrogen production from renewable energy sources. DOE will carry out the FreedomCAR program in partnership with the U.S. Council of Automotive Research — a cooperative research organization formed by Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation, and DaimlerChrysler Corporation. In fact, the "CAR" in "FreedomCAR" stands for "Cooperative Automotive Research."

FreedomCAR replaces the Clinton-era "Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles" (PNGV), which aimed to produce an affordable sedan that achieves 80 miles per gallon by 2004. In contrast, the long-term goal for FreedomCAR is to develop technologies for hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles that will require no foreign oil and emit no harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases. An interesting aspect of FreedomCAR is its emphasis on developing a hydrogen supply infrastructure: many automotive companies are currently developing cars that would be fueled with low-sulfur gasoline, methanol, or natural gas fuels, which would be converted to hydrogen using onboard fuel processors. FreedomCAR looks farther ahead to an energy economy that is built around hydrogen as the energy carrier.

See the DOE press release, with a link to a fact sheet.

So how do you produce hydrogen? Today, most hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels. It can also be produced by passing a current through two electrodes immersed in water, but that technique tends to be expensive. Researchers are now examining ways to make hydrogen from organic materials, to generate it from organic processes, or to produce it directly from sunlight and water. Some catalysts help sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but researchers are also using modified solar cells immersed in water, called photoelectrodes. For more information, see the Hydrogen Information Network on EREN.

For those more technically inclined, the proceedings of the 2001 DOE Hydrogen Program Review are posted on the Hydrogen Information Network.