HNEI conducts research, development, testing, and evaluation of fuel cell and battery technologies. The primary goal of these efforts is to understand their performance and durability for a wide range of commercial and miltary applications including electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles, and ancillary services for the electrical grids.
HNEI’s fuel cell research, conducted at the Hawaii Sustainable Energy Research Facility (HiSERF), is focused on the development and testing of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for commercial and defense applications, including unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles.
Current work includes understanding the impacts of fuel, airborne, and system contaminants on the FC performance and lifetime; and the development of mitigation protocols to allow operation of fuel cells in harsh environments. Testing is conducted on component materials, single cells, stacks, and small fuel cell systems. Researchers have developed many innovative chemical and electrochemical characterization techniques to quantify performance losses and to elucidate mechanisms controlling reactant and product transport and fuel cell degradation. HNEI is developing onboard filtration technology and operating protocols to allow operation of fuel cell buses in harsh environments. Field testing is taking place in the high sulfur, volcanic environment of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO).
HNEI (in collaboration with Georgia Tech) has developed an equation-based, object-oriented fuel cell model to understand the spatial effects of contaminants at the cell and system level. Researchers are also developing derivative technologies including helium reclamation from hydrogen rocket process streams using a fuel cell to separate the helium and hydrogen. HNEI was part of the team led by the Naval Research Laboratory that developed and flew an unmanned plane for over 24 hours on 500 grams of hydrogen. HNEI continues to support NRL development of fuel cell technology for unmanned vehicles.
HNEI researchers research, test and model battery technology to further understand their performance and durability for use in electric vehicles (EVs), for renewable energy storage applications and ancillary service to the grid, and as components of power systems for unmanned vehicles. The effort is conducted in two laboratories: the Electrochemical Power Systems Laboratory (EPSL) and the Hawaii Sustainable Energy Research Facility (HiSERF).
Researchers at EPSL conduct basic and applied research, testing and modeling to develop advanced battery system diagnostic and prognostic capabilities seeking to develop better protocols for management of batteries and battery charging for a variety of applications.
Researchers at HiSERF investigate mechanisms controlling battery degradation in technologies of near term interest for grid ancillary services and for electric vehicles. This work supports HNEI’s grid-scale battery deployments (see Grid Integration: Development and Demonstration) and work to enable the integration of EV into the grid (see Transportation).