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 military applications including electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles, and ancillary services for the electric grid.
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 (i) understanding the impacts of fuel, airborne, and system contaminants on the FC performance and lifetime and (ii) developing 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 was part of the team led by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) 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 conduct basic and applied research to develop advanced diagnostic and prognostic capabilities for battery systems. The effort is conducted in the Electrochemical Power Systems Laboratory (EPSL). EPSL researchers investigate the mechanisms controlling battery degradation in state of the art and near-term interest technologies for grid ancillary services, electric vehicles, and components of power systems for unmanned vehicles. EPSL work also includes battery prototyping, the modeling of large battery systems, and the monitoring of deployed battery systems. 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).