Researchers Honored for Fuel-Cell Technology

Office of Science and Technology Policy

For Immediate Release Contact: 202/456-6108 March 17, 1999



Fifteen scientists from the Federal government, the automobile industry, and automotive suppliers were honored today for their accomplishments to push technology closer to the development of clean, highly fuel-efficient automobiles for the future.

These researchers received the 1998 Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) Medals during a White House ceremony. The medals recognize teamwork and significant technical achievement in this cooperative effort between the Federal government and the automobile industry to foster breakthrough technologies in developing safe, affordable, clean, and fuel-efficient automobiles.

The researchers teamed up to develop fuel-processing technology that would permit the use of gasoline or other currently-available fuels, such a methanol, ethanol and natural gas, in fuel cell-powered automobiles. Fuel cells, originally developed as part of the nation's space program, have the potential to become a highly efficient and clean source of power for future automobiles.

"I have counted on our PNGV technical team to achieve breakthroughs in fuel cell technology," said Vice President Al Gore who has championed the effort for cleaner, more fuel-efficient automobiles. "It's demonstrations like the one we are recognizing today that will catalyze the ability to put fuel cell-powered vehicles on the road and, ultimately, bring enormous benefits for all Americans: a stronger economy, a cleaner environment and greater energy independence."

The research team was the first to develop and demonstrate a system that would permit use of gasoline and other available fuels, such as methanol, ethanol, or natural gas, in fuel cell-powered vehicles. The researchers developed technology for on-board reformulation of gasoline for use in fuel cells. The technology would permit the nation's gasoline refining and distribution infrastructure to be used to supply fuel for fuel cell-powered vehicles. Fuel cells have the potential to become a very clean, highly fuel-efficient power source for automobiles.

Fuels cells work by combining hydrogen from a fuel source with oxygen from the air in an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity. That electricity can be used to power an automobile. By developing and demonstrating a fuel-flexible system, the scientists removed a major barrier to application of fuel cell technology in automobiles.

"The scientists and engineers we celebrate today teamed up to develop a fuel-cell processing application that reveals the progress we have made in our effort to develop fuel cells as practical propulsion systems for the next generation of vehicles," said Dr. Neal Lane, White House Science Advisor.

"Automotive technology has progressed rapidly thanks to the achievements of this government-industry team," said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "Their dedicated, hard work keeps us on the road to reaching the goal of the PNGV partnership – the generation of a safe, affordable family sedan with low emissions and much better fuel efficiency."

"This historic program has enabled us to tap the enormous creative and technical resources in our nation's research community in pursuit of an important national goal – a cleaner environment and a stronger economy," said William M. Daley, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. "It isn't just the Federal laboratories and the automobile manufacturers who are contributing. We are drawing on the expertise of automotive suppliers, the technical capabilities of experienced university-based researchers, and the creative energies of hundreds of small businesses and innovative start-up companies. This is truly a national effort."

The Medal winners were selected by a panel of five judges for research involving government-industry teamwork and resulting in a significant technical accomplishment in PNGV-related automotive technology. The research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, a government partner in PNGV, and by the industry participants.

PNGV is a joint, 10-year program including the Federal government, the U.S.-based automotive industry, suppliers, academic researchers and small businesses to produce cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles in the next century. The Partnership was announced in September 1993.

Automakers are scheduled to unveil PNGV concept cars in 2000 and pre-production prototype vehicles in 2004. The goal is to produce vehicles that achieve up to triple the fuel economy of today's vehicles, meet all safety and environmental requirements, and provide the comfort, utility and performance of today's vehicles. The benefits of PNGV for the nation will be a cleaner environment, enhanced industrial competitiveness, a stronger economy, and increased energy independence.

The medal winners are:

Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL: Shabbir Ahmed, Michael Krumpelt and Romesh Kumar.

Arthur D. Little/Epyx, Cambridge, MA: Jeffrey M. Bentley, William L. Mitchell, Lawrence Clawson and Bo-Xiong He.

General Motors Corporation, Detroit, MI: Daniel Basehore and Robert Sutton.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM: Michael A. Inbody, Kenneth R. Stroh, James C. Hedstrom, Jose I. Tafoya and Nicholas E. Vanderborgh.

Plug Power LLC, Albany, NY: William D. Ernst.

Project leaders who made significant contributions were also recognized by Vice President Gore. They are: Christopher Borroni-Bird, DaimlerChrysler Corporation; James Adams and Ron I. Sims, Ford Motor Company; S. Swathirajan and Christine S. Sloane, General Motors; Steven G. Chalk, JoAnn Milliken, Patrick Davis and Donna Lee Ho, U.S. Department of Energy; James F. Miller and Walter F. Podolski, Argonne National Laboratory; Shimson Gottesfeld, Los Alamos National Laboratory.

For more information, contact: Max Gates at PNGV, (202) 482-6030; Chris Terry at USCAR, (248) 223-9013; or Jayne Brady at DOE, (202) 586-5820. Information about PNGV is available on the World Wide Web at and

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