NeoGraf Solutions, a leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance natural and synthetic graphite sheets, rolls and powders, has been awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the development of graphite bipolar plates for heavy-duty fuel cell applications. The NeoGraf proposal was among 31 projects which received a total of $52.5 million to advance next-generation clean hydrogen technologies and support DOE’s recently announced Hydrogen Energy Earthshot initiative.

The grant will fund the technology advancement of low-cost, flexible graphite bipolar plates for heavy-duty fuel cell applications for the U.S. trucking and mass transportation industries. Bipolar plates are a key part of the electrical circuitry of the fuel cell stack. Currently, fuel cells are used in mass transportation/buses largely in China and in material handling vehicles/forklifts primarily in North America. The DOE goal is to expand the use of fuel cells in trucking/transportation applications.

“This important award validates NeoGraf’s technology and its potential use in next-generation fuel cell materials,” said Andy Reynolds, PhD and CEO of NeoGraf Solutions. “Fuel cell technology is growing at an exponential pace as global environmental demands increase, requiring companies to keep pace with cutting-edge technology that enhances productivity and eliminates waste.”

To support the development of fuel cells for heavy-duty applications (i.e., trucking), the DOE is investing in promising technologies that expand hydrogen infrastructure and create fuel cell systems that are cost competitive at high-volumes.

NeoGraf’s proposal focuses on the development of flexible graphite that supports the cost targets and high-volume manufacturing requirements. The goal of the project is to significantly reduce the cost of bipolar plate graphite for next-generation heavy-duty fuel cell applications through the development of thin and durable flexible graphite. This represents a critical advancement in bipolar plate technology and substantial progress towards meeting 2030 system level heavy-duty truck targets of $80/kW system cost and 25,000-hour durability.

“The success of this project depends on our ability to produce low basis weight, thin flexible graphite with very low content of leak-inducing impurities,” said Reynolds.

The three-year project is expected to start in fourth quarter 2021. Ballard Power Systems, based in Vancouver, Canada, will participate as a partner and convert the NeoGraf graphite material into bipolar plates as well as demonstrate that the fuel cell stack performance meets the heavy-duty application requirements.