EC - Horizon 2020 logo

Game changer Water Electrolysers - FCH-02-1-2017
Deadline: 20 Apr 2017   CALL EXPIRED

EU logo mono EC - Horizon 2020

 Energy Efficiency

Specific Challenge:

When monitoring water electrolysis related literature over the last few years, one can find many promising ideas and performance claims at laboratory scale that hold a lot of potential for the future of hydrogen generation. However, very few of them have made it to a commercial scale. This call aims at moving these findings and technologies to the next stage of engineering so they can disruptively alter electrolysis technologies and lead to a game changing electrolyser.

This topic aims to develop game changing PEM or alkaline electrolysers with the potential to surpass the FCH-JU KPI’s in terms of cost, efficiency, lifetime and operability. Principal expected areas of game changing development are: high pressure operation, rapid response, increased energy density, reduced critical raw materials and/or high temperature operation, but the topic remains open to other innovations.

The proposed technology is aiming to address the following application for the relevant energy sector of:

  • higher pressure electrolysis for reducing mechanical compression requirements and so improving the energy performance of electrolyser-HRS or of power-to-gas systems injecting hydrogen into the high-pressure gas transmission network;
  • rapid response electrolysis to enable the participation of electrolysers in the most demanding grid balancing markets (primary reserve);
  • higher current density operation to enable more compact installations;
  • higher temperature electrolysis to improve conversion efficiency.


The operating characteristics of existing PEM and alkaline electrolysers limit their implementation in prospective commercial applications. Output pressures are generally <35bar (PEM) and <10 bar (Alkaline). This requires compressors in several applications, which place energy, space and cost penalties on the electrolyser. Existing response times of minutes or tens of seconds preclude their application in grid balancing markets, some of which demand sub-second response. Current densities of <2A/cm2 for PEM and <0.5A/cm2 for Alkaline provide footprint constraints. Operating temperatures are typically 60-75 Celsius, but increases of only 10C can make a large improvement in conversion efficiency. For these reasons, several step changes are desirable.

The scope of this Topic is the development of a prototype PEM or alkaline based electrolyser, including stack and balance of plant. The reduction of costs for PEM and alkaline electrolysers is the main target. To reach that, proposals should focus at least on one or more of the following priorities:

  • high pressure electrolysis with hydrogen output pressure of at least 100 bar;
  • rapid response of below 1 second for a hot start and below 10 seconds for a cold start;
  • increased base load current density to at least 4 A/cm2 for PEM or 1 A/cm2 for Alkaline;
  • increased peak-load current density for short periods of up to 1 hour to above 6 A/cm2 for PEM or above 1.5 A/cm2 for alkaline;
  • electrolysis at water temperature of above 80°C;
  • other step-change improvements in water electrolyser stacks or balance of plant which can significantly improve efficiency or cost.

Each of these requires detailed attention to cell and BoP development, especially with respect to the reduction of critical raw materials (such as catalysts) and the advancement of the EU supply chain. The capacity of the prototype is expected to be around 10 to 50 kW base load, but larger capacities are in scope as well. However, the technology developed should be suitable for multi-MW scale electrolysers.

Project proposals should clearly state the expected commercial benefits of the proposed technology improvements and projects should include an assessment to verify these benefits.

The prototype must be tested under steady and, if relevant, transient operating conditions, achieving cumulative running time of at least 2000 hours. Rates of degradation should be measured and, if necessary, routes to conformance with the 2023 target in the MAWP must be proposed. Testing should be done in accordance to the FCH JU harmonised testing procedures developed by the JRC in collaboration with European industry and researchers.

The consortium should include at least one electrolyser manufacturer, research institution or academic group.

It is expected that the technology starts at TRL 3 and reaches TRL 5 at the end of the project.

Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD (dedicated mailbox

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 2 million would allow the specific challenges to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 3 years

Expected Impact:

A step-change improvement in water electrolysis is expected, enabling additional commercial roll-out of electrolysers post 2025:

  • the development and validation of a prototype game changer electrolyser;
  • new knowledge with respect to the design and operation of an electrolyser with one or more of the improvements mentioned;
  • Assessment of the additional commercial opportunities that are achievable with the game changer electrolyser compared with current electrolysers.

With further development, the technology must be able to meet or surpass the efficiency, lifetime and cost targets set out in the MAWP of 50kWh/kg @ 1000kg/day, 1.5M€/ (t/d), <1s hot start, <10s cold start (table and the central trend lines in the Study on development of water electrolysis in the EU [E4Tech and Element Energy, Feb 2014].

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