High Power Compact Fuel Cell System
Navy SBIR NX191 - Topic NX19-006
Special Out of Cycle BAA
Opens: April 12, 2019 - Closes: May 13, 2019 (2:00 PM ET)


TITLE: High Power Compact Fuel Cell System


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Columbia Class Submarine

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a compact fuel cell system (e.g., stackable fuel cells, hydrogen and oxygen fuel sources, all balance-of-plant equipment including by-product management components) capable of producing, at a minimum, 500 kW of power. Minimize the overall volume and weight of the overall system and system complexity, which is vital for deployment (e.g., underwater manned and unmanned platforms, surface ships, forward operating bases). Ensure that the system has a fast start-up time (<5 minutes), demonstrates high reliability, and shows ease of maintenance and repair of its lowest replaceable units.

DESCRIPTION: Fuel cell systems have performance advantages (e.g., higher operating efficiencies, lower maintenance costs) and arrangement flexibility in a power distribution system over diesel generators. The fuel sources for a diesel generator are diesel and air while the sources for a fuel cell are hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen does not exist on its own in nature and must be extracted or reformed from another compound (e.g., water, fossil fuels). Some fuel cell systems use stored hydrogen that has already been extracted elsewhere, while others reform hydrogen from liquid or solid fuels when needed. The desired output voltage from the fuel cell system shall be between 700 and 850 Volts Direct Current (VDC). Commercially available fuels cells use either pure oxygen or oxygen from atmospheric air as their fuel sources. All fuel cells are susceptible to performance and life degradation (<1% cell voltage degradation per 1000 hours of operation) by impurities in their fuels (e.g., hydrogen is required to be at a minimum 99.97% pure). For successful military use, a fuel cell system shall be able to maintain performance and predicted life in rugged environmental conditions (e.g., atmospheric air at a temperature range between -40°C and 45°C with high humidity and containing sand, salt, dust, and other particles). Minimizing the overall volume (maximum of 0.9 ft3/kW) and weight (maximum of 60 lb/kW) of the overall system and system complexity is vital for deployment.

PHASE I: Provide a detailed system concept for 500 kW system in a manned submarine, specifying all components (e.g., fuel cells, fuel sources, balance-of-plant equipment) and a breakdown of their volume and weight. Provide predicted performance and operational details at 100% rated load (e.g., fuel consumption rates, cooling requirements [air, water, rates, temperature range], waste heat generation, by-product generation, required electrical power for pumps, control system and other equipment) from simulations, laboratory experiments, or other relevant documentation that demonstrates that the proposed technical solution can feasibly accomplish the Objective and will be able to meet the performance parameters set forth in the Description. Proposers must provide details for a scaled prototype (e.g.,10, 10 kW) that can be developed in Phase II to verify and validate the Phase I concept. Develop System Preliminary Hazard Analyses (PHA) and standing operating procedures (to be updated in Phase II).

By submitting Phase I proof of feasibility documentation, the small business asserts that none of the funding for the cited technology was reimbursed under any federal government agency’s SBIR/STTR program. Demonstrating proof of feasibility is a requirement for a Direct to Phase II award.

PHASE II: For this topic, proposers must successfully complete the following program requirements for each round to be eligible for funding for the next round:

Round I. Proof of Concept - the firm is required to design, manufacture, and test a scaled demonstration prototype system to verify the performance and operational details from Phase I. As stated in the solicitation, the period of performance for Round I shall not exceed 6 months and the total fixed price shall not exceed $250,000.

Round II. Prototype Demonstration of Viability: A full scale prototype will be built and tested in a laboratory or shop room that simulates operational conditions. Validate the volume and weight predictions of all components using the built and functional prototype system. Ensure that the prototype system demonstrates the profiles provided in the attached tables (available in SITIS). Government representatives will observe the prototype tests and provide feedback. A prototype performance report and an updated full scale prototype design will be provided to the Government at the end of Round II. As stated in the solicitation, the period of performance for Round II shall not exceed 6 months and the total fixed price shall not exceed $500,000.

Round III. Pilot Testing in an Operational Environment: Based on successful verification and validation, refine the full-scale fuel cell system based on lessons learned from the prototype development and test effort. The prototype(s) from Round II will be evaluated in an operational environment selected by the Government. The operational environment may be at one or more locations and may include multiple tests. Government representatives will attend tests and will provide feedback to the performer. The performer will use operational test results and Government feedback to refine the prototype for continued testing. A fully functional prototype and a detailed report on prototyping test results will be provided to the Government at the end of Round III. As stated in the solicitation, the period of performance for Round III shall not exceed 6 months and the total fixed price shall not exceed $750,000.

Round IV. Operational Test and Evaluation in Multiple User Scenarios: Additional prototypes from Round III with detailed installation and operating instructions will be provided to the Government during Round IV. The Government or a non-Government partner (under an NDA) will test and evaluate the prototype in multiple operating environments as selected by the Government or the non-Government partner. The performer will assist in these tests and evaluations as requested by the Government. SBIR funding (if available) for Round IV will require non-SBIR government funds included as a 1:1 Cost-Match for any amounts over $500,000. The number of end users and prototypes required, as well as the operational scenarios to be run are not yet defined. Therefore, this option is currently unpriced.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Package the system into standard shipping container(s) (specific size(s) will be based on final Phase II concept design) for use in lieu of diesel generators on surface ships and land-based sites for both military and commercial end users such as pleasure crafts, small cruising boats, ferries, and harbor patrol boats.


1. Hikosaka, N., “Fuel Cells: Current Technology Challenges and Future Research Needs.”, 29 October 2012.

2. Vielstitch W., Lamm A. & Gasteiger H.A., “Handbook of Fuel Cells: Fundamentals, technology and applications”. (c. 2003 – 2009)

3. Profiles of Continuous Operation (Uploaded to SITIS 03/xx/2019)

KEYWORDS: Power Generation; Fuel Cell