5.1.2013 Nissan Plans Plug-in Hybrid and Hydrogen
5.1.2013 Groundbreaking for Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell Power Station
5.2.2013 An Increasing Number of Fuel Cell Companies Will Reach Profitability in 2013, According to Navigant Research
5.2.2013 Aston Martin Completes Investindustrial Partnership: Rapide S Hydrogen Circles Nürburgring
5.3.2013 Market Might be Warming to Fuel Cells
5.3.2013 Toyota 2015 fuel cell vehicle to cost between $50,000 and $100,000
5.6.2013 Natural Gas Boom Drives Support For Fuel Cells
5.6.2013 DOE Starts Planning H-Prize, a Hydrogen Refueling Station Competition
5.6.2013 First Drive for Fuel Cell Production Car at CCIA
5.7.2013 Stationary Fuel Cell Market Will Reach $9 Billion in Annual Revenue by 2022, Forecasts Navigant Research
5.7.2013 Fuel-cell dreams: Powering Houses and Cars with Zero-emission Energy
5.8.2013 AFC Energy Makes a Breakthrough in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
5.8.2013 Hydrogen Storage FOA Pre-Solicitation Meeting Being Held
5.9.2013 Big Wind-To-Hydrogen Project Afoot In Minnesota
5.9.2013 Ballard Sees Positive Developments in Clean Energy Fuel Cell Material Handling Market
5.9.2013 Kids Close the Science Gap by Making Fuel Cell Model Cars
5.9.2013 Ballard To Sponsor Event Detailing Case Study: Fuel Cell Backup Power During Hurricane Sandy
5.10.2013 Fuel Cell Forklifts Complete First Year of Successful Operation on Military Base in California
5.13.2013 Yale Engineers Hope to Jump-Start Fuel Cell Adoption
5.13.2013 Bloom Energy Raises $130M More for Fuel Cell Future
5.13.2013 Burning Liquid Hydrogen For Fuel, Navy Drone Flies For 48 Hours Straight
5.13.2013 Energy Department Launches Public-Private Partnership to Deploy Hydrogen Infrastructure
5.13.2013 Technique Turns Ash Into Hydrogen Gas
5.14.2013 Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Students for a Smarter Planet...Leaders with Conscience
5.14.2013 Hyundai, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota Join DOE in Fuel Cells Push
5.15.2013 Summit to Focus on Clean Energy
5.15.2013 This Fuel Cell Startup Has Now Raised $1.1 Billion
5.16.2013 Performance Improvement in Solar-Powered Hydrogen Generation
5.16.2013 The $1 Billion Fuel Cell Just Got More Promising
5.16.2013 Fuel-Cell cars set to gain momentum in US, but will consumers want to pay for the vehicles?
5.17.2013 Hydrogen Energy the Chloroplast Way: Solar-to-Fuel with the Artificial Leaf
5.17.2013 US Energy Department Awards Jeff Serfass for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Leadership
Nissan Plans Plug-in Hybrid and Hydrogen
Nissan plans plug-in hybrid by 2015
Hydrogen fuel cell due by 2017
Plug-in expected to be larger model - like the Qashqai
Nissan is planning to release a plug-in hybrid version of one of its cars within the next two years.
A plug-in hybrid will go on sale as early as 2015, while the company is also planning to release a hydrogen fuel cell car in 2017.
Nissan's executive vice-president for product planning, Andy Palmer, said that a plug-in hybrid, 'tends to lend itself to bigger, C or D segment cars'.
He also hinted that Nissan would put the technology into an existing car, rather than release an all-new bodystyle, as it did with the electric Leaf.
Palmer said: 'Hybridisation is a derivative, a way of improving the combustion engine. It all needs to come together in a slippery [shaped] car.'
One likely plug-in hybrid recipient is the Nissan Qashqai, as Palmer said: 'If I was to pick a vehicle that would fit with a plug-in hybrid then a crossover would be that vehicle.'
Although the next Qashqai is set to be visually different to the current model, it will continue to be offered in a seven-seat variant, so there should also be plenty of room for it to carry plug-in hybrid technology and retain its practicality.
Palmer said that the hydrogen-powered vehicle, due two years after the plug-in hybrid, will go into a car that is based on a new platform that is not part of the current line-up.
Groundbreaking for Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell Power Station
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and other dignitaries will join executives from Dominion of Richmond, Va., and FuelCell Energy Inc., of Danbury, Conn., to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell power station in downtown Bridgeport. It will be the largest fuel cell power station in North America.
The event will take place on Friday, May 3, 2013, 11 am EDT at 1366 Railroad Ave. Bridgeport, Conn. (visitors will be directed where to park).
Dominion, one of the nation's largest energy companies, announced in December that it had acquired the fuel cell power generating facility from FuelCell Energy. The facility will produce 14.9 MW of electricity – enough to power approximately 15,000 homes – using an electro-chemical process that efficiently converts natural gas into electricity.
The project supports Connecticut's clean energy goals while producing significant economic development benefits for the state and the City of Bridgeport.
The Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell facility is part of Project 150, a program sponsored by the state and supported by the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) to increase renewable and clean energy projects in Connecticut by 150 megawatts.
FuelCell Energy Inc. will supply five Direct FuelCell® stationary fuel cell power plants and an organic rankine turbine that will convert heat from the fuel cells into additional electricity.
FuelCell Energy has expanded its Connecticut manufacturing workforce by more than 20 percent or more than 50 jobs in the past six months, reflecting demand such as this Bridgeport fuel cell park. The project is scheduled to be completed and placed into operation in late 2013. Dominion will sell the output of the fuel cell power station to Connecticut Light & Power under a 15-year fixed energy purchase agreement.
An Increasing Number of Fuel Cell Companies Will Reach Profitability in 2013, According to Navigant Research
The fuel cell industry has been dogged by high expectations and disappointing results, leading to claims that profitability in this sector remains a distant, and possibly unachievable, goal. Nevertheless, one company, Intelligent Energy, recently posted an overall profit for 2012. According to a new white paper from Navigant Research, an increasing number of companies will reach the profitability threshold in 2013, while annual installed capacity in the stationary fuel cell sector will surpass 200 megawatts (MW). The white paper, which details ten key trends for the fuel cell market in 2013, is available for free download on Navigant Research’s website.
“The fuel cell and hydrogen industries had a dynamic year in 2012,” says Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director for Navigant Research. “The move toward profitability marks a significant step forward for the industry, and will help to unlock further investment and foster growth of this high-potential sector.”
In 2012, fewer than five companies were selling a fuel cell system at a profit. Fewer than four companies were earnings before tax (EBITDA) profitable, and none were making an overall profit. By contrast, in 2013 Navigant Research expects an increase to almost 15 companies with profit per system sold, as well as an increase in the number of companies making EBITDA profit.
The ten key trends for 2013, according to the white paper, are:
- Annual installed capacity from the stationary fuel cell sector will top 200 MW
- Funding pace for hydrogen refueling stations will increase in Europe and Asia Pacific
- An increasing number of companies will nudge toward overall profitability
- Private equity and corporate investments from Russia, South Africa, and Asia Pacific will rise
- Independent power producer and energy service company partnerships with utilities will increase (also one of Navigant Research’s top ten trends in 2012)
- Global revenue from the fuel cell sector will exceed $2 billion
- Platinum and palladium shipments into the fuel cell industry will increase
- The strongest shipment increase will occur with islanding-capable systems
- Market penetration for fuel cell vehicles will remain low
- Progress in the portable fuel cell sector will remain slow
The white paper, “The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Industries: 10 Trends to Watch in 2013 and Beyond”, presents the ten most notable and important trends for the next 12 months in the fuel cell and hydrogen industries, focusing on capacity and revenue generation, business model evolution, and the maturation of the key companies within the sector. A full copy of the white paper is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.
Aston Martin Completes Investindustrial Partnership: Rapide S Hydrogen Circles Nürburgring
Aston Martin completes Investindustrial partnership: Rapide S hydrogen circles Nürburgring
Aston Martin’s partnership with Investindustrial will bring an investment of half a billion pounds over the next five years, while increasing the capital by £150m. Aston Martin says, “With the support of major shareholders The Investment Dar, Adeem Investment and, now, Investindustrial, Aston Martin is well positioned to realize its ambitious growth strategy.”
Aston Martin’s Rapide S gets set to take part in ADAC Zurich Nürburgring 24 Hours on May 19-20. In preparation for this event, the Rapid S hydrogen hybrid has taken its first lap around the circuit, creating history as it is the first hydrogen powered vehicle to circle the Nürburgring.
On 27th April 2013, the Aston Martin Rapide S Hybrid Hydrogen took a four hour run across the circuit with Dr. Ulrich Bez, CEO of the company at the wheel. This vehicle is fitted with a 6.0 liter V12 engine capable of running on gas, hydrogen or both. The Rapide S will compete against some 200+ GT vehicles.
Dr. Bez was elated at the recent developments at creating history at the qualifying session and completing the four hour race exclusively on hydrogen. It also confirms that the vehicle is ready to take on the challenge in 24 Hours of Nürburgring in three week’s time.
David King, Director of Aston Martin Special Projects heads the Hybrid Hydrogen project, where Rapide S is concerned. The hydrogen system has been achieved along with Alset Global and comes out as the company marks its centenary in 2013.
Rapide S will complete all laps with zero auto emissions. It will be refueled with 3.5 kgs of hydrogen and gasoline after each round. This race car is based on a 550 bhp Rapide S four door sports car which will be seen in all Aston Martin showrooms across the US.
Market Might be Warming to Fuel Cells
For decades, people have talked about the potential of fuel cells -- clean, highly efficient, quiet, relatively compact producers of energy. Now there is increasing evidence of that potential. Fuel cells are working, and being built throughout the state, and the country. "It's not the future,'' said Scott Samuelsen, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California at Irvine. "It's already begun. It's something we can actually observe in real time."
Fuel cell prices "have started to go down," said Joel Reinbold, director of the energy initiative at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. "They're safe and reliable. There's a premium today on energy efficiency and clean sources of energy. Fuel cells are a logical choice."
There are two prominent fuel-cell projects in the area.
At Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, a 400-kilowatt fuel cell built by UTC Power -- the United Technologies fuel cell subsidiary now owned by Oregon-based ClearEdge Power -- is set to power the university's Science Building, providing it with both heat and energy. And in Bridgeport, Danbury-based FuelCell Energy Inc., is set to build a 15-megawatt fuel cell plant for Dominion, a Virginia-based utility. It is to be the largest fuel-cell installation in North America, according to FuelCell Energy. When the project is completed, Dominion plans to sell the electricity it produces, enough to power 15,000 homes, to Connecticut Light & Power Co. Kurt Goddard, vice president for investor relations at FuelCell Energy, said the company has a much bigger installation in the works -- a 59-megawatt project in South Korea.
In all, there are more than 35 fuel cell installations in the state -- at hospitals, schools and private companies. Fuel cells are sort of giant batteries, fueled by an energy source such as natural gas. They produce energy through chemical reactions, rather than combustion, so they are very clean. Fuel cells are also able to create electricity more efficiently than conventional power plants. If, as with Western, the fuel-cell designers can find a way to capture and utilize the heat the plant produces, the efficiency rate grows dramatically.
The main problem with fuel cells today is this: While prices might be dropping, they're still expensive to build. "It's true for us and true for any (emerging) technology," said Jennifer Sager, spokeswoman for ClearEdge -- which recently acquired UTC Power in South Windsor. Sager would not say exactly how much Western's fuel cell cost to install. But she said a unit like the one at Western -- which will generate 400 kilowatts per hour of continuous electricity -- generally costs between $2 million and $2.5 million.
ClearEdge received a $593,000 grant from the state's Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority. The funds came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. ClearEdge will also receive a 30 percent federal tax credit, reducing the cost of what it pays for taxes on the Western plant. Western contributed nothing toward building the plant. It will simply buy the energy from ClearEdge to power and heat the science building -- a deal that the university says could save $25,000 a year in reduced energy costs. Western's contract with ClearEdge runs for 10 years.
Sunita Satyapal, director of fuel-cell technology for the federal Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said these tax breaks, grants and subsidies have been needed to establish the fuel-cell industry in the United States. Samuelsen, of the National Fuel Cell Research Center, said fuel cells are so different from other power plants that people didn't quite believe in them. "They don't understand them,'' he said. "How can you produce electricity without combustion?" But over the past three to five years, Samuelsen said, the industry has begun to reach a sort of tipping point, as people got used to the softly humming boxes.
The fuel cell business is accelerating, Satyapal said, to the extent that in 2011, there were 20,000 new fuel-cell installations in the United States, including both stationary systems and fuel cells used to power vehicles. That was a 35 percent increase over 2010, she said. The national figures for 2012 should show a similar rate of growth, Satyapal said. In Connecticut, there are now at least 29 sites with fuel cells, including the Western and Bridgeport projects. Goddard of FuelCell Energy said that right now, the energy from his company's fuel cells costs about 13 cents to 15 cents a kilowatt, depending on the price of natural gas used as a fuel at the plant. That's competitive in Connecticut, where energy costs are high. "In New York or California, we may need to get the price down to 12 cents or 14 cents a kilowatt to be competitive," he said. "We're really close." And in a state like Connecticut, where real estate is expensive, fuel cells are compact sources of energy as well. The Bridgeport plant, Goddard said, will produce 15 megawatts on 1.5 acres.
"To get the same amount of energy from a solar installation, you'd need about 75 acres," Goddard said. "That makes sense in Arizona, where desert land is cheap and the sun shines 300 days a year."
Toyota 2015 fuel cell vehicle to cost between $50,000 and $100,000
The cost of a completed hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is 1/20th of what it was when current prototypes were being developed, paving the way for a workable business model and improved sales prospects, one of Toyota's top engineers said today.
Chris Hostetter, group vice president of strategic planning for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said that prototype fuel cell vehicles cost about $1 million each when they were developed several years ago. But the cost factor for salable vehicles arriving in 2015 will be in the neighborhood of $50,000, he said.
That likely should place the sticker price of the vehicle under $100,000, Hostetter said at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference here.
Starting in 2015, Toyota plans to sell a fuel cell vehicle in states covered by the California Air Resources Board mandate.
Toyota's current fleet of 100 fuel cell beta-test prototypes is based on the Highlander crossover and carry a real-world range of 440 miles. However, the 2015 production vehicle will have a Prius-like silhouette and size, similar to that of the FCV-R concept hatchback unveiled at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, Hostetter said.
An updated version of the FCV-R will be shown at the 2013 Tokyo show.
However, the lack of a workable hydrogen refueling infrastructure could derail the company's sales goals. Toyota fuel cell vehicles may now be sold only in California and New York.
California originally planned to have about 60 hydrogen stations statewide, but the target has dropped to fewer than half that number -- and only eight are currently operational, Hostetter said. On the East Coast, New York is the only state that has a feasible hydrogen infrastructure.
Selling only in California and New York could still represent a couple thousand units. Hostetter predicts the fuel cell sales rate should equal that of the original Prius, which sold 11,000 units nationwide in 2000, when it went on sale in the U.S. market.
The California and New York markets represent a little less than 20 percent of the total U.S. market -- meaning Toyota would be looking to sell about 2,000 fuel cell vehicles in 2015.
Natural Gas Boom Drives Support For Fuel Cells
At a really basic level, a fuel cell is like a battery—it makes and stores electricity.
But unlike batteries that die or need to be recharged, fuel cells get their power from a chemical source—mostly hydrogen. As long as the hydrogen keeps flowing, the fuel cell keeps working.
And that’s where natural gas comes in. Natural gas is mostly methane, which is made up of carbon and lots of hydrogen.
With all the natural gas drilling going on in Ohio, backers of fuel cell technology see opportunities ahead.
Hutton: “This is going to open up a whole new market now with the amount of natural gas that’s available in the ground.”
Jerrold Hutton is with Clean Fuels Ohio, a nonprofit that promotes clean transportation fuels. He was one of the speakers at the Fuel Cell Symposium at Lorain County Community College. He says the abundance of natural gas on the market has pushed the price down, and that will help companies build and market fuel cells at a lower cost. Once that happens, Hutton says fuel cells can be used to power cars or to generate electricity in communities.
Hutton: “We could put a fuel cell, say in the neighborhood of 120 homes where there’s natural gas pipelines, and we can make electricity right there.”
There are still challenges facing the fuel cell industry. While the natural gas boon may bring the cost of producing hydrogen down, other fuel cell components are still expensive. Safety is also a concern, and infrastructure for widespread fuel cell use is still undeveloped.
DOE Starts Planning H-Prize, a Hydrogen Refueling Station Competition
For those understandably confused about whether the federal government is advancing or retreating from supporting hydrogen fuel-cell transportation technologies, it looks like the government is now in its advancing stage.
The US Department of Energy is considering sponsoring what it calls an "H-Prize" competition that would find quicker ways to develop viable home-based hydrogen refueling stations. Such stations would then be developed for single-family or multi-family dwellings, with prizes given out for what the DOE categorizes as "production, storage, distribution, utilization, and prototypes and transformational technologies." The DOE, which didn't give many details on when and how much prize money will be doled out, appears to be getting ready for the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles that a number of the world's largest automakers are planning to debut by 2015.
The good news, of course is that there's plenty of room for improvement in the hydrogen-station deployment front. Today, there are 55 hydrogen refueling stations in the US, according to DOE figures, while Fuel Cell Today estimated last month that just 27 stations were installed globally in 2012. Read below for the basics on the H-Prize.
First Drive for Fuel Cell Production Car at CCIA
Hyundai will offer exclusive drives in a production version of the ix35 fuel cell vehicle at Company Car in Action.
The manfacturer has been one of the leaders in development of fuel cell vehicles, and says customers are able to order one of its ix35 hydrogen cars.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars are fuelled wuth hydrogen gas which is stored in an on-board tank. A chemical reaction powers an electric motor, and the only emissions from the exhaust pipe are water vapour.
Performance is equivalent to an electric vehicle while range is similar to that of a typical petrol car - often around 300 miles.
The ix35 fuel cell vehicle is based on the current version of the car available with a choice of petrol or diesel engines. The technology is packaged under the luggage compartment, and is ready for production.
Capable of doing up to 369 miles on a full tank of hydrogen, the ix35 Fuel Cell can be refuelled in the same time it takes to refuel a conventional petrol/diesel vehicle, but more importantly does not require customers to make major operational concessions to achieve zero emissions from their fleet vehicles.
Martin Wilson, fleet director at Hyundai, said: "The ix35 Fuel Cell will give fleet managers a unique and early opportunity to drive the first series-produced hydrogen fuel cell as well as to trial the real-world viability of the vehicle as part of a modern fleet operation."
Stationary Fuel Cell Market Will Reach $9 Billion in Annual Revenue by 2022, Forecasts Navigant Research
While growing in terms of megawatts and systems shipped, the market for stationary fuel cells is also going through a period of deep restructuring, with a number of companies exiting the space and a handful of new entrants appearing. Over the last year, the sector has seen a sharp increase in market demand created by government policy initiatives. According to a recent report from Navigant Research, annual revenue from stationary fuel cells will grow from $1.7 billion in 2013 to $9 billion in 2022.
"Stationary fuel cells are still in the early part of the adoption cycle, with limited availability and affordability," says Kerry-Ann Adamson, research director with Navigant Research. "During the last year, however, companies have moved to create products for markets where real needs exist--in many cases producing systems that use locally available fuels, can be maintained by local engineers, and do not require very limited operating temperature ranges. This growing realism will enable the industry to create a secure foundation for future growth."
One key factor driving growth in the stationary fuel cell sector is falling costs, according to the report. Through a combination of re-engineering systems and high-volume, high-quality manufacturing, some leading companies have achieved up to 60 percent cost reductions over the last decade. Nevertheless, stationary fuel cell costs, particularly for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, are still very high compared to many incumbent technologies.
The report, "Stationary Fuel Cells", provides a comprehensive analysis of developments and market opportunities in the global fuel cell industry, including a focus on the combined heat and power, prime power, and backup power/uninterruptible power supplies application segments. The study includes two market forecasts for unit shipments, megawatt shipments, and revenue under constrained and unconstrained growth scenarios, segmented by world region and application segment. The report also profiles 24 active fuel cell system companies in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.
Fuel-cell dreams: Powering Houses and Cars with Zero-emission Energy
Big Hydrogen Power Plants Like the One Just Installed in Bridgeport, Conn., Can Complement a Fleet of Fuel-cell Cars.
How can it be a power plant if there’s no smokestack? Ironically, Bridgeport’s huge 14.9-megawatt zero-emission fuel cell park, the largest in North America, is already partly built but was just announced last Friday in a gritty industrial city whose skyline is still dominated by the red-and-white-striped stack of an ancient but still operating coal plant (one of the state’s “filthy five”).
Further contrast was provided by the broken windows in the abandoned factory buildings a block away — Bridgeport’s plunge from an economic powerhouse was swift when jobs fled overseas. The fuel cells (a rendering of how they'll look when done is below) are sitting atop an old brownfield site — it was the home of the shuttered-in-1988 Bryant Electric factory, location of much historic union strife.
Fuel cells, invented in the 19th century, are finally coming into their own as both utility-scale power plants and as battery alternatives for electric cars. The first cars with fuel cells under the hood will be on the road as early as 2014. The first on the market will probably by the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell SUV, which is pictured below and has an impressive 365 miles of range. Close behind, in 2015, will likely be fuel-cell cars from Honda (the FCX Clarity, pictured below the Hyundai), Toyota and Daimler. They're expected to cost $50,000 to make and retail for about $100,000, but prices should drop from there.
I’ve driven most of the available fuel-cell cars, and they’re a blast on the road — quiet, powerful, and without the range anxiety of every electric vehicle other than the Tesla Model S. The biggest hurdle is the availability of hydrogen filling stations, so the most probably scenario is that American fuel-cell cars will initially be sold only in New York and California. The infrastructure is lagging behind — California wanted to have 68 hydrogen stations in place by 2016, but right now it has only eight, mostly in the Los Angeles area.
The fuel cell, which produces electricity through a chemical reaction, is scalable. That means you can use it to power a watch or a big power plant. The amazingly low price for natural gas (about $2 for a gallon equivalent) right now makes hydrogen a growth opportunity.
Right now untaxed hydrogen can be made for about $4 a kilogram, with about the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline. But since fuel cells are more than twice as efficient as gasoline engines, the actual equation is even more favorable to hydrogen. The big drawback — the $1 to $2 million cost of hydrogen stations.
For 95 percent of the 10 million tons of hydrogen produced annually in the U.S., the raw material is the aforementioned piped-in natural gas, which through a process called steam methane reformation is split into hydrogen and carbon oxides. So the fuel cell is zero emission, but not the hydrogen separation. It would take a carbon capture system such as that developed by GE and BP Amoco to make the process completely clean.
Ideally, the big power plants would be synergistic with the fuel-cell cars. We’d figure out how to contain the carbon produced by big hydrogen production, and filling stations on every corner would make the need for fossil fuels redundant. Hydrogen has a lot of advantages, including that it’s widely available everywhere. Goodbye to OPEC. Jeremy Rifkin, author of "The Hydrogen Economy," has been talking about this for years. And the Japanese are way ahead of us, using fuel cells (subsidized by the federal government) in zero-emission, zero-carbon homes.
In Bridgeport, the new fuel cell farm (there are five separate units) will produce enough electricity to power 15,000 homes. Heat from the cells will be captured in a turbine to produce more power. The complex is being built by Connecticut-based powerhouse Fuel Cell Energy, a leader in utility-scale plants — it also built the huge installation in South Korea that is currently the world’s largest. An even bigger 59-megawatt farm is under construction in Korea, FCE’s Tony Leo told me.
The fuel cell farm (seen with Bridgeport blight, above) will be owned by Dominion, a big utility that owns 27,500 megawatts of power generation, wind farms in West Virginia and Indiana, and 11,000 miles of natural gas pipelines. The electricity the fuel cells generate will be used locally, by customers of Connecticut Light & Power, under a 15-year power purchase agreement.
What makes this work is a state program called Project 150, championed by the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, which adds 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour to the price utilities pay for renewably generated electricity. Without that plan, Bridgeport’s fuel cells wouldn’t be financially viable, and that’s what brought out the mayor, the local congressman, environmental commissioner Dan Esty, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (who pointed out that Connecticut has the highest electric rates in the continental U.S.). “It took us a number of years to get here,” Esty said, “but now Bridgeport will be a model of sustainability. The goal is energy that’s not just clean, but cheaper and more reliable at the same time.”
Connecticut is a big fuel cell leader — not just making them but using them. There are major installations at Central Connecticut State College in New Britain, at Carla’s Pasta wholesalers in South Windsor (I visited that one) and at Pepperidge Farm’s giant bakery in Bloomfield. United Technologies pioneered fuel cells in Connecticut, and Proton Onsite in Wallingford makes them, too. The latter has a solar hydrogen station, and also a test fleet of Toyota fuel cell cars. Owner Tom Sullivan wants to put hydrogen stations up and down the East Coast, but has only done the Connecticut one so far. I could go on and on about fuel cells, but I'm sure you'd rather see this video of a test drive in the Honda FCX Clarity:
AFC Energy Makes a Breakthrough in Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology
Hydrogen fuel cells may be verging on commercialization
AFC Energy, a leading developer of hydrogen fuel cells, is moving closer to achieving its goal of commercialization. The fuel cell industry has long pursued commercialization but this goal has been somewhat elusive over the years due to the costs associated with fuel cells and general lack of interest in many markets. AFC Energy is one of the few companies in the fuel cell industry that is on the verge of achieving commercialization and this progress has taken a significant amount of innovation and aggression in the market.
Breakthrough expected to make fuel cells less expensive
Scientists and engineers with AFC Energy has have made a major breakthrough in fuel cell technology. Researchers have found a way to extend the lifetime of the electrodes that are used in hydrogen fuel cells, effectively boosting their life beyond the conventional nine month period. This will allow the company’s fuel cells to operate for longer periods of time before needing maintenance. AFC Energy notes that the breakthrough is a major step in making hydrogen fuel more cost effective.
Cost may be a problem of the past
Cost has been a major challenge for the fuel cell industry for some time. Fuel cell development is a costly process due to the expensive materials that are used by these energy systems. These costs are transferred to consumers so as to ensure that fuel cell developers have the ability to generate profit. Finding low-cost materials that can be used in fuel cells has been a goal for much of the fuel cell industry in recent years, but developing low-cost hydrogen fuel cells have proven to be a somewhat troublesome and slow going endeavor.
AFC Energy believes it is ready for commercialization
AFC Energy claims that its breakthrough will finally make its hydrogen fuel cells commercially viable. The company plans for its first major fuel cell installation that includes all of its recent technological breakthroughs to take place at a facility owned by Industrial Chemicals Limited, a leading chemical group based in the United Kingdom. This will allow AFC Energy an ideal testing ground for its new generation of hydrogen fuel cells while also providing Industrial Chemicals Limited the continuous supply of energy it needs to operate.
Hydrogen Storage FOA Pre-Solicitation Meeting Being Held
The Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCT) is holding a pre-solicitation meeting on May 14, 2013, for a planned Hydrogen Storage Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (expected for FY14 funding, subject to appropriations). The meeting will be from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and is being held in conjunction with the 2013 Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting (AMR) in Arlington, Virginia. During the pre-solicitation meeting, FCT representatives will present the initial plans and seek questions and comments from the public on the draft FOA topics. Review of the FOA material prior to the meeting is recommended. Feedback received will help finalize the intent and scope of the final FOA. The meeting will start at 6:15 pm in Salon V of the Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel. Questions will be taken during the meeting and via email prior to the meeting. Questions can be sent to H2Storage@go.doe.gov and must be received by 5:00 p.m. EDT on May 10, 2013. Following the meeting, questions and answers will be posted.
Big Wind-To-Hydrogen Project Afoot In Minnesota
A press release does not a power station make, but several companies in Minnesota have come together to pursue a wind-to-hydrogen project that would be “the largest hydrogen production facility powered by wind energy in the U.S.”
The attraction of such a scheme is obvious (and we’ve written about some similar pilot programs undertaken in Germany): Instead of reforming hydrogen from natural gas by stripping out the hydrogen atoms, a less-than-green process, hydrogen would be produced by electrolysis, in which electricity obtained from wind turbines is used to separate H20.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been studying ways to use wind to produce hydrogen through its W2H2 program, and in a recent presentation [PDF] concluded that “further reductions in the cost of wind electricity and electrolyzer capital are needed to make this type of plant widely applicable.”
On the second part of that equation, we’ve recently seen Canadian researchers report coming up with a line of catalysts based on inexpensive, Earth-abundant materials, including iron oxide, that they claim will before long result in reducing the electrolyzer costs.
The Minnesota project developers say that by taking advantage of “lower value” nighttime wind energy — lower value because grid operators often don’t need it the electricity in the overnight hours — they can produce hydrogen at a low enough cost to make their operation viable. They might be right. The NREL, while generally sounding pessimistic about the current viability of wind-to-hydrogen, said that “site viability is very dependent on the quality of the local wind resource.” The lab analyzed 42 potential wind-to-hydrogen sites in the U.S. and one of the few that checked out well was just south of the Renville County area in southwest Minnesota, where the Minnesota project is planned.
The Minnesota proposal, dubbed Emerald H2, is an offshoot of a planned 70 to 100 megawatt wind farm. Emerald H2 would use 5-7 turbines totaling 10 MW of generating capacity aimed at producing 500,000 kilograms of hydrogen annually.
There’s another aspect to the plan, as well, intended to give the project the ability to provide power when a utility needs it: “(B)y utilizing a 1MW Fuel Cell, the project offers one of the first ‘on-demand’ renewable peaking resources by incorporating the sale of wind energy on the grid to a local utility during peak hours only,” the developers said.
One that will help the project is the wind energy production tax credit, which was extended earlier this year to cover wind farms under construction before Jan. 1, 2014. The NREL, in its presentation, said the effect of the PTC “is significant,” translating to a $1/kg drop in the cost of H2 production, a 17-27 percent whack off the cost of the hydrogen.
Midwest Real Estate News reported that the Minnesota wind-to-hydrogen developers “are now talking with potential investors” and are hopeful of beginning work on the project before the end of the year in anticipation of going into operation about a year from now.
Ballard Sees Positive Developments in Clean Energy Fuel Cell Material Handling Market
Ballard Power Systems BLDP -2.91% CA:BLD +0.97% congratulates Plug Power on its recent announcement of a strategic investment from Air Liquide. Plug Power is the leader in providing fuel cell systems in material handling applications with their flagship product GenDriveTM, each powered by a Ballard fuel cell stack. Plug Power customers in grocery, retail, warehousing and manufacturing operations are recognizing productivity and environmental benefits available from fuel cell-powered material handling equipment, and are driving growth in the market.
The direct investment in Plug Power by Air Liquide, one of the leading industrial hydrogen fuelling solution companies, reflects a major commitment to the fuel cell material handling market. As such, it represents a positive and important development. Air Liquide's investment in Plug Power is one of a number of strategic investments in the fuel cell sector announced recently, including Cummins Inc.'s investment in Relion and Anglo American Platinum's investment in Ballard Power Systems.
In the material handling market, an increasing number of companies are re-ordering Plug Power GenDriveTM systems after experiencing financial savings from initial system deployments. For example, Walmart Canada deployed 95 fuel cell lift trucks at its sustainable refrigerated distribution centre in Alberta, Canada, reducing operating costs by $1.1 million over seven years, compared to the use of battery-powered forklift trucks. Walmart now has more than 500 fuel cell forklifts operating in three warehouses, including a freezer facility. Other Plug Power customers with GenDriveTM systems at multiple sites include: Procter & Gamble with 340 systems at 4 sites; Sysco with more than 600 systems at 7 sites; and Coca-Cola with 96 systems at 2 sties.
Plug Power is the leading hydrogen fuel cell supplier for material handling operations in North America, with over 90 percent market share. Ballard Power Systems is the exclusive supplier of liquid- and air-cooled fuel cell stacks for Plug Power's suite of GenDriveTM power units serving the full range of Class 1, 2 and 3 electric forklifts.
Zero-emission fuel cell-powered lift trucks deliver economic, operational as well as environmental benefits, when compared to traditional battery systems operating in high-throughput distribution centre and warehouse environments. Advantages are a direct result of increased forklift productivity, driven by factors that include availability of constant power and minimal hydrogen refuelling time.
About Ballard Power Systems Ballard Power Systems BLDP -2.91% CA:BLD +0.97% provides clean energy fuel cell products enabling optimized power systems for a range of applications. Products deliver incomparable performance, durability and versatility. To learn more about Ballard, please visit www.ballard.com.
This release contains forward-looking statements concerning market developments for our products and corresponding value propositions for our customers. These forward-looking statements reflect Ballard's current expectations as contemplated under section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Any such forward-looking statements are based on Ballard's assumptions relating to its financial forecasts and expectations regarding its product development efforts, manufacturing capacity, and market demand.
These statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause Ballard's actual results to be materially different, including general economic and regulatory changes, detrimental reliance on third parties, successfully achieving our business plans and achieving and sustaining profitability. For a detailed discussion of these and other risk factors that could affect Ballard's future performance, please refer to Ballard's most recent Annual Information Form. Readers should not place undue reliance on Ballard's forward-looking statements and Ballard assumes no obligation to update or release any revisions to these forward looking statements, other than as required under applicable legislation.
Kids Close the Science Gap by Making Fuel Cell Model Cars
U.S. students continue to lag behind foreign peers in science, but Thames and Kosmos science kits are trying to change that. With the newly designed Fuel Cell 10 Kit, kids can make their own fuel cell model cars that run on water and solar power.
A 2009 study found that the United States ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science.. This matter weighs on the minds of tech innovators across Silicon Valley and research facilities nationwide.
Experts are calling for a renewal of hands-on science in the classroom. Even new science focused summer camps are popping up, including a hacker camp. Award winning Thames and Kosmos is taking strides to to take the fun of science to a new level and and spark the next generation of innovators.
With the newly redesigned Fuel Cell 10 science kit, kids can build their very own model car that runs on water and the sun.
First, use solar energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Then, plug in the motor and the fuel cell uses these gases to produce electricity that moves the vehicle across the floor. The only by-product is clean water.
There are more than a dozen experiments and demonstrations about fuel cells, solar cells, and electrolysis. Hmmm, I wonder who's going to win the science fair this year?
The kit comes with a full-color, 64-page manual that is easy to understand this makes it easy for kids to use on their own or for teachers in a classroom or home school setting.
Ballard To Sponsor Event Detailing Case Study: Fuel Cell Backup Power During Hurricane Sandy
Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP)(TSX: BLD) announced today that it is sponsoring a live, complimentary webinar event entitled "Hurricane Sandy and Commercially Tested Fuel Cell Backup Power Solutions" on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 2:00 PM EDT. Interested participants may register for the webinar from the 'Events' section of Ballard's homepage, http://www.ballard.com.
The upcoming webinar will be hosted by Eric Denhoff, CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association and will feature presentations from two notable experts: Kyla Reid, Head of the Disaster Response Programme at GSMA; and Lennox McCartney, President of Precision Power and Air Bahamas. The presenters will provide insights into the benefits of alternative power technology in extreme situations, including a hands-on case study of fuel cell backup power system performance in the Caribbean during Hurricane Sandy.
Natural disasters are occurring at an accelerated pace around the globe - through the first 10-months of 2012 there were more than 30 incidents in the U.S. and more than 200 incidents worldwide, impacting over 80 million people and causing $45 billion in economic damage.
Then came Hurricane (SuperStorm) Sandy in October, 2012. Sandy resulted in over 200 deaths in 7 countries and caused over $75 billion in damage. On October 26th the storm, with winds of more than 100 mph, hit the Bahamas. Register for this webinar and listen to the details surrounding the role of backup power fuel cell systems in maintaining operations of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company through this harrowing event.
Fuel Cell Forklifts Complete First Year of Successful Operation on Military Base in California
The Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) project team has successfully completed its first full year of operations of hydrogen powered forklifts and associated refueling station equipment at Defense Depot San Joaquin (DDJC) in Tracy, California. The project involves generating hydrogen through electrolysis on site and using it to fuel 20 fuel cell forklifts that are deployed in daily depot activities.
The goal of the demonstration is to extend the knowledge and readiness levels of fuel cell powered vehicles and the hydrogen infrastructure necessary to fuel them. This clean energy project is sponsored by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), who will analyze the collected data to test the viability of using fuel cells in fleets of material handling equipment at this and other support installations.
This demonstration includes a unique mix of emerging technologies from developers with a proven ability to commercialize them. Plug Power, Inc. designed and built the 20 GenDrive® hydrogen fuel cells used to power the forklifts. Air Products is providing hydrogen compression, storage, and dispensing equipment and associated support. Proton OnSite provided the electrolyzer system and support, enabling the base to produce a reliable stream of hydrogen using just electricity and water. Papé Material Handling is providing routine fuel cell forklift support under contract to Plug Power.
The pilot period began on December 1, 2011, and is expected to run for 24 months while the team collects and analyzes operations and fueling data.
“Thanks to the excellent products and support of our team members, the fuel cells and hydrogen infrastructure has proven to be extremely reliable in consistent use over the first year of the demonstration. We have proven a high level of commercial readiness for the technology,” said Jason Hanlin, Project Manager at CTE. “We look forward to continued success for the duration of the demonstration period.”
Yale Engineers Hope to Jump-Start Fuel Cell Adoption
It’s a technology that generates electricity from common hydrogen and oxygen, producing only water as a byproduct. What’s not to love about fuel cells?
A lot, it turns out. Fuels cells right now are expensive and not very efficient, especially compared to “dirty” power sources like gasoline engines. But new research at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science is making a classic fuel cell design more appealing as a potential green power source.
Researchers in the lab of André D. Taylor, assistant professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, have developed new testing methods to optimize the efficiency of alkaline fuel cells – a technology pioneered by the United States space program in the 1960s. Recent membrane advancements have allowed newer versions of alkaline fuel cells to operate more efficiently and are less likely to stop working due to buildup from internal byproducts.
The Yale engineers have made further improvements to the most current technology in alkaline fuel cells by determining the best operating conditions to produce electricity. Their advanced electrocatalyst synthesis techniques also allow them to reduce the amount of costly platinum needed as a catalyst to spark the electricity-producing chemical reaction.
The Yale research, published in the May 15 issue of the Journal of Power Sources, outlines the innovative testing methods and calls for a new look at the potential of alkaline fuel cells. Marcelo Carmo, Gustavo Doubek and Ryan C. Sekol of Yale also participated in the research, along with Marcelo Linardi of the University of São Paulo, Brazil.
“By making these low-temperature fuel cells more efficient and cost-effective, we hope to spur more research into commercialization of this promising technology,” Taylor said.
Bloom Energy Raises $130M More for Fuel Cell Future
The firm has raised more than $1.1 billion since its founding. Bloom Energy is threatening profitability and an IPO in 2013.
Fuel cell "startup" Bloom Energy just raised $130 million more in venture capital, according to a scoop from Fortune.
That takes the VC funding to beyond $1.1 billion for this firm and makes it one of the all-time leaders in VC funding. Along with Fisker and Solyndra -- not exactly great company.
According to Fortune, the first $100 million came from an unidentified new investor and $30 million came from Credit Suisse -- while existing investors did not participate. This funding was structured as an "extension to the company's Series G round that originally closed on $150 million in 2011 at a $2.7 billion pre-money valuation," as per Fortune. Existing investors include KPCB, NEA, Advanced Equities, Goldman Sachs, and DAG.
Bloom Energy had $101 million in pro forma Q3 2012 revenue alone. And Bloom suggests it will turn a profit, according to Dan Primack of Fortune. Bloom's valuation dwarfs the collective market cap of the public fuel cell firms and its revenue is greater than the collective revenue of those firms. A Bloom board member has spoken of an IPO this year or next.
After raising more than $1.1 billion in venture capital over a decade from investors including GSV Capital, Apex Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mobius Venture Capital, Madrone Capital, New Enterprise Associates, SunBridge Partners, Advanced Equities, and Goldman Sachs, this could be the year.
According to an investor letter cited by Dan Primack of Fortune, the firm's cost of goods was $106 million, along with $26 million in operating expenses. That's a loss of $42 million on a GAAP basis, along with a net cash loss of $80 million in the quarter. However, those Q3 numbers are hobbled by an inventory and timing issue, and cash burn dropped 56 percent between Q2 and Q3, according to Primack. The firm had a 26 percent quarter-over-quarter revenue increase.
Bloom CFO Bill Kurtz told Fortune in an official statement: "Bloom Energy is pleased with the substantial progress we have made in 2012. On a pro-forma basis, Bloom has become gross-margin-positive in 2012 and is on track with our goal to be profitable in 2013." The claim from Bloom's CFO suggests that Bloom is finally making money on every fuel cell it ships.
Bloom builds fuel cells of the solid-oxide variety with natural gas as the fuel. There is no heat resource in the Bloom Box as in other CHP fuel cells.The 200-kilowatt units are intended for commercial and industrial applications, and the firm boasts an all-star list of customers, including Adobe, FedEx, Staples, Google, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart.
In 2012, Bloom raised $100 million of a potential $150 million from Apex Venture Partners and an undisclosed firm. (Jeff St. John of GTM reports on Bloom's valuation and stock sales in the secondary market.)
SiliconBeat reports that Santa Clara Valley's Transportation Authority will get $750,000 in federal funds to help finance a 400-kilowatt Bloom Energy fuel cell facility at a total cost of $4 million. Using the numbers supplied, that works out to $10,000 per kilowatt, which sounds about right for a Bloom Box, although a bit high for a competitive power source.
Bloom's fuel -- natural gas -- is a commodity and subject to price increases. Bloom's business has relied on state subsidies for distributed energy, but subsidies expire. The long-term reliability of the fuel cell stack remains a risk, and some have doubted Bloom's green claims and employment practices.
But in today's difficult cleantech business climate, those profit noises from the CFO are cause for cautious optimism. If Bloom is actually profitable in 2013, the company would be a testament to the viability of capital-intensive, VC-funded cleaner energy breakthroughs and the virtue of distributed power generation.
Scott Sandell, a partner at NEA and Bloom board member, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Bloom will likely attempt an IPO late this year or early next.
Without a doubt, there are some applications for which fuel cells make perfect sense, such as premium power for the military, remote sites, construction industry, travel, etc.
But for stationary power, fuel cells compete with the grid and diesel gen sets. And few if any fuel cell vendors, other than perhaps Bloom, have proven that they can go head-to-head with those incumbent technologies on a per-kilowatt-hour basis.
Fuel cells can be distributed and do have less emissions. Natural gas is currently cheap. But for fuel cells dependent on the natural gas grid, there's the downside of volatile prices and the sometimes less-than-green processes used to extract natural gas.
Fuel cells have benefited from state and federal subsidies, or in the case of Bloom, Delaware ratepayer bill subsidies. The justification for renewable energy subsidies is often debated in these pages. But in the case of fuel cells, even after incentives, the fuel cell is expensive compared to the grid or to a diesel gen-set.
But somehow, Bloom, by my back-of-the-envelope calculations, will have shipped around 200 megawatts of fuel cells in 2012 to a dream team of customers: Adobe, AT&T, FedEx, eBay, Coca-Cola, etc. These folks are not philanthropic organizations -- they are looking to save money, and customers attest to a three-year ROI for the Bloom Box. How is Bloom doing this? Perhaps through a PPA structure that keeps potential O&M costs isolated from the customer.
In any case, if Bloom is real, it will have some big lessons to teach the rest of the fuel cell industry. And if Scott Sandell of NEA is right -- we'll read about it in an SEC S-1 IPO registration in the coming quarters.
Burning Liquid Hydrogen For Fuel, Navy Drone Flies For 48 Hours Straight
In drone design, there's a trade-off between flying quietly and staying airborne for a long time. The Ion Tiger drone, which just completed a continuous 48 hour 1 minute flight, might be the breakthrough that changes this.
The reason for the trade-off comes down to fuel. Hydrocarbons (gasoline and the like) store an incredible amount of power in a small volume, which allows a drone like the MQ-9 Reaper to fly for 30 hours. Drone engines release this through combustion, a very noisy process. Quiet-running electric engines, on the other hand, are constrained by battery power, which typically limits flight time to only a few hours.
This barrier have led to a divergence of design: Big gas-guzzling drones can fly high up for long periods of time (for example, to observe an entire village), while small electric drones, though quiet enough to spy within a city unnoticed, only have sufficient energy for short missions.
The Ion Tiger works differently. Its power comes from liquid hydrogen, and is delivered in a cryogenic fuel cell specially designed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. The liquid hydrogen is only half the needed fuel—the rest comes from the air around the Ion Tiger. The fuel cell combines the air and liquid hydrogen with a catalyst to quietly create electricity.
The Ion Tiger does all of this while remaining nearly silent, which means it can spy without being heard from as low as 1,000 feet. Spooky!
Another upshot to using hydrogen fuel cells for drones? Rather than needing to ship gasoline in bulk, soldiers can generate new fuel from just water, a solar power generator, and a few other pieces of equipment necessary to compress hydrogen. With such a set-up, which could be quiet small, troops could operate a drone like this indefinitely.
Energy Department Launches Public-Private Partnership to Deploy Hydrogen Infrastructure
The Energy Department today launched H2USA—a new public-private partnership focused on advancing hydrogen infrastructure to support more transportation energy options for U.S. consumers, including fuel cell electric vehicles. The new partnership brings together automakers, government agencies, gas suppliers, and the hydrogen and fuel cell industries to coordinate research and identify cost-effective solutions to deploy infrastructure that can deliver affordable, clean hydrogen fuel in the United States.
"Fuel cell technologies are an important part of an all-of-the-above approach to diversify America's transportation sector, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and increase our competitiveness in the global market," said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson. "By bringing together key stakeholders from across the U.S. fuel cell and hydrogen industry, the H2USA partnership will help advance affordable fuel cell electric vehicles that save consumers money and give drivers more options."
Current members of the H2USA partnership include the American Gas Association, Association of Global Automakers, the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, Hyundai Motor America, ITM Power, Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition, Mercedes-Benz USA, Nissan North America Research and Development, Proton OnSite, and Toyota Motor North America.
"The fact that a number of entities are coming together to work together through this partnership is a very positive sign," said Morry Markowitz, President & Executive Director, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.
Recent development of the United States' tremendous shale gas resources has not only helped directly cut electricity and transportation costs for consumers and businesses, but is also helping to reduce the costs of producing hydrogen and operating hydrogen fuel cells. While American automakers and private industry have made significant progress, H2USA will bring experts together to identify and solve key infrastructure challenges, including leveraging low cost natural gas resources.
Through H2USA, industry and government partners will focus on identifying actions to encourage early adopters of fuel cell electric vehicles, conduct coordinated technical and market analysis, and evaluate alternative fueling infrastructure that can enable cost reductions and economies of scale. For example, infrastructure being developed for alternative fuels such as natural gas, as well as fuel cell applications including tri-generation that produce heat, power, and hydrogen from natural gas or biogas, may also provide low cost hydrogen for vehicles. In addition, increased fuel cell deployment for combined heat and power, back-up power systems, and fuel cell forklifts can help pave the way for mainstream hydrogen vehicle infrastructure.
With support from the Energy Department, private industry and the Department's national laboratories have already achieved significant advances in fuel cell and hydrogen technologies—reducing costs and improving performance. These research and development efforts have helped reduce automotive fuel cell costs by more than 35% since 2008 and by more than 80% since 2002. At the same time, fuel cell durability has doubled and the amount of expensive platinum needed in fuel cells has fallen by 80% since 2005.
Technique Turns Ash Into Hydrogen Gas
Piles of ash leftover from incinerated trash may be a viable source of hydrogen gas that can be used to generate electricity and power cars, suggests a process pioneered in a research lab. The trick? Just add water, which reacts with residual metallic aluminum in the ash, explained Aamir Ilyas, a water resource engineer at Lund University in Sweden, who developed the technique.
The aluminum comes from soda cans, milk cartons and other food packaging that gets tossed out with the household waste destined for the incinerator. "During the incineration, this aluminum packaging gets converted into metal lumps and fine particles, which later become the source of hydrogen producing reactions," Ilyas told NBC News in an email.
The reaction takes place in an oxygen-free environment. The produced gas is sucked up through pipes and stored in tanks. "The process does not consume any energy and works at room temperature," he said. In Sweden, where trash incineration is a common waste management technique, about 1 million tons of this ash are piled up each year, sufficient to produce enough hydrogen to supply 11,000 homes with electricity. "The leftover moist ash can be treated by leaving it in open-air or well-aerated storage for a few weeks. Then it can be safely disposed as construction material for covering older landfills," Ilyas said.
While the potential of the technique is "very good," added Ilyas, "we will have to demonstrate it at a bigger scale before it can be a viable energy recovery technique." The engineer developed the technique for his thesis.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Students for a Smarter Planet...Leaders with Conscience
The hydrogen fuel cell is one of the green technologies recently introduced to power automobiles. This clean technology initially failed to make it past the back burner stage due to problems associated with obtaining hydrogen gas in its pure form to be used in the fuel cell. This was changed when researchers at Virginia Tech managed to obtain hydrogen from plant matter. Professor Zhang led the team which made the revolutionary discovery of producing large quantities of hydrogen from a plant sugar, Xylose.
Until today, hydrogen for fuel cells is produced through a process which involves natural gas. Such a process is inefficient as it wastes a portion of natural gas energy which is a precious resource, and in addition, releases large amounts of carbon dioxide.
However, this breakthrough for large scale production of hydrogen from plant matter is believed to be a game-changer in the field of alternative energy. The use of hydrogen fuel cells for powering cars and even buses has been moving ahead at a pace which belittles its potential. It is also remarkable that key initiatives to integrate alternative fuel like hydrogen were undertaken by many cities including Berkeley, California. In Berkeley, AC Transit, the local bus company, utilizes the clean technology of hydrogen fuel cells to power its buses, and these buses have zero emission.
Hydrogen fuel cells are not only financially beneficial as it can promote savings on conventional fuel, but it is also effective in providing an efficient transportation without the cost of carbon dioxide emissions.
Hyundai, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota Join DOE in Fuel Cells Push
Hyundai Motor Co., Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit, Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have linked with the U.S. Department of Energy to prepare for the first major wave of hydrogen-powered cars, the department said today.
The formation of the public-private partnership, which will focus on hydrogen fueling infrastructure and is named H2USA after the chemical symbol for hydrogen, was first reported in March by Automotive News.
"By bringing together key stakeholders from across the U.S. fuel cell and hydrogen industry, the H2USA partnership will help advance affordable fuel cell electric vehicles that save consumers money and give drivers more options," David Danielson, an assistant secretary at DOE, said in a statement.
Fuel cell electric vehicles are seen as a way to lower tailpipe emissions from cars and lessen the world's reliance on oil.
Like electric vehicles, they use an electric motor to turn the wheels of a car. But instead of storing their power in batteries, fuel cell electric vehicles convert natural gas or hydrogen into electricity using a chemical process inside a fuel cell.
The only fuel cell electric vehicles on sale in the United States are Honda's hand-built FCX Clarity, which has been available for lease since 2008 but costs nearly $1 million per unit to build, and a more recent model from Mercedes, the B-Class F-cell, which is also leased in certain U.S. markets.
Costs are falling fast, but fuel cells are expected to remain expensive even as more automakers put them on sale in the coming years. Toyota, which has pledged to sell its first fuel-cell electric vehicle in 2015, recently said those vehicles will cost about $50,000 apiece to make, with a sticker price below $100,000.
Hyundai has started making a fuel-cell-powered version of its Tucson crossover. The Korean automaker aims to sell 1,000 units by 2015, when it will launch a next-generation version and target annual output of about 10,000 units.
Nissan and Mercedes-Benz unveiled with Ford Motor Co. in January a joint venture with the goal of bringing fuel cell electric vehicles to market by 2017.
One hurdle for fuel cell electric vehicles is infrastructure. Fewer than 100 hydrogen stations are in the United States, and only about 20 are accessible to the public.
The push to develop a bigger network of fueling stations marks a turnaround on hydrogen after former Energy Secretary Steven Chu was openly critical of the technology. Hydrogen technology research received $1.7 billion from DOE from 2004 to 2008 as part of the George W. Bush administration's FreedomCar coalition.
Other partners in the agency's new project include the American Gas Association, Association of Global Automakers, California Fuel Cell Partnership, Electric Drive Transportation Association, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association, ITM Power, Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition and Proton OnSite.
Summit to Focus on Clean Energy
Suzanne Watson, policy program director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, will be the lunchtime speaker at the second annual South Carolina Clean Energy Summit on July 11.
Suzanne Watson Watson, who joined the Washington, D.C.-based council in 2008, will talk about how South Carolina achieved a sixth-in-the-nation rating in energy-efficiency improvement.
At the council, Watson works with all of its program areas — transportation, utilities, industry, buildings, behavior, and economic and social analysis — to help set policy priorities.
The daylong event, which will be held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, will offer sessions on solar, wind, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, energy efficiency, clean energy project finance, clean transportation and recycling.
Session panelists will represent industry, academia and government institutions, including the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research, Santee Cooper, Sonoco and the South Carolina Research Authority.
The conference is being hosted by the South Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance, which aims to foster development of the clean energy industry in South Carolina.
This Fuel Cell Startup Has Now Raised $1.1 Billion
Silicon Valley venture capitalists like to crow that it’s now cheaper than ever to establish a startup company. While that may be true for internet firms, the amount of money required to fund a Silicon Valley green tech startup can be mind-boggling.
Case in point is fuel cell maker Bloom Energy, which Fortune today reported had taken its total raised to $1.1 billion, thanks to a new $130 million round.
The company is one of Silicon Valley VCs’ last big bets on green tech, with funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and other marquee venture players. None of those firms, however, appeared have to participated in the latest round. Citing unnamed sources, Fortune said that an unidentified new investor kicked in $100 million while Credit Suisse put in $30 million. (Bloom chief marketing officer Matt Ross told Quartz the company would not comment on the report.).
One of the explanations for the mammoth $1.1 billion funding is that Bloom has been around since 2001. Another is that it’s in a capital-intensive, research-heavy business. Bloom unveiled its fuel cell with great fanfare in February 2010 at a star-studded event at eBay that featured then-California governor Arnold Schwarznegger, former secretary of Colin Powell, Google co-founder Larry Page and a host of tech luminaries.
As I wrote in The New York Times:
In contrast to the usual Silicon Valley practice of announcing a coming product, Bloom spent nearly a decade developing its solid-oxide fuel cell technology while saying nary a word. Over the past year and a half, it has quietly sold and installed 100-kilowatt Bloom boxes at Google, Bank of America, Wal-Mart and other big companies. The boxes cost $700,000 to $800,000 apiece.
Such fuel cells have been something of a holy grail as they can operate at extremely high temperatures to maximise efficiency and can use a variety of fuels, like natural gas and biogas. Since the heat allows the fuel to be directly transformed into electricity through an electrochemical process, the expensive precious metals and rare-earth elements used in other fuel cells to act as catalysts could theoretically be eliminated. But finding cheap common materials as substitutes and ensuring fuel cells don’t crack and leak under such conditions have stymied scientists for more than 30 years.
Since then Bloom has continued to sell its Bloom boxes to Fortune 100 companies seeking a low-carbon source of electricity that can operate 24/7 independently of the power grid. Last year, AT&T became Bloom’s largest customer when it bought 17.1 megawatts’ worth of fuel cells.
But the latest funding round will only intensify one of Silicon Valley’s favourite parlor games: What’s Bloom’s exit strategy? At some point soon, those investors are going to want their money back.
Performance Improvement in Solar-Powered Hydrogen Generation
Using a powerful combination of microanalytic techniques that simultaneously image photoelectric current and chemical reaction rates across a surface on a micrometer scale, researchers at NIST have shed new light on what may become a cost-effective way to generate hydrogen gas directly from water and sunlight.
Their quarry is a potentially efficient, cost-effective, photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell—essentially a solar cell that produces hydrogen gas instead of electric current. "A major challenge with solar energy is dealing with solar intermittency," says NIST chemical engineer Daniel Esposito. "We demand energy constantly, but the sun's not always going to be shining, so there's an important need to convert solar energy into a form we can use when the sun's not out. For large-scale energy storage or transportation, hydrogen has a lot of benefits."
At its simplest, a PEC cell contains a semiconducting photoelectrode that absorbs photons and converts them into energetic electrons, which are used to facilitate chemical reactions that split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases. It's not that easy. The best PEC cell has been demonstrated with an efficiency around 12.5%, says Esposito. But, "it's been estimated that such a cell would be extremely expensive—thousands of dollars per square meter—and they also had issues with stability," he says. One big problem is that the semiconductors used to achieve the best conversion efficiency also tend to be highly susceptible to corrosion by the cell's water-based electrolyte. A PEC electrode that is efficient, stable and economical to produce has been elusive.
The NIST team's proposed solution is a silicon-based device using a metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) design that can overcome the efficiency-stability tradeoff. The key is to deposit a very thin, but very uniform, layer of silicon dioxide—an insulator—on top of the semiconductor—silicon—that is well-suited for doing the photon-gathering work. On top of that is a polka-dot array of tiny electrodes consisting of platinum-covered titanium. The stable oxide layer protects the semiconductor from the electrolyte, but it's thin enough and transparent enough that the photons will travel through it to the semiconductor, and the photo-generated electrons will "tunnel" in the opposite direction to reach the electrodes, where the platinum catalyzes the reaction that produces hydrogen.
The MIS device requires good production controls—the oxide layer in particular has to be deposited precisely—but Esposito notes that they used fabrication techniques that are standard in the electronics industry, which has decades of experience in building low-cost, silicon-based devices.
To study the system in detail, the NIST team scanned the surface of the device with a laser beam, illuminating only a small portion at a time to record photocurrent with micrometer resolution. In tandem with the beam, they also tracked an "ultramicroelectrode" across the surface to measure the rate of molecular hydrogen generation, the chemical half of the reaction. The combination allowed them to observe two bonus effects of the MIS photoelectrode design: a secondary mechanism for hydrogen generation caused by the channeling of electrons through the oxide layer, and a more efficient transport of electrons to the reaction site than predicted.
The NIST team calculates an efficiency of 2.9% for their device, which also exhibits excellent stability during operation. While this efficiency is far lower than more costly designs, they note that it is 15 times better than previously reported results for similar silicon-based MIS devices, and the new data from their microanalysis of the system points towards several potential routes to improving performance. The detailed results are found in Nature Materials.
The $1 Billion Fuel Cell Just Got More Promising
Fuel cells are a tough sell. So much so that GreenTech Media has a running joke: it opens its fuel cell articles with a list of the top three profitable companies in the field. Inevitably, all three are slots are blank. Get it? Despite the fact that the basic technology has existed for decades now, not a single major company has managed to make a fuel cell product viable.
Until now-ish, maybe. The biggest fuel cell concern running, Bloom Energy, is edging perilously close to profitability. Its 100 kilowatt solid oxide fuel cells, called Bloom Boxes, have now been installed at Google, Bank of America, Walmart, and beyond, for around $700,000 a pop.
The company just received another round of investment, which pushed the total to upwards of $1.1 billion dollars, making Bloom Silicon Valley's biggest bet on fuel cell tech. The Bloom Boxes work "like a battery that always runs," as the company describes it. The boxes are made of "stacks" consisting of an electrolyte, an anode, and a cathode. In the Bloom Box, the "anode and cathode are made from special inks that coat the electrolyte. Unlike other types of fuel cells, no precious metals, corrosive acids, or molten materials are required."
So it's pretty safe, too. And because the fuel cell is super-hot, it's very efficient at converting air and fuel into electricity (no combustion required). But what do we want these things for again? It's pretty expensive and rather fragile for a relatively small power supply, after all.
Well, it's clean, if natural gas is the fuel input—cleaner than, say, a diesel generator. And, as Michael Graham Richards points out, these Boxes could prove ideal for supplementing clean energy sources like wind or solar that can only provide intermittent power. If the tech ends up working as well as Bloom says they do, they could very well be cheaper than batteries. So adding a natural gas-fed fuel cell to a solar setup could feasibly guarantee 24-hr power with truly negligible carbon emissions.
That's a worthy prospect. And if Bloom can turn a out a reliable product, and then profit, it can ramp up production and get costs down further. Then the billion dollar fuel cell just might pay off.
Fuel-Cell cars set to gain momentum in US, but will consumers want to pay for the vehicles?
A group of automakers have teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a collaborative effort to support more fuel cell cars in the U.S.
According to Automotive News, Hyundai Motor Co., Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit, Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have joined the U.S. Department of Energy to form a partnership to focus on the development of hydrogen fueling infrastructure.
The public-private partnership, named H2USA after the chemical symbol for hydrogen, is aimed at making fuel cell vehicles a more viable option for consumers in the US.
“By bringing together key stakeholders from across the U.S. fuel cell and hydrogen industry, the H2USA partnership will help advance affordable fuel cell electric vehicles that save consumers money and give drivers more options,” David Danielson, an assistant secretary at DOE, said in a statement, as reported by Automotive News.
Much like electric cars, fuel cell vehicles are powered by an electric motor. However, instead of storing power in the batteries, fuel cell electric vehicles convert natural gas or hydrogen into electricity using a chemical process inside a fuel cell that produces an electro-chemical reaction to produce electricity, as explained by NextGreenCar. Fuel cell technology is not new and has been used for decades in the U.S. space program.
Considered by many to be more efficient than even electric vehicles, fuel cells aren’t limited by the dynamics of thermodynamics, notes NextGreenCar, which enables them to achieve higher conversion efficiencies than conventional engines that only make use of 20 percent-25 percent of the fuel’s energy (as in gas-powered cars) – fuel cells can achieve up to 60 percent.
However, unlike a battery the reactants – fuel and oxygen – have to be continually supplied for an electric current to be produced.
Fuel cell vehicles have been known to have a driving range of up to 240 miles or more.
To date, the technology has been significantly hampered in the U.S. by a lack of natural gas or hydrogen infrastructure (gas stations) and the high cost of the vehicles. The CEO of Volkswagen has even gone so far as to say FC vehicles have no future.
According to Automotive News, the only fuel cell electric vehicles currently sold in the US are Honda’s hand-built FCX Clarity, which costs nearly $1 million per unit to build, and the limited Mercedes B-Class F-cell, which when it was first introduced in California in 2014 was available for a three year lease at $849 a month.
Not exactly pocket change by most standards.
Toyota has said with a substantial cut in production costs that it could introduce a fuel cell vehicle in 2015 that will cost consumers around $100,000. But you have to wonder who would even be willing to pay that much for one of the vehicles.
Hydrogen Energy the Chloroplast Way: Solar-to-Fuel with the Artificial Leaf
The first fully integrated nanosystem for artificial photosynthesis is developed for producing hydrogen with cheap components and biomimicry.
With atmospheric carbon dioxide recently hitting a record 400 parts per million, the discovery of alternative renewable energy sources has taken on added urgency. One effort is the so-called “artificial leaf,” a photosynthetic system that uses light energy to split water molecules and produce hydrogen. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have recently published details of their new nanowire-based system that mimics the way plant chloroplasts transport charged particles.
The artificial leaf’s titanium dioxide and silicon nanowires are arranged in an array that actually resembles a microscopic forest of straight pines. The key to achieving good solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency is the integration of the components — the nanowire semiconductors that absorb light, an interfacial layer, and co-catalysts for the water splitting reaction — in a structure that resembles and functions like a chloroplast.
Plants are so efficient at turning sunlight into sugars partly because of what is termed the “Z-scheme”: the daisy chain of molecules that deliver a charged electron from a chloroplast to molecular energy production in the cell. The artificial leaf uses the Z-scheme, too, but with the silicon nanowires responsible for the hydrogen generation and the titanium dioxide nanowires contributing to the formation of by-product oxygen. The use of two semiconductor materials allows for a large part of the sunlight spectrum to be harnessed (the silicon works off visible light and the titanium dioxide uses UV), while the forest-like array of nanowires increases the surface area for the solar-to-fuel reactions, which are helped along by embedded catalysts.
The artificial leaf has a conversion efficiency of 0.12 percent, comparable to that of natural photosynthesis. To be commercially viable, the efficiency number will have to get into the single digit percentages, and companies like MIT spin-off Sun Catalytix have already chosen to refocus their efforts away from artificial leaf tech. Replacing the current-limiting titanium dioxide anode in the system is the Berkeley researchers’ next target for improving conversion efficiency.
US Energy Department Awards Jeff Serfass for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Leadership
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program bestowed a Special Recognition Award to Technology Transition Corporation CEO, Jeff Serfass. Mr. Serfass received the award in recognition of "outstanding leadership, commitment and collaboration in developing a unified industry stakeholder association, and for contributions to the DOE's Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program."
Sunita Satyapal, DOE's Manager of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program presented the award recognizing Mr. Serfass for his former role as President of the National Hydrogen Association and current role as President of the Hydrogen Education Foundation alongside the leaders of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association and the former US Fuel Cell Council at DOE's 2013 Annual Merit Review.
"This special award recognizes the outstanding collaboration and commitment demonstrated by the leaders of the former U.S. Fuel Cell Council and the National Hydrogen Association in coming together to create a new and unified fuel cell and hydrogen industry stakeholder association," Dr. Satyapal announced, adding that "Jeff's service over more than 22 years is especially well known for his outstanding support of student education and outreach. He continues to be a very strong advocate for hydrogen energy in numerous other venues, always ensuring that hydrogen and fuel cells are well represented as he branches out into other clean energy technology areas."
Mr. Serfass, along with 10 companies in 1988, created the first meeting from which the National Hydrogen Association (NHA) was born. For the two decades following, the NHA grew into an international association of more than 120 organizations, a budget of nearly two million dollars per year and a globally recognized name. Its annual event, the NHA Hydrogen Conference and Expo, was the longest running annual hydrogen event in the world, the largest hydrogen event in the U.S., and the networking event for the hydrogen energy community with 3,000 attendees at its peak. Perhaps most importantly, as a result of the recent U.S. economic downturn, Mr. Serfass was a key facilitator of the successful 2010 merger of the NHA with the U.S. Fuel Cell Council to form the new Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) which thrives today--a critical move ensuring future growth of the closely linked fuel cell and hydrogen energy industries.
"I'm honored to be recognized for work we started long ago and am so happy to receive it surrounded by so many close colleagues and friends," said a still surprised Serfass. "Most people don't know that we started the hydrogen energy industry when NASA was the key player in hydrogen. From those roots, the business has turned into thousands of hydrogen forklifts, fuel cell powered buildings and fuel cell electric vehicles driving on our roads today."
Today, Mr. Serfass continues to provide active industry leadership as Managing Director of the California Hydrogen Business Council (CHBC) and President of the Hydrogen Education Foundation, which produces innovative national competitions and events such as the 2012 Washington Fuel Cell Summit.