|Ford Edge with HySeries Drive. Click to enlarge.|
Ford recently brought its plug-in fuel-cell series hybrid concept Edge with HySeries Drive (earlier post) to Canada for the first time as part of a trip to showcase the advanced research vehicle alongside the production 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid.
The roadshow came shortly after researchers from the University of California Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) published a paper arguing that such plug-in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles—with the addition of an export capability (“plug-out”)—could be the foundation for a group of opportunities collectively called “Mobile Electricity” (Me-). Correspondingly, the Me-FCV (Mobile Electricity-Fuel Cell Vehicle) may prove a strong avenue for commercialization of fuel cell technology.
The paper, “Commercializing light-duty plug-in/plug-out hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles”, appeared in the 15 April issue of the Journal of Power Sources.
The HySeries Edge combines a 336V li-ion battery pack with a fuel cell range extender. When the battery state-of-charge (SOC) drops to approximately 40% (about 25 miles of all-electric range), the fuel cell begins operating to keep the battery pack charged. At full range (approximately 360 km / 225 miles), the HySeries Edge offers combined city/highway gasoline equivalent fuel economy rating of 5.9 l/100km (41 mpg) with zero emissions. For those who drive less than 80 km (50 miles) each day, the average jumps to more than 3.0 l/100 km (80 mpg).
Individual experiences will vary widely and can stretch out the time between fill-ups of the 350-bar tank, which stores 4.5 kg of hydrogen. The hybrid can travel at speeds of up to 136 km/h (85 mph).
Applying the fuel cell as a range extender in a series hybrid configuration rather than as the primary source of direct motive power reduces the size, weight, cost and complexity of a conventional fuel cell system by more than 50%, according to Ford, and promises to more than double the lifetime of the fuel cell stack.
What Ford has not emphasized with its HySeries work, however, is what ITS researcher Brett Williams characterizes as the “plug-out” aspect—the ability to export electricity across the traditional vehicle boundary to provide home recharging and mobile power; power for emergencies; and electric-grid-support services through vehicle-to-grid (V2G) functionality. Williams’s contends that such Mobile Electricity applications are the pathway to sustained commercialization of fuel cell technology in vehicles.
Even in the absence of vehicle performance limitations, robust private value propositions for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (H2FCVs) would be necessary to sustain their successful commercialization and to displace entrenched gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks. Because H2FCVs thus far are not superior to today’s vehicles on those dimensions conventionally valued by private consumers, product value must flow from other sources.
...H2FCVs will not sell simply as clean cars and trucks; they must be marketed as new products that provide innovative value to consumers....One group of opportunities for H2FCV innovation stems from the ability of these vehicles to produce clean, quiet electrical power for purposes other than propulsion.—Brett Williams
The study integrates and extends previous analyses of H2FCVs, plug-in hybrids, and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power. It also uses a new electric-drive-vehicle and vehicular-distributed-generation model to estimate zero-emission-power versus zero-emission-driving tradeoffs, costs, and grid-support revenues for various electric-drive vehicle types and levels of infrastructure service.
Given that even the best fuel cell vehicle/infrastructure combination modeled here earns modest spinning-reserves net revenues, and that even a relatively small plug-in battery doing regulation appears profitable (assuming ongoing improvements in battery life)...there is a case to be made for commercializing H2FCVs as plug-in/-out H2FCVs, that is Me-FCVs.
Might Me-FCVs be recharged at home (for daily needs) and hydrogen refueled abroad (for longer trips)? Or vice versa? Although the latter option seems less likely due to the costs of stand-alone small-scale hydrogen production, the home energy station being developed by Honda to supply hydrogen to cars and electricity and heat to homes might be even more valuable if it sends the family car with a full tank each day out into a fuel-neutral Me-world to earn some revenues.
Either way, it appears time to move beyond framing batteries and fuel cells in a zero-sum game, and to start thinking of them as complimentary.—Brett Williams
“Commercializing light-duty plug-in/plug-out hydrogen-fuel-cell vehicles: “Mobile Electricity” technologies and opportunities”; Brett D. Williams and Kenneth S. Kurania; Journal of Power Sources Volume 166, Issue 2, 15 April 2007, Pages 549-566 doi:10.1016/j.jpowsour.2006.12.097