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Oorja Protonics Introduces New Direct Methanol Fuel Cell On-Board Battery Charger

18 February 2010

Oorja Protonics, a developer and manufacturer of direct methanol fuel cell technology (earlier post), has introduced the OorjaPac Model 1 to its product line. With a 4.5 kW power output, Model 1 has the highest power output in the methanol fuel cell industry, according to Oorja. The operating cost for the Model 1 is $0.18/kW-hour.

The target market for the OorjaPac is the materials handling industry, for use in electric forklifts, pallet trucks, and automated guided vehicles. OorjaPac addresses low vehicle runtime and operational cost challenges facing material handling fleet managers by continuously trickle-charging the on-board battery in a material handling vehicle, regardless of whether it is operating or parked, thereby ensuring the battery never reaches a state of deep discharge.

Battery charge and power are maintained at high levels and the battery is not subject to heat damage caused during recharging. This significantly increases productivity by eliminating the labor and equipment costs associated with battery swapping.

The eleven gallon methanol fuel tank is sufficient to power two eight hour shifts. The already released OorjaPac Model 3 is equipped with a three-gallon tank. In August 2009, Nissan North America (NNA) deployed OorjaPacs for the 60 tugs at its Smyrna, Tenn., assembly plant. (Earlier post.)

A direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) uses liquid methanol rather than hydrogen. Methanol (CH3OH) is mixed with water and fed directly to the fuel cell anode, where it is oxidized on a catalyst layer to form carbon dioxide, hydrogen ions (H+) and the electrons that travel through the external circuit as the electric output of the fuel cell. Positive ions (H+) are transported across the proton exchange membrane (PEM) to the cathode where they react with oxygen to produce water, which is then recycled for input with the methanol.

FEDMFC and Hybrids. Separately, Polygenic Power Corp., a subsidiary of SymPowerco Corporation, has launched a hybrid-electric vehicle prototype project that is to be advanced concurrently with SymPowerco’s recently announced Flowing Electrolyte Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (FEDMFC) prototype project. (Earlier post.)

In addition to the moisture and control issues of PEM fuel cells in general, PEM DMFCs also suffer from methanol crossover. The membrane in a PEM DMFC allows methane to cross over from the anode to the cathode side, degrading efficiency by as much as 30%.

In the Flowing Electrolyte DMFC, the PEM is replaced by a flowing electrolyte: sulfuric acid. While a PEM is also required in the FE DMFC, it can be a less expensive PEM with much lower resistance. This cheaper PEM allows some crossover of methanol but the flowing electrolyte removes the methanol, thus increasing fuel cell efficiency by about 30%, according to the company.

The Hybrid Electric Vehicles developed in the program will serve as future test platforms for SymPowerco’s FEDMFC and for retrofit Hybrid Power Systems of varying designs. The original scope of the project has been expanded to include multiple power sources for the electric drive systems including multi-fuel small-displacement internal combustion engines. The electric vehicle prototypes will be designed to be compatible with virtually any prime power source. SymPowerco’s power sources will be designed to be interchangeable with each other in response to varying consumer demands and applications.

Both projects will be completed in-house and all intellectual property associated with the projects will remain with SymPowerco Corporation.

SymPowerco has identified markets for Hybrid Electric Drive Systems including golf carts, small industrial vehicles, three-wheeled taxis in the Far East (Tuk-Tuks), motorbikes and similar small vehicles. With batteries being constantly recharged by SymPowerco’s FEDMFC or other mobile power source, a golf cart could weigh as much as 200 pounds less than a plug-in golf cart and would operate indefinitely by occasional refueling with a liquid fuel such as methanol.

February 18, 2010 in Fuel Cells, Methanol | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Get this up to 20 kW with a liquid cathode and this could be a game changer in a hurry.

Yeah, this type of thing is part of my imagined future of energy.

Thorium nukes to provide electricity and to fix CO2 into methane or methanol. It'd be good to eliminate the battery pack altogether by increasing the responsiveness of the DMFC.

Actually this fuel cell can be mated to a high power but low energy EFFPOWER battery for regeneration and power peaks. ..HG..

With enough lithium batteries regenerative braking becomes more significant. With only 1 kWh you do not capture much but with 4 kWh you can capture more. Put in a 20 kW DMFC and keep the weight under 2500 pounds and you could have quite a nice car.

Methanol has serious disadvantages as a common fuel since it is soluble in water and toxic. California was pushing this as a low emission diesel fuel in the past, but when people started to think about the problems with contaminating groundwater, they gave up on it.

It was MTBE that caused a problem. M85 trials were quite successful.

A recent study at MIT of methanol as a fuel (Bromberg and Cheng http://www.psfc.mit.edu/library1/catalog/reports/2010/10rr/10rr012/10rr012_full.pdf )concludes that methanol is relatively safe in terms of groundwater pollution. A search using Google Scholar seems to confirm this. The main concern is that methanol and ethanol can change the transport and degradation of other pollutants such as benzene. While methanol is somewhat worse than ethanol, there is not a very big difference (Gomez and Alvarez 2010 http://cohesion.rice.edu/engineering/pedroalvarez/emplibrary/116.pdf) Methanol contamination by itself would be dangerous, but in most scenarios the dispersal would be fast enough to limit the danger.

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