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Carbon Trust awards £2M to ACAL Energy and ITM Power to support major reduction in cost of automotive fuel cell systems
2 September 2012
The UK’s Carbon Trust recently awarded £1.95 million (US$3.09 million) to two UK fuel cell companies—ACAL Energy and ITM Power—to help deliver a step change reduction in the cost of the technology to about $35/kW. The two investments come from the Carbon Trust’s Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge (PFCC) which was launched in 2009 to support the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s objectives to develop lower cost fuel cells and follows this year’s launch of the Government’s UKH2Mobility project. (Earlier post.)
Production of advanced automotive fuel cell systems currently under development globally are forecast to cost approximately $50/kW at mass manufacture volumes. However, analysis by the Carbon Trust indicates that for future fuel cell vehicles to compete with internal combustion engine cars, the cost of fuel cell systems must be reduced to about $35/kW. Significant additional technological breakthroughs are needed to achieve this target of a 30% cost reduction.
The Carbon Trust cost analysis applies to projected costs for the period 2030-2050, when fuel cell vehicles reach mass production quantities (500,000 units per year). The comparison with internal combustion engine cars is based on a total cost of ownership analysis that assumes a product lifetime of 15 years, no taxes or subsidies on the fuels used and a peak power output of 85 kW.
Analysis by the Carbon Trust has identified that the technologies being developed by ITM Power and ACAL Energy have the potential to reach this automotive cost target if significant technological hurdles can be overcome.
ITM Power. One of the most important factors for bringing down the cost, size and weight of a fuel cell is increasing its power density. Based on data provided by ITM Power, analysis by the Carbon Trust indicates that their membrane technology has the potential, subject to overcoming a number of technological hurdles, to reduce fuel cell costs to about $35/kW. (Earlier post.) As a result, the Carbon Trust is investing £1.1 million (US$1.75 million) which will be earmarked to further develop and scale-up ITM Power's membrane technology for use in automotive applications.
ACAL Energy. Another significant way to bring down the cost of polymer fuel cells is to reduce the amount of platinum used. ACAL Energy has developed a new design of fuel cell (FlowCath) that uses a circulating liquid polymer cathode, creating a virtually platinum free low-cost system with the added potential benefit of increased durability, making it highly attractive to vehicle manufacturers for their next generation fuel cell vehicles. (Earlier post.)
Analysis by the Carbon Trust, based on data provided by ACAL Energy, indicates that this technology also has the potential, subject to overcoming the technological hurdles, to reduce fuel cell system costs to about $35/kW. As a result, Carbon Trust has invested a further £850K (US$1.3 million) has been invested into ACAL Energy for continued development and scale-up of their FlowCath system.
The Carbon Trust has estimated that achieving a cost reduction to $35/kW could unlock a fuel cell vehicle market that alone could be worth $210 billion, and save 750 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050. Carbon Trust ran the nationwide competition to identify the breakthrough technologies that could achieve the $35/kW target and unlock this significant prize.
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