Tokyo Gas and Panasonic launch new, smaller, lower-cost Ene-Farm home fuel cell co-generation system
Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. and Panasonic Corporation have jointly developed a new smaller, lower-cost version of the Ene-Farm home fuel cell co-generation system. Panasonic manufactures the fuel cell unit and supplies it to Tokyo Gas in combination with a hot water unit and backup heat source produced by Gastar Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Tokyo Gas. (Ene-Farm is a Japanese marketing brand used by several major gas companies and fuel cell manufacturers for home co-generation units. Earlier post.)
The new model will be sold by Tokyo Gas from 1 April 2013, priced at ¥1,995,000 (US$22,344) (with the standard backup heat source; including tax; excluding installation fee). This is about ¥760,000 (US$8,512) less than the recommended retail price of the Ene-Farm model currently on the market, made possible by a reduction in the number of components.
Compared to conventional method of using electricity from thermal power plant and hot water supply using city gas, the fuel cell system allows primary energy consumption to be reduced by approximately 37% and CO2 emissions by approximately 49%. Users can cut around ¥60,000 (US$672) from annual utility bills, and CO2 emissions by approximately 1.3 tons a year.
Through system simplification, the new product contains about 20% fewer components than the previous model. Materials were revised for the electricity-generating stacks, a key device, and for the fuel processor, which produces hydrogen from city gas, while the size of hot water storage tank was also reduced.
The new product also achieved an overall efficiency of 95.0% (LHV)—the world’s highest. It is the first time that the recommended retail price of an Ene-Farm product in Japan has been less than ¥2 million.
With improved durability of the electrolyte membrane, which forms the core of electrical generation, the new product can operate for 60,000 hours, or 20% longer than the previous model. Also, by reducing the lower limit of the power output from 250 watts to 200 watts, it is even more suitable for customers with minimal power needs.
Due to a reduction in the size of the equipment, the required installation depth has been decreased from 900 mm to 750 mm. Since the backup heat source has also been separated from the hot water unit, the product can now be even more easily installed in a wider variety of places.
The new product will be available to the general public in three models.
Since the first Ene-Farm products were put on general sale in May 2009, Panasonic has now shipped a total of approx. 21,000 units throughout Japan as of the end of December 2012, of which approx. 15,000 have been sold by Tokyo Gas. For FY2013, Panasonic will complete a production setup to enable an annual production capacity 50% greater than its current annual production forecast to more than 15,000 units, while Tokyo Gas will aim for annual sales of 7,100 units—70% more than the FY2012 sales target of 12,000 units.