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ACAL Energy FlowCath fuel cell reaches 10,000 hours runtime on automotive durability test; 2x US DOE 2017 target

27 June 2013

Fuel Cell 1
FlowCath PEM fuel cell. Click to enlarge.

UK-based ACAL Energy Ltd announced that its FlowCath platinum-free liquid cathode system has enabled a PEM hydrogen fuel cell to reach 10,000 hours’ runtime on a third-party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation. ACAL Energy’s approach is also significantly cheaper than conventional fuel cell technology. (Earlier post.)

10,000 hours, the equivalent of 300,000 driven miles, is the point at which hydrogen fuel cell endurance is comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines under such test conditions. This endurance far exceeds the proposed US Department of Energy (DoE) industry target for fuel cell powered vehicles to last 5,000 hours, equivalent to 150,000 road miles, with an expected degradation threshold of approximately 10%. (Earlier post.)

Over the last 16 months, ACAL Energy has put its proprietary design fuel cell through an industry standard automotive stress test protocol that simulates a 40-minute car journey with a start-stop at the end of each cycle.

The cycle, which was repeated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, mimics a vehicle journey with frequent stops, starts and a highway cruise. This particular test is employed to accelerate aging and to stress wear on car engines and fuel cell systems over time.

Unlike a conventional PEM hydrogen fuel cell design, ACAL Energy’s technology does not rely on platinum as the catalyst for the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. The platinum and gas have been replaced with a patented liquid catalyst, which ACAL Energy calls FlowCath.

This approach significantly improves a PEM fuel cell’s durability and at the same time reduces the cost of a system. The liquid acts as both a coolant and catalyst for the cells, ensuring that they last longer by removing most of the known decay mechanisms.

ACAL Energy’s technology reduces significantly the total cost and weight of a fuel cell and enables a competitive fuel cell drive-train with a power output of 100kW—equivalent to that of a 2-liter diesel engine.

Degradation has long held back the potential for the widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells in the automotive sector. Breaking the 10,000 hour threshold during rigorous automotive testing is a key reason our hydrogen fuel cell design and chemistry has been selected for trial by a number of the 6 top automotive OEMs.

With our technology, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can drive over 500 miles per tank of fuel, and can be refueled in less than five minutes, emitting only water. For a driver, the only difference from driving an internal combustion engine car is what’s going in the tank, but for the environment the significance of zero carbon emissions is enormous.

—Greg McCray, CEO of ACAL Energy

ACAL Energy is advised by Innovator Capital, the specialist investment bank, and is funded currently by a mixture of venture and strategic investors including: the Carbon Trust, a key investor in the low carbon technology field; I2BF Global Ventures, an international clean technology asset management group; Solvay, the international chemical group; a large Japanese automotive manufacturer; and the North West Fund for Energy and Environment.

June 27, 2013 in Fuel Cells, Hydrogen | Permalink | Comments (72) | TrackBack (0)

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This is not just a glint in a researcher's eye, which requires years of development before it emerges, if it ever does.

It is also suitable for stationary applications, and is already up and running at a chemical plant in the UK, and is to go into Honda's hydrogen refuelling station also in the UK:
http://www.acalenergy.co.uk/assets/common/0817_ACAL_Poster_2_Durability_v4.pdf

What is more it operates at 110C, which means that its higher heat than typical PEMs make the otherwise waste heat much more suitable for combined heat and power, as it is at a higher and more useful temperature.

So if this never makes it into a single car, it still has the potential to revolutionise power generation, by generating CHP in the home, so saving around 30-40% on the gas used for that purpose where it is used to generate electricity centrally and the heat wasted.

Somehow I had missed this one, and spent some time reading up on it this morning, as in my view this is a technology with real potential.

Getting at least 300,000 miles from a fuel stack in a car whist using a lot less platinum is also pretty darn exciting, at least to geeks like me! :-)

Sounds good, though it's hard to imagine how this could happen without the decades of US taxpayer $billions and the Hydrogen Initiative most US car makers needed to go bankrupt without ever marketing a single, fuel cell highway-capable car.

The most important fuel cell specification remains consistent - no price, which doesn't rule out $100,000's.

Still, 10,000 hours without any significant signs of degradation is VERY encouraging.

A multi-purpose fuel cell that could back up my solar panels and heat my house in the winter and power my RV in the summer would be sweet.

@kelly:

If you looked at the Acal website, which I have linked to, you would have seen that costs in mass production are estimated at less than $40/kw, which is unsurprising because it is so economical in the use of platinum in the cathode, which is one of the major costs.

Your not having looked to see if the information is available does not mean it does not exist, just that you prefer to shoot off without doing some minimal level of spadework.

I've got no idea why you should think that this needs billions from the US taxpayer, since it has been developed in the UK and if it is chosen by one of the six automakers interested (website) is likely to be rolled out in Europe and Japan, whatever the US chooses to do.


Are there any signs of these kind of devices using liquid alcohol (or even Petrol) as source of hydrogen, in stead of using Hydrogen Gas? That would make a device like this (@20 kW) the ultimate "range extender" in otherwise battery powered cars.

@Larboelen:
Not AFAIK.
Its tough enough getting this bit of the technology to work, without getting involved in the issue of reducing a reformer to a size to fit in car and ensuring the purity of the hydrogen is high enough to avoid poisoning the catalyst.

Having said that, as per the website this cell using a flow catalyst helps with the whole issue of poisoning, and it operates at a higher temperature than normal PEM cells, which makes it easier to use other sources than pure hydrogen, perhaps even true multifuel capability.

Enerdel are trying this approach:
http://www.fuelcellmarkets.com/content/images/articles/091217%20General%20EnerFuel%20Presentation%20For%20Website.pdf

Looking at the specs though it operates at 120-180C, higher than the Acal cell which runs at 110C, so I wouldn't get my hopes up.

So, this is one of the five miracles required for hydrogen cars to be practical, yawn. I agree with Larsboelen, EVs are here and affordable, all we really need now is a clean efficient range extender to replace the ICE, though Tesla is trying really hard to make that unnecessary!

DaveK:
I bow to you.

Prejudice and stupidity are invincible, and reason fails against opinions not based on logic.

I am glad that you feel so smug.

After all, you should do, since you know better than the auto engineers at almost every car maker, and those know-nothings at places like the DOE.

Large fuel cells may have a niche market for large trucks, locomotives, ships, and as fixed generating plant. This could have the potential?

For every day cars, smaller multi-fuel type of cells are required for use as range extenders. This may not be it?

Thanks, Davemart, for the info.

At $40/kW, this FC tech is very affordable for home use, let's say, 5-10 kW installation for CHP in colder seasons and generation back up for the grid. A home H2 piping system will be needed. Further, an electrolyzer parallel with the FC can absorb excess grid's solar or wind electricity and deposit the H2 back into the H2 pipeline for later use. The waste heat from the electrolyzers can further be used by restaurants, hotels, spa, hospital, or process plants that need hot water. Round-trip efficiency is very high, and cost of energy storage is very low, since the H2 pipeline system has tremendous volume.

In this fashion, we can jump start quickly into zero-carbon energy for home, industry and tranportation, all integrated, at very affordable cost, and will create millions of new jobs! Mass production of FC, electrolyzer and H2 piping system is key to affordability. Job creation is another incentive for the switch.

@Davemart, the link didn't initially load.

"Still, 10,000 hours without any significant signs of degradation is VERY encouraging." - is a compliment.

However, if there's a 200 hp Acal fuel cell it would be ~$60,000 - BEFORE pressurized H2 storage tanks, a motor, control electronics, buffer battery, and a VEHICLE?

In the Midwest, even sighting an EV of the US 100,000 is still kinda rare, but I've never seen a FC car or hydrogen station.

We've been five years from mass-market fuel cell cars for over thirty years.

@Roger:
They don't pump hydrogen around for home fuel cells.
The Japanese already have several thousand, not ACAL but PEM from Panasonnic and others, and SOFC from Kyocera.

They simply reform natural gas and use that.
Home reforming is a whole different ball game to reforming in a car, as you don't have to worry about weight, and not so much about space as in a car.

In Germany they are looking at networks of small scale power, with the general idea being that if one house is running a shower, using maybe 10kw for a few minutes, although it is a high draw time of day, probably not everyone in the street is showering at the same time, so you can load spread and avoid having to provide full peak power.

They are also looking at using various buffering techniques.
They would basically take over from VW's Energy Swarm, but be more efficient than the NG engines VW is currently looking at:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/09/volkswagen-lichtblick-20090909.html#more

@Harvey:
They work fine in small units.
See the ACAL site.

@kelly,
The cost for 200-hp FC is ~$6,000, not 60k.
By 2015, FCV will be available, mass-produced and affordable. Just two more years!

@Kelly:
200HP is around 150kw, which is the unit I work in.

At $40/kw that is $6,000, not $60,000.

They are not projected to get that cheap until they are produced in volume, but that sort of projection is something I know a bit about as I used to do cost and works accounting, and it ain't a guess, as it is simply applying production engineering to what we can build right now, without taking any further technological progress into account.

Its a bit difficult to explain, but the accuracy of that is a whole different ball game to some of the fanciful figures you see, which throw in all sorts of optimistic guesses on technology.

The ACAL figures are based on DOE ones of $49/kw for current fuel cells, and ACAL have only altered them to take into account the lower need for platinum etc in their cells.

You can basically take it to the bank.

Addendum:
The $40kw is at a volume of 500,000 units a year.

@ Kelly

Is there a EV on the market which has a battery that will last 300,000 miles without degradation? Hardly.


How about one with a 200 hp motor and a battery to match which will cost less than an arm and a leg? I don't think so.

How about one with a range that exceeds 100 miles in the dead of a New England winter? Unlikely.

@Mannstein:
Toshiba's lithium titanate chemistry as used in the Honda EV should have a good crack at lasting a long time, as should some of the lithium iron phosphate batteries out there, particularly the new chemistry from A123 which is still going to be produced, albeit run by the Chinese firm which bought them out.
The Tesla, although pricey, should do 100 miles in the cold easily.

Much of the criticism of fuel cells has been misconceived and immoderate, but I don't think it a good idea to respond in kind.
In fact I welcome every advance in batteries as well as fuel cells.

If we can manage through the road power in the electric highway, that will hammer both!
Way to go!
Jetsons, here I come! :-)

@Davemart, sorry about the extra zero.

I've never driven an ICE car that will last 300,000 miles without degradation either, nor needed to.

I've still never seen a FC car or hydrogen station, but I've driven EVs.

There still is not even a Acal FC EV prototype - so nothing to take to the bank.

We've been five years from mass-market fuel cell cars for over thirty years - but I will test drive one if it's ever locally available.

@kelly:

Because you have never driven a car which lasted 300k miles it seems weird that you have apparently generalised it with the implication that it is an unnecessary frivolity.

A taxi will do that sort of miles in just a few years, and cars are lasting longer and longer so that if your car lasts 20 years 15k a year seems quite modest.

Running a fuel cell car for years is also a completely different matter to running an old ICE car, as the reliability of fuel cells is of a different order, as the fuel cell back up generation for hurricane Sandy showed, greatly outperforming the diesel back up.

I am not sure whether you have difficulties with reading comprehension or are being deliberately obtuse, but I was clearly referring to mathematics behind the projected costs at volume of fuel cells when I said you could take it to the bank, and certainly not whether ACAL will ever provide the fuel cells for cars.

Since you often apparently miss the point entirely, perhaps focussing re-reading instead of commenting so fast would help.
The issue appears not dissimilar to missing zeros from your arithmetic.
We have all done it, but you seem to miss both arithmetic and the parsing of sentences fairly frequently.


BTW, we have been hearing about cost effective battery cars for a hundred years, so what exactly is your point about fuel cell cars?
They have not happened so they can't?
You are tired of waiting and want what you want and want it now?
Their not having been produced in the past means that they can't be produced in the future/

I can't find any worth at all in your comment - what is it for?


You also seem prepared to give infinite credence to solar cells, but not to fuel cells.
I have been hearing that grid parity solar was coming any day now all my life.


I don't use that as an excuse to dismiss or even disrespect solar.

you know better than the auto engineers at almost every car maker, and those know-nothings at places like the DOE.

Dave, the DOE is a political organization whose priorities are dictated by Congress (and thus the oil lobby in large part).  There is no "battery lobby" to counteract Big Oil's influence.  Despite this, or perhaps because of this, you can buy several different brands and models of EV and PHEV off the lot today, but not one HFC car.  The people who said the emphasis on hydrogen was Big Oil's delaying tactic and scheme for locking us into natural gas as the sucessor oligopoly fuel were right all along.

Getting back to this technology, I think it's great.  $40/kW is terrific, especially if it can be delivered in a 5-10 kW domestic power unit with a methane reformer.  I just don't think that we're going to run our cars and trucks on this because we can't afford to build out a whole new hydrogen infrastructure.

@Davemart,

Try this, fuel cells have been a massive deliberate multi-billion dollar fraud against US taxpayers by US automakers and oil companies for over thirty years.

We are in the 11th year of the Bush Hydrogen Initiative and (movie quote) "..there hasn't even been the common courtesy to give him[us] a reach-around." AKA, a marketed H2/fuel cell car.

You can ignore, fail, and repeat history - I don't intend to.

Like you, "Somehow I had missed this one" too. Maybe Acal isn't completely true.

We've ALL seen years ago breakthrough articles, even government record setting, EV batteries with MANY times better performance that just aren't in dealerships.

'We've been five years from mass-market fuel cell cars for over thirty years - but I will test drive one if it's ever locally available.' is the truth.

But frankly, I'd rather buy electricity than another big oil product.

EP:
I don't know how you have managed to establish that hydrogen is simply a delaying tactic by big oil.
That sounds like a conclusion in search of a rationale to me, especially considering the excellent performance that fuel cell cars have actually achieved - about twice the range of the Tesla with a 5 minute refill.

You hypothesis that the DOE is also universally engaged in this conspiracy also neatly sidesteps the need to counter their huge volumes of studies, which incidentally come to no conclusion on the 'winner' between fuel cells and batteries, and simply show their likely development until both achieve something like parity with ICE cars without subsidy over the next few years.

The DOE or its studies, I can't remember which off hand and it hardly seems worth the bother of looking up when anything which is favourable to hydrogen and fuel cells seems subject to dismissal as a product of conspiracy, also puts the cost of both fuel cell infrastructure and plugs for battery cars in the same ball park at around 5% of total cost to build the cars themselves - ie not critical to the economics, although to be sure some early development roll-out has to be covered.

This is hardly surprising when one considers that to an all battery solution would require a plug at every roadside point for the 50% of cars which are parked outside a garage.

New stricter regulations for petrol stations to prevent leakage mean that the cost of hydrogen stations and petrol stations is now estimated to be in the same region.

Of course you might be right that they won't be built.
That would appear to be a problem peculiar to the US though, as in Germany for instance they have had no difficulty rolling out 900 NG stations which also need compression equipment etc.

Since in the US it is apparently also impossible to build high speed rail when there has been a network in Europe for decades and China are rolling out tens of thousands of kilometres of it with extreme rapidity who knows what will happen in the US.

Major difficulties in building this infrastructure seem hardly to be expected elsewhere though, but perhaps your estimate of the inability of your own country to develop infrastructure or even maintain existing infrastructure, for instance bridges, is prophetic.

This is hardly going to influence the world wide uptake of hydrogen though.

To be clear I don't care whether we use batteries, fuel cells, or as I suspect a mixture of both as long as we get off oil.

Some of the rationales for wholly dismissing a vast area of technology such as fuel cells strike me a simply daft however.

We live in exciting times for transport, you should relax and enjoy it.
If the oil companies are as dominant as you assume, and control everything you might as well anyway.

Personally I thought it was the Illuminati who are in control.

' Stacking fuel cells and combining stacks of fuel cells for multiple MWs meant the technology could be scaled up for utility use beyond residential level, McCray said, using hydrogen stored from surplus renewables output.

“It is important to note that in our architecture, the unit is half fuel cell on the anode side and half redox flow battery on the cathode side,” McCray said. “So the technology can also be used as a cheaper, longer lasting battery [than a standard lithium-ion battery].”

Would regulation drive growth, or would fuel cells and hydrogen supply become competitive one day? “I come from a telecoms background and I’m used to the debate on what should be first, end-user demand or infrastructure? You need both at the same time,” McCray said. “Prices are coming down; the realization that we need clean systems is there; and the unit is more powerful and efficient. Building out the hydrogen infrastructure will happen, in many cases it will be subsidized, but there are profits to be made and a lot of companies are going to be jumping in with both feet.”

There was a business case, for instance, for a company wanting a fuel cell-based vehicle fleet with its own hydrogen fuelling station. “The improvement in efficiency and the savings to be had would pay for the investment,” McCray said. “The key is that the technology does not change how we consumers live. That is not the case with electric cars today, nor indeed with wind or solar in the stationary market.” See a related chart: Fuel Cell Cars sales - world markets (2015-2020)

While ACAL was going for both markets, targeting autos first would get fuel cell costs down significantly “because of the volumes the manufacturers can generate, helping to solve any engineering issues along the way,” McCray said. “That will only benefit the stationary market. What I don’t know is what will show up first. It takes a long time for a new car to be developed and I can see this technology appearing at wind farms, solar farms and in CHP units at the same time or before we see it in mass production for vehicles.”

ACAL does not consider other fuel cell developers as competitors. “Our technology will enable their systems to work better,” McCray said. “They will need to change the cathode side of their PEM fuel cells, which is only 30% of the systems, to include our approach and our chemicals to get the same durability we have.”

Growing cooperation would drive the technology to viability, McCray concluded. The auto industry was now forming consortia, sharing fuel cell technology and establishing supply chains to get costs down. “BMW is collaborating with Toyota, Daimler is collaborating with Ford and Nissan – it is beginning to happen,” he said.'

http://www.platts.com/news-feature/2013/electricpower/powergen/acal

McCray is the Chief Executive of ACAL

$40/kw would be an extremely good price for a fuel cell stack that is capable of operating for so long.

A 10KW home unit would only cost $400. A CHP unit could be built around it cost-effectively and that would push its efficiency up to 80-90% (I assume that it is 50% efficient only for electricity generation and the rest is medium-grade heat which is easy to use up in the form of domestic hot water). Probably, they would be best paired with a heat-pump (in winter you may need much more heat than electricity) but simple electric heating may also be a choice (cheap).

A CHP unit like that could make a home completely power-independent if a large-enough hydrogen storage tank (say 2-3 m3) is installed with it and there is on-site renewable generating capacity. Possibly, those in-development artificial leafs could produce hydrogen on-site so a hydrogen network build-out may not even be necessary. (not sure if the 2-3 m3 storage would be enough for seasonal shifting but some high-density H2 storage may be developed specifically for this)

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