Integral Technologies and Delphi jointly to develop insulator technologies for wire and cable shielding with conductive plastics
Mazda introduces 3rd-generation Mazda3

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

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.

Comments

Davemart

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! :-)

kelly

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.

Calgarygary

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.

Davemart

@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.


Larsboelen

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.

Davemart

@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.

Dave K.

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!

Davemart

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.

HarveyD

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?

Roger Pham

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.

kelly

@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.

Davemart

@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

Davemart

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

Roger Pham

@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!

Davemart

@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.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)