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Fuel Cells

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy

April 08, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.

The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:

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California ARB posts final modifications for ZEV rule on fast refueling/battery exchange for public comment

April 05, 2014

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted for public comment current final modifications for the Zero Emission Vehicle Regulation for 15 days. (Earlier post.) Statutorily, depending upon the comments received, ARB staff may either make further modifications and resubmit to Board for further consideration; failing that, the Board will adopt the new regulatory language.

These final tweaks to the ZEV rule involve the allocation of ZEV credits for different types of ZEV vehicles and the handling of the associated fast-refueling accreditation, which includes the possible use of battery-swapping.

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Partners launch $51M hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and infrastructure project in Europe

April 03, 2014

Automakers, hydrogen fuel suppliers, the Mayor of London’s Office and energy consultancies launched the £31-million (US$51-million) European HyFive project at City Hall in London. Five different manufacturers will deploy a total of 110 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at several European locations (Bolzano, Copenhagen, Innsbruck, London, Munich, Stuttgart) and develop new clusters of hydrogen refueling stations.

Locations are being sought for three new hydrogen refueling stations in London, one in Aarhus and in Odense (Denmark) and one in Innsbruck (Austria). They are expected to be operational by 2015, by which time some of the manufacturers in the partnership will have started to put hydrogen fueled cars on sale in some European markets.

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DOE awards $17M to FY 2014 SBIR Phase II projects; includes Si/graphene anodes, motor windings, exhaust treatments

March 31, 2014

The US DOE recently awarded $17 million to 17 FY 2014 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II projects to further develop Phase I projects and to produce a prototype or equivalent within two years. The selected 17 awards represent the best of nearly 1,000 ideas submitted for the FY 2012/13 Broad Based Topic Solicitation, DOE said.

The selected projects include 6 vehicle-related technologies and 2 hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, as well as new hydropower, heat pump, solar and manufacturing technologies. Vehicle technologies span a range from new Si/graphene Li-ion anode materials and composites for motor windings to diesel aftertreatment and advanced lubricants. Selected vehicle and hydrogen technology projects are:

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JEC updates well-to-wheels study on automotive fuels and powertrains; electro-mobility, natural gas and biofuels

March 27, 2014

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WTW energy expended and GHG emissions for conventional fuels ICE and hybrid vehicles shows the potential for improvement of conventional fuels and ICE based vehicles. Source: EUR 26236 EN - 2014 Click to enlarge.

Europe’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and its partners in the JEC Consortium—JRC, EUCAR (the European Council for Automotive R&D) and CONCAWE (the oil companies European association for environment, health and safety in refining and distribution)—have published a new version of the Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in the European Context. (Earlier post.)

The updated version includes a longer-term outlook by expanding the time horizon from 2010 and beyond to 2020 and beyond. It adds an assessment of electrically chargeable vehicle configurations, such as plug-in hybrid, range extended, battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles. It also introduces an update of natural gas pathways, taking into account the addition of a European shale gas pathway. Furthermore, biofuel pathways, including an entirely new approach to NOx emissions from farming, were thoroughly revised.

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SAE taskforce completes two technical standards on hydrogen refueling; harmonizing the global infrastructure

March 26, 2014

To support the impending roll-out of hydrogen fueling infrastructure and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV), SAE International’s Fuel Cell Standards Taskforce has completed two technical standards: SAE J2601, “Fueling Protocols for Light Duty Gaseous Hydrogen Surface Vehicles”; and SAE J2799, “Hydrogen Surface Vehicle to Station Hardware and Software”. The standards have been created to harmonize hydrogen fueling worldwide for both 35 MPa and 70 MPa pressures.

J2601. SAE J2601 (also with J2799) fuels fuel cell vehicle hydrogen storage systems quickly to a high state of charge (SOC) without violating the storage system operating limits, explained Jesse Schneider, Sponsor of both Standards SAE J2601 & J2799, in a presentation at the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium earlier this year. SAE J2601 defines parameters for a hydrogen fueling experience similar to conventional fueling and is considered one of the key standards required for the commercialization of fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen stations.

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Study finds no benefit to delaying or weakening ZEV policies to drive transition to electric drive

March 14, 2014

A study by a team from the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory concludes that starting the California ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) mandates five years earlier or doubling their intensity increases upfront costs but also increases benefits by a greater amount.

Similarly, the study found, delaying the ZEV mandate is estimated to reduce upfront costs, but cause an even greater reduction in the present value of benefits. Even using pessimistic assumptions about future costs of electric drive technologies, the study showed no net benefit to delaying or weakening ZEV requirements. The simulations also show the important synergies between California and US transition policies, the authors noted.

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Toyota continues to prepare the market for fuel cell vehicle in 2015

March 11, 2014

Toyota Motor continues to lay the foundation for the introduction of its production fuel cell hybrid vehicle in 2015; the company began work on fuel cell technology in 1992. Showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas (earlier post), the FCV Concept, which presages the introduction of the series-production vehicle, made its European debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.

Re-emphasizing the general technology points that have emerged over the past few months at different events while adding a bit more detail, Yoshikazu Tanaka, Product General Manager of the Product Planning Group, said at the Geneva show that Toyota’s current fuel cell (FC) system features an output power density of 3.0 kW/L—twice as high as that of its previous FCV, the Toyota FCHV-adv (earlier post). The output power is more than 100kW, despite significant unit downsizing.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell Incubator projects

March 07, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Fuel Cell Technologies Office, a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Innovations in Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Fuels Technologies” (DE-FOA-0001094) for the FCTO Incubator program.

EERE has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.

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Researchers at Berkeley and Argonne labs discover highly active new class of nanocatalysts for fuel cells; more efficient, lower cost

February 28, 2014

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Bar chart showing the specific activities of Pt/C, Pt poly-crystal electrode, IL-encapsulated Pt3Ni nanoframes/C, PtNi-Meso-TF, and Pt3Ni(111)-Skin electrode, and the corresponding improvement factors vs. Pt/C. Source: Chen et al. Supplementary Materials. Click to enlarge.

A team led by researchers at Berkeley and Argonne National Labs have discovered a new class of bimetallic nanocatalysts for fuel cells and water-alkali electrolyzers that are an order of magnitude higher in activity than the target set by the US Department of Energy (DOE) for 2017.

The new catalysts, hollow polyhedral nanoframes of platinum and nickel (Pt3Ni), feature a three-dimensional catalytic surface activity that makes them significantly more efficient and far less expensive than the best platinum catalysts used in today’s fuel cells and alkaline electrolyzers. This research, a collaborative effort between DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), is reported in the journal Science.

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Sandia Labs project team building fuel cell cold ironing system for deployment at Port of Honolulu in 2015

February 25, 2014

A Sandia National Laboratories project team, including a number of industry partners, is designing and building a cold-ironing fuel cell system that will be deployed in the Port of Honolulu in 2015. The work comes on the heels of last year’s study and analysis that confirmed the viability of hydrogen fuel cells to provide auxiliary power to docked or anchored ships. (Earlier post.)

Hydrogen researchers at Sandia National Laboratories joined with several partners in the follow-up project, which will result in a portable, self-contained hydrogen fuel cell unit that can float on a barge, sit on a dock or be transported to wherever it’s needed to provide electrical power. The unit will fit inside a 20-foot shipping container and will consist of four 30-kilowatt fuel cells, a hydrogen storage system and power conversion equipment.

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Update on Honda/GM fuel cell partnership; “It’s about cost reduction”

February 21, 2014

In July 2013, General Motors and Honda announced a long-term, definitive master agreement to co-develop next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies, aiming for the 2020 time frame. (Earlier post.) At the SAE 2014 Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Technologies Symposium, Mark Mathias, Director, Fuel Cell R&D for GM, provided an update on the collaboration, as well as a brief dive into the technical drivers behind the ongoing automotive efforts on fuel cell propulsion related to the scaling properties of batteries and fuel cells.

The GM/Honda partnership is about cost reduction, Mathias said. “We have vehicles now that work and can be durable, it’s really now about making a business out of the technology. Obviously it involves both the vehicle and the infrastructure and the hydrogen supply, so there are a lot of elements to this.

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NREL initial report on performance of BC Transit fuel cell electric buses

February 17, 2014

Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, commissioned by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), have issued their initial evaluation of the hydrogen fuel cell buses in operation at BC Transit. The report covers two years of revenue service data on the buses from April 2011 through March 2013.

In 2012, NREL developed a guideline for evaluating the technology readiness level (TRL) for fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs). TRLs range from concept design at TRL 1 up to full commercialization and deployment at TRL 9. Using this guide, the NREL team assessed the BC Transit buses to be at TRL 7: full-scale validation in a relevant environment. During the two-year data period analyzed for the report, the FCEB fleet accumulated more than 2.1 million kilometers (1.3 million miles) and more than 156,000 hours on the fuel cell power plants. Overall the FCEBs have an average fuel consumption of 15.48 kilograms of hydrogen per 100 kilometers. This equates to a fuel economy of 4.53 miles per diesel gallon equivalent (mi/DGE). The buses have an average availability of 69%.

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Calif. ARB releases GHG scoping plan update; more ZEVs, “LEV IV”, MD and HD regulations; ZEV for trucks; more LCFS

February 11, 2014

The California Air Resources Board released the draft proposed first update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan, which guides development and implementation of California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction programs. The Air Resources Board is required to update the Scoping Plan every five years.

Among the actions proposed or considered in the transportation sector include aggressive implementation of the light-duty Zero Emission Vehicle standard; LEV IV emissions regulations for the light-duty fleet post-2025 (GHG reductions of about 5% per year); Phase 2 GHG regulations for medium and heavy-duty (MD and HD) vehicles; a possible ZEV regulation for trucks; more stringent carbon reduction targets for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and others.

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FTA to award up to $24.9M to low- or no-emissions transit bus projects

January 10, 2014

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $24.9 million of Fiscal Year 2013 funds (FTA-2014-001-TRI) for the deployment of low- or no-emission (LoNo) transit buses. Of that amount, $21.6 million is available for buses and $3.3 million is available for supporting facilities and related equipment.

The LoNo Program provides funding for transit agencies for capital acquisitions and leases of zero emission and low-emission transit buses, including acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities such as recharging, refueling, and maintenance facilities.

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Plug Power to develop H2 fuel cell range extenders for FedEx Express electric delivery trucks

January 09, 2014

Plug Power Inc., the leading provider of hydrogen fuel cell technology to the materials handling market, will develop hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for 20 FedEx Express electric delivery trucks, allowing FedEx Express to nearly double the amount of territory the vehicles can cover with one charge. (Earlier post.)

This $3-million project is funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and includes project partners FedEx Express, Plug Power and Smith Electric Vehicles. The resulting hybrid vehicles will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and a 10 kW Plug Power hydrogen fuel cell system. The fuel cell solution is based on Plug Power’s GenDrive Series 1000 product architecture.

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Toyota opens CES with strong affirmation of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; “staggering” rate of cost reduction; FCV on sale in US in 2015

January 07, 2014

Toyota opened the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a strong affirmation of the benefits of and potential for hydrogen fuel cell technology. “We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel; just everything necessary to make them turn,” said Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc. “Fuel cell electric vehicles will be in our future sooner than many people believe, and in much greater numbers than anyone expected.

Toyota showcased both its latest fuel cell vehicle concept (the FCV Concept, earlier post), showing what the four-door mid-size sedan will look like in Radiant Blue; and the camouflage-taped engineering prototype used for extensive and extreme on-road testing in North America for more than a year. The prototype has consistently delivered a driving range of about 300 miles (~500 km), zero-to-sixty acceleration of about 10 seconds, with no emissions other than water vapor. Refueling of its hydrogen tanks takes three to five minutes.

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Swiss WTW study finds important role for alternative fuels as well as alt drivetrains in move to low-emissions vehicles

January 03, 2014

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WTW energy demand and GHG emissions for EV and PHEV drivetrains for various electricity sources; gasoline ICE vehicle is solid square, hybrid the hollow square. Click to enlarge.

A comprehensive analysis of well-to-wheel (WTW) primary energy demand and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the operation of conventional and alternative passenger vehicle drivetrains in Switzerland has concluded that alternative combustion fuels—not only alternative drivetrains such as PEVs or FCVs—play an important role in the transition towards low-emission vehicles.

The study by a team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, reported in the Journal of Power Sources, is novel in three respects, the researchers said. First, it considers the performance of both mature and novel hydrogen production processes, multiple electricity generation pathways and several alternative drivetrains. Second, it is specific to Switzerland. Third, the analysis offers a novel comparison of drivetrain and energy carrier production pathways based on natural resource categories.

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Tsinghua team develops zinc-air fuel cell stack with high power density

December 29, 2013

Researchers at Tsinghua University have developed a high-power-density zinc-air fuel cell (ZAFC) stack using an inexpensive manganese dioxide (MnO2) catalyst with potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte. As reported in a paper in the Journal of Power Sources, they achieved peak power in a ZAFC stack as high as 435 mW cm-2.

They also reported that the time required for voltages to reach steady state and for current step-up or step-down are in milliseconds, indicating that the ZAFC could be applied to vehicles with rapid dynamic response demands.

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DOE releases three reports showing strong growth in US fuel cell and hydrogen market

December 20, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released three new reports showcasing strong growth across the US fuel cell and hydrogen technologies market. According to these reports, the US continues to be one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. In 2012, nearly 80% of total investment in the global fuel cell industry was made in US companies.

The three reports are (1) the 2012 Fuel Cell Technologies Market Report, which describes data compiled in 2013 on trends in the fuel cell industry for 2012 with some comparison to previous years; (2) States of the States, Fuel Cells in America 2013, which provides an updated snapshot of fuel cell and hydrogen activity in the 50 states and District of Columbia; and (3) 2013 Pathways to Commercial Success: Technologies and Products Supported by the Fuel Cell Technologies Office, which updates the results of an effort to identify and characterize commercial and near-commercial (emerging) technologies and products that benefited from the support of the Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) and its predecessor programs within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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DOE awarding $7+ million to four hydrogen and fuel cell projects, including fuel cell delivery trucks

December 17, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding more than $7 million to four projects that will help bring cost-effective, advanced hydrogen and fuel cell technologies online faster for both mobile and stationary applications.

Private industry and DOE’s national laboratories have already helped to reduce automotive fuel cell costs by more than 50% since 2006 and by more than 30% since 2008. Fuel cell durability has doubled and the amount of expensive platinum needed in fuel cells has fallen by 80% since 2005. Building on this progress, the new projects will help further reduce the cost of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, expand fueling infrastructure and build a strong domestic supply chain in the United States. These projects include:

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La Poste testing hydrogen fuel cell range extenders in Renault Kangoo Z.E. mail delivery vehicles

December 11, 2013

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Symbio ALP-5 range extender. Click to enlarge.

The Franche-Comté region and La Poste (the French postal service) are testing hydrogen fuel cell range extender kits from Symbio FCell in three Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric mail delivery vehicles under real working conditions. This system is expected to double the range of the electric cars used for postal delivery.

The three Kangoos Z.E.s with fuel cell range extenders (HyKangoos) will be deployed in the first quarter of 2014 on mail delivery platforms. These vehicles, with a combination of a hydrogen fuel cell and batteries, offer an extended range that performs under demanding conditions: mail routes of 100 km (62 miles) or more through the cold, hilly and mountainous terrain. (The Franche-Comté region borders on Switzerland, with the Vosges mountains to the north and the Jura to the south.)

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Ballard signs MOU with Van Hool for further fuel cell bus deployments; next-gen FCvelocity-HD7 power module

December 06, 2013

Ballard Power Systems has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Van Hool NV, Europe’s fourth largest bus manufacturer, in support of the manufacture and further deployment of fuel cell buses. By February 2014, the companies plan jointly to respond to last week’s call for proposals under the EU Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking, and also plan jointly to respond to other future calls for proposals under the Horizon 2020 program. (Earlier post.)

For the newly funded buses, Ballard will deliver its next-generation fuel cell power module to Van Hool for incorporation into hybrid bus platforms. This new FCvelocity-HD7 power module will offer improved durability and reliability along with significant cost reduction. (Earlier post.)

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Study suggests fuel cell hybrid with supercapacitors for energy storage the most fuel efficient

December 02, 2013

An evaluation of different fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle (FCHEV) powertrain designs—such as fuel cell/supercapacitor (FC/SC), fuel cell/battery (FC/B), and a combination of supercapacitors and batteries (FC/SC/B)—and different control strategies by researchers in Belgium concluded that the FC/SC HEV has slightly higher fuel economy than the FC/B HEV and FC/B/SC HEV powertrains.

This, the researchers suggested in a paper presented at the recent EVS 27 conference in Barcelona, was due to the use of the efficient supercapacitors for the majority of the transient-power requirements (the SC can be charged or discharged at a high current, at which the battery cannot function). The fuel economy of the supercapacitor fuel cell hybrid, they noted, is higher despite the vehicle being heavier and more expensive.

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UK government awards £598K for hydrogen fuel cell range extender with micro-bead H2 storage for BEVs

November 28, 2013

The UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) have awarded £598,000 (US$980,000) to micro-bead hydrogen storage company Cella Energy (earlier post) and its partners MIRA, Coventry University and Productiv to develop a hydrogen generation system to extend the range of battery electric vehicles. The award is part of the Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform Integrated Delivery Programme 8 (IDP8) competition.

In an existing TSB-funded project called “Breakthrough in Energy Storage Technology,” Cella, MIRA, Unipart Eberspacher Exhaust Systems and Productiv are developing a 1 kW hydrogen generator using Cella Energy’s lightweight hydrogen storage material. The aim of this new project is to take this technology and scale it to a 5 kW unit to power a small electric vehicle produced by Microcab Ltd, a spinout company from Coventry University.

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ARPA-E to award up to $30M for intermediate-temperature fuel cell systems for distributed generation; exploring storage and power-to-fuels

November 25, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) will award up to $30 million to fund a new program focused on the development of transformational electrochemical technologies to enable low-cost distributed power generation. ARPA-E anticipates making approximately 12-18 awards under this FOA, with individual awards varying between $250,000 and $10 million. (DE-FOA-0001026)

ARPA-E’s Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program will develop fuel cell devices that operate in an intermediate temperature range (ITFCs) (200-500 °C) in an attempt to 1) create new pathways to achieve an installed cost to the end-user of less than $1,500/kW at moderate production volumes; and 2) create new fuel cell functionality to increase grid stability and integration of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.

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Mercedes-Benz reports on 3.3M km of B-Class Fuel Cell testing, looks ahead to next generation

While Hyundai, Toyota and Honda seized much attention over their presentations of fuel cell rollout plans (in the case of Hyundai) and concepts (in the case of Honda and Toyota) at the Los Angeles and Tokyo auto shows, Daimler used EVS27 in Barcelona as a forum to report on its 3.3 million kilometers (2 million miles) of experience with the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Fuel Cell fleet as well as the main technical targets envisioned for the next generation fuel cell electric car. (Earlier post.)

Mercedes-Benz began production of the B-Class F-Cell in 2009; 200 units of the vehicle were produced under standard production process at Mercedes-Benz facilities and delivered to customers worldwide.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $29.9M to hydrogen refueling infrastructure projects

November 24, 2013

The California Energy Commission (CEC) will award up to $29.9 million to projects to develop hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California (PON-13-607).

The solicitation has two goals: 1) to develop infrastructure necessary to dispense hydrogen transportation fuel; and 2) to provide needed Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funding to support hydrogen refueling operations prior to the large—scale roll—out of Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). CEC will provide funding to construct, to upgrade, or to support hydrogen refueling stations that expand the network of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations to serve the current population of FCVs and accommodate the planned large—scale roll—out of FCVs beginning in 2015.

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Hyundai to offer Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle to LA-area retail customers in spring 2014; Honda, Toyota show latest FCV concepts targeting 2015 launch (corrected)

November 21, 2013

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Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell. Click to enlarge.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show, Hyundai announced plans to offer its next-generation Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle for the US market for $499 per month, including unlimited free hydrogen refueling and At Your Service Valet Maintenance at no extra cost. Availability begins in Spring 2014 at several Southern California Hyundai dealers.

Also at the LA Auto Show, the new Honda FCEV Concept made its world debut. The concept expresses a potential styling direction for Honda’s next-generation fuel-cell vehicle anticipated to launch in the US and Japan in 2015, followed by Europe. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota highlighted its own new FCV Concept with a world premiere.

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Toyota showing latest fuel cell concept, hybrid minivan, other future mobility vehicles at Tokyo show

November 05, 2013

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Toyota FCV Concept. Click to enlarge.

Toyota confirmed that it will display its latest fuel cell vehicle concept along with four other world premiere future mobility concepts at the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show. The Toyota FCV Concept is a practical concept of the fuel cell vehicle Toyota plans to launch around 2015 as a pioneer in the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles. The vehicle has a driving range of at least 500 km (311 miles) and refueling times as low as three minutes, roughly the same time as for a gasoline vehicle.

The Toyota FC Stack has a power output density of 3 kW/L, more than twice that of the current “Toyota FCHV-adv” FC Stack, and an output of at least 100 kW. In addition, the FC system is equipped with Toyota’s high-efficiency boost converter. Increasing the voltage has made it possible to reduce the size of the motor and the number of fuel cells, leading to a smaller system offering enhanced performance at reduced cost.

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Stanford faculty awarded $2.2 million for innovative energy research; fuel cells, hybrids, splitting CO2

October 30, 2013

Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have awarded 11 seed grants totaling $2.2 million to Stanford faculty for promising new research in clean technology and energy efficiency.

The seed funding supports early work on concepts that have the potential for very high impact on energy production and use. Through a competitive process, two committees of faculty and senior staff awarded the grants to Stanford researchers from a broad range of disciplines, including engineering, physics, economics, business, communication and education.

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UNIST team develops simple way to synthesize new metal-free electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR)

October 29, 2013

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Overall Scheme for doped graphene oxide Copyright: UNIST. Click to enlarge.

A research team from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), S. Korea, has developed a high-performance, stable and metal-free electrocatalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Nanoscale.

The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is an important reaction in energy conversion systems such as fuel cells and metal–air batteries; electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction are critical components that may dramatically enhance the performance such systems. Carbon nanomaterials doped with heteroatoms are highly attractive materials for use as electrocatalysts by virtue of their excellent electrocatalytic activity, high conductivity, and large surface area.

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Canada awards $30M to 10 automotive R&D projects; from electrified powertrains to hot stamping

October 28, 2013

The Government of Canada has awarded C$30 million (US$29 million) through the Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) initiative to 10 university-industry partnerships to advance innovative automotive technologies. With a total project value of more than C$52 million (US$50 million), the funding includes some $22 million from industry and other partners.

The largest award from APC is $8,928,200 to the McMaster University-Chrysler partnership (earlier post) for the development of next generation electrified powertrains. (Earlier post.) However, the selected projects include a range of technologies from hot stamping of parts to hydrogen fuel cell stacks.

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Governors of 8 states sign MoU to put 3.3M zero-emission vehicles on roads by 2025; 15% of new vehicle sales

October 24, 2013

The governors of 8 states—California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to take specific actions to put 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the roads in their states by 2025, along with the refueling infrastructure required to support those vehicles. Zero-emission vehicles include battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel-cell-electric vehicles; the technologies can be applied in passenger cars, trucks and transit buses.

The 3.3 million ZEVs would represent a new vehicle market penetration for the group of states of about 15%, said Mary Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (ARB), during a conference call announcing the agreement. This multi-state effort is intended to expand consumer awareness and demand for zero-emission vehicles. Collectively, the eight signatory states represent more than 23% of the US car market.

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Tesla leads with transfer of ZEV credits for year ending 30 Sep 2013

October 17, 2013

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Tesla by far dominated the transfer of ZEV credits in California in 2012. Data: ARB. Click to enlarge.

Between 1 October 2012 and 30 September 2013, electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors transferred out 1,311.520 ZEV (zero emission vehicle) credits, according to the latest report by the California Air Resources Board (ARB)—by far, the largest of any automaker in the state. The next closest was Toyota, with 507.5 credits; Nissan only transferred 25 credits, and those generated from its PZEVs—not from the LEAF EV.

As of 30 September, Tesla still had a balance of 276.080 credits, according to the data; behind the six major automakers, who are mostly banking their credits.

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Researchers develop viable catalysts for reforming of heavy gas oil to hydrogen

October 14, 2013

One approach to delivering hydrogen for the stacks in fuel cell vehicles is via the on-board reforming of hydrocarbon fuels; such an approach obviates the need for on-board hydrogen gas storage technology and leverages the existing liquid fuels infrastructure. However, using more refined low-sulfur hydrocarbon fuels can add to the overall cost of the system. Less refined fuels—such as heavy gas oil—would be less expensive; however, the higher levels of sulfur in the fuels could prove problematic for catalysts.

Now, researchers in S. Korean and Japan have synthesized hollow fiber catalysts networked with perovskite nanoparticles for the production of hydrogen from heavy gas oil reforming, some of which showed high efficiency for H2 production with substantial durability under high concentrations of S, N, and aromatic compounds. Their findings are reported in an open access paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

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DOE proposing $100M in FY2014 for 2nd round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers

October 01, 2013

US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a proposed $100 million in FY2014 funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers; research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production and use.

The Department of Energy (DOE) currently funds 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), which were selected for five-year funding in 2009. (Earlier post.) With support for those centers set to expire in July 2014, DOE has announced a “re-competition” for a second round of funding (DE-FOA-0001010).

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GM and US Army expanding collaboration on fuel cells; up to 5-year project

September 30, 2013

General Motors and the US Army Tank Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center (TARDEC) are expanding their collaboration in the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology. TARDEC currently is evaluating GM fuel cell vehicles in a comprehensive demonstration in Hawaii. (Earlier post.)

Through a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) GM and TARDEC will jointly test new hydrogen fuel cell-related materials and designs to evaluate their performance and durability before assembling them into full scale fuel cell propulsion systems. The partners said that the collaborative effort will enable them jointly to develop technology that meets both of their requirements, accomplishing more tangible results than either could achieve on its own. The project is expected to continue for up to five years.

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H2 Mobility initiative agrees on $474M plan for hydrogen refueling network in Germany; 400 stations by 2023

The six partners in the “H2 Mobility” initiative (earlier post)—Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total—have signed an agreement in principle upon a specific action plan for the construction of a Germany-wide hydrogen refueling network for fuel cell powered electric vehicles.

Under the plan, the current network of 15 filling stations in Germany’s public hydrogen infrastructure will be expanded by 2023 to about 400 H2 filling stations. As a first step, the partners intend to deploy 100 hydrogen stations in Germany over the next 4 years. This would ensure a need-related supply for fuel cell powered electric vehicles to be introduced into the market in the next years, the partners said.

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California Governor signs 6 bills to support burgeoning EV market, including $2B AB 8

September 28, 2013

Marking National Plug-in Day (NPID), California Governor Jerry Brown signed 6 bills to support California’s burgeoning electric vehicle market, including the $2-billion AB 8 (earlier post), which will continue clean vehicle and fuel incentives through 2023.

The legislation builds on the state’s efforts to help California’s electric vehicle market grow, including an Executive Order issued by Governor Brown that established a target of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025 and a number of other long-term goals. The newly signed bills are:

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Ballard announces definitive agreements with Azure Hydrogen for China fuel cell bus program; next-gen FCvelocity-HD7 module

September 26, 2013

Further to the MOU announced on May 28 (earlier post), Ballard Power Systems has signed multi-year definitive agreements to support Azure Hydrogen’s fuel cell bus program for the China market. Beijing-based Azure plans to partner with Chinese bus manufacturers in a phased development program for deployment of zero emission fuel cell buses in China, utilizing Ballard’s fuel cell technology.

For the first phase of the program, Ballard has agreed to provide a license, associated equipment and Engineering Services to enable assembly of Ballard’s next-generation FCvelocity-HD7 bus power modules by Azure in China. As per the agreements, once this assembly capability is established, Azure will assemble modules with fuel cell stacks to be supplied exclusively by Ballard.

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New family of non-precious metal catalysts outperform platinum for oxygen-reduction reaction in fuel cells at 10% the production cost

September 23, 2013

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ORR polarisation curves of Pt/C and FeCo-OMPC catalysts before and after 10,000 potential cycles in O2-saturated 0.1 M HClO4. Potential cycling was carried out from 0.6 to 1.0 V vs. RHE at 50 mV s−1. Cheon et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), and Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a new family of non-precious metal catalysts based on ordered mesoporous porphyrinic carbons (M-OMPC) with high surface areas and tunable pore structures. Porphyrins are any of a class of heterocyclic compounds containing four pyrrole rings arranged in a square.

These catalysts exhibit better performance than platinum in the oxygen-reduction reaction (ORR) important for fuel cells at 10% of the production cost of a platinum catalyst, the team said. The finding, described in an open access paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports, is potentially a step towards reducing the cost of fuel cell technology—one of the impediments to widespread commercialization.

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New core-shell bi-layer nanocatalyst tolerant to CO; potential for low-temperature fuel cells with reformates

September 21, 2013

Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory have created a high-performing bi-layer durable nanocatalyst that is tolerant to carbon monoxide, a catalyst-poisoning impurity in hydrogen derived from natural gas. The novel core-shell structure—ruthenium coated with platinum—resists damage from carbon monoxide as it drives the energetic reactions central to electric vehicle fuel cells and similar technologies.

The single crystalline Ru cores with well-defined Pt bilayer shells address the issues in using a dissolution-prone metal, such as ruthenium, to alleviate carbon monoxide poisoning, and thereby open the door for commercialization of low-temperature fuel cells that can use inexpensive reformates (H2 with CO impurity) as the fuel, the authors noted. Their paper is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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MIT team discovers new family of materials with best performance yet for oxygen evolution reaction; implications for fuel cells and Li-air batteries

September 19, 2013

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A diagram of the molecular structure of double perovskite shows how atoms of barium (green) and a lanthanide (purple) are arranged within a crystalline structure of cobalt (pink) and oxygen (red). Grimaud et al. Click to enlarge.

MIT researchers have found a new family of highly active catalyst materials that provides the best performance yet in the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in electrochemical water-splitting—a key requirement for energy storage and delivery systems such as advanced fuel cells and lithium-air batteries.

The materials, double perovskites (Ln0.5Ba0.5)CoO3−δ (Ln=Pr, Sm, Gd and Ho), are a variant of a mineral that exists in abundance in the Earth’s crust. Their remarkable ability to promote oxygen evolution in a water-splitting reaction is detailed in a paper appearing in the journal Nature Communications. The work was conducted by Dr. Yang Shao-Horn, the Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering; postdoc Alexis Grimaud; and six others.

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ARB hosting public hearing on ZEV modifications; battery swapping out for fast refueling of ZEVs

September 10, 2013

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will conduct a public hearing on 24 October in Sacramento to consider minor proposed amendments to the California Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation being put forward by ARB staff. (Earlier post.)

In January 2012, the ARB approved the Advanced Clean Cars program, which included increased ZEV requirements through 2025 model year, and the next generation of light duty greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant emission standards (LEV III). (Earlier post.) This program combined the control of smog-causing pollutants and GHG emissions into a single coordinated package of requirements for model years 2017 through 2025.

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US DOT awards $13.6M to 8 projects to advance fuel cell technology for transit industry

September 05, 2013

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $13.6 million in federal funding to 8 projects to advance the commercialization of American-made fuel cell buses for the transit industry. The awards come from FY2012 funds via FTA’s National Fuel Cell Bus Program, which has provided nearly $90 million since 2006 to speed the development of fuel cell technology.

Over the period of that program, fuel cell lifetimes (in transit operations) have more than doubled while costs have declined by 50%.

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Toyota broadly outlines next-generation Prius; developing wireless inductive charging for the plug-in model; bullish on hydrogen

August 28, 2013

Toyota’s next-generation Prius will deliver significantly improved fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter in weight and lower in cost, according to Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso. Ogiso—who earlier in his career had been the chief engineer for the Prius, chief engineer for the Prius family, and chief engineer, product planning—made the remarks at the “2013 Toyota Hybrid World Tour” event the company staged in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

The performance of this new generation of powertrains will reflect significant advances in battery, electric motor and gasoline engine technologies. Among the broad technology advances Ogiso outlined during his talk were:

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DOE awards $1.3M to two projects testing fuel cell technology in refrigerated trucks

August 23, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award a total of $1.3 million to fuel cell manufacturers Nuvera and Plug Power ($650,000 apiece) a project testing the use of hydrogen fuel cell refrigeration units (transport refrigeration units, TRUs) in delivery trucks. The companies will provide matching funds and labor of their own. A team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) led by Kriston Brooks will oversee and evaluate the two-year program.

This will be the first time that refrigerated trucks making deliveries have been equipped with a fuel cell, PNNL researchers believe.

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Toyota goes all hybrid for Frankfurt Motor Show; Yaris Hybrid-R concept, fuel cell update

August 19, 2013

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Teaser sketch of Yaris Hybrid-R concept. Click to enlarge.

At the upcoming 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Toyota stand will be devoted entirely to hybrids, the company says. Toyota’s hybrid portfolio, built over the past 16 years, comprises 23 models sold in 80 countries. As of the end of July 2013, Toyota Motor Corporation has sold more 5.5 million hybrid products—more than 10% of which have been sold in Europe.

Toyota will also use the venue to unveil further potential technology directions in the future of low-emission and zero-emission vehicles with the world premiere of the Yaris Hybrid-R concept, as well as the latest status of its fuel cell technology development, due to be launched in a production car by 2015.

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New high-performance cathode materials for low-temperature solid oxide fuel cells

August 16, 2013

Choi
Peak power densities of cells with LnBa0.5Sr0.5Co1.5Fe0.5O5+δ-GDC (Ln = Pr and Nd) cathode. Credit: Choi et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) (S. Korea), Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dong-Eui University (S. Korea) report the development of new efficient and robust cathode materials for low-temperature solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) in the open access Scientific Reports.

Conventional solid oxide fuel cells operate as high as 950 °C to run effectively. Test cells based on these new cathode materials demonstrated peak power densities of ~2.2 W cm−2 at 600°C. (The power density of a commercialized low-temperature SOFC system developed by researchers at the University of Maryland and Redox Power is also more than 2W cm-2, earlier post.)

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U. Maryland and Redox Power partnering to commercialize low-temperature solid oxide fuel cells for distributed generation and transportation

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Redox Power’s 25 kW “Cube” sitting outside a conference room. Click to enlarge.

University of Maryland researchers have partnered with Redox Power Systems LLC to commercialize low-temperature solid oxide fuel cell (LT-SOFC) technology for distributed generation—and ultimately transportation—applications at about one-tenth the cost and one-tenth the size of current commercial fuel cell systems.

The fuel cells, based upon patented technology developed by professor Eric Wachsman, director of the University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, are the foundation of a system being commercialized by Redox that provides safe, efficient, reliable, uninterrupted power, on–site and optionally off the grid, at a price competitive with current energy sources.

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Bi-metal aerogel catalyst shows promise as high-efficiency, lower-platinum electrocatalyst for fuel cells

August 09, 2013

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Detailed structure of the platinum/palladium aerogel nanowires (alloy ratio: 50% platinum, 50% palladium) Source: PSI. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Germany and Switzerland have manufactured and characterized a novel aerogel catalyst that could significantly increase the efficiency and life of low-temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cells as well as reduce material costs by reducing the platinum loading required. A paper on their work appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Using a three-dimensional aerogel made of a platinum-palladium alloy, they were able to increase the catalytic activity for oxygen reduction at the positive electrode of a hydrogen fuel cell five-fold compared to normal catalysts made of platinum on carbon supports—i.e., the same amount of oxygen can now be converted with only a fifth of the amount of precious metals. If this reduction of the necessary platinum load could be transferred onto an industrial scale, it would slash the production costs for these fuel cells.

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German-US collaboration demonstrates strong power density results with HEM fuel cell

A German-US collaboration including OH-Energy Germany, GmbH; the University of Delaware; Fraunhofer ICT; and Leibniz Institute for Polymer Research released initial results demonstrating 616 mW/cm2 peak power density at 80 °C for a hydroxide (OH-) exchange membrane (HEM) fuel cell. (Earlier post.)

The results are an early indication the partnership is on track to reach its stated goal of delivering 600 mW/cm2 from a platinum-free fuel cell by 2015. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has a technical target for proton exchange membrane (PEM) MEAs (membrane electrode assembly) of 1,000 mW/cm2 by 2020.

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Nitrogen-doped graphene nanoplatelets offer high catalytic performance in fuel cells and solar cells; possible replacement for Pt

July 23, 2013

Researchers in South Korea have developed a simple, low-cost and eco-friendly method of creating nitrogen-doped graphene nanoplatelets (NGnPs) with excellent catalytic performance in both dye-sensitized solar cells and fuel cells to replace conventional platinum (Pt)-based catalysts for energy conversion.

A paper on the work, carried out at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), is published in Scientific Reports. The UNIST team had previously reported that dry ball-milling can efficiently produce chemically modified graphene particles in large quantities. This new work dry ball mills graphite with nitrogen gas (N2), resulting in the direct fixation of N2 at the edges of graphene nanoplatelets (GnPs).

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Researchers devise Pt electrocatalysts with greatly increased activity; potential for significant cuts in fuel cell cost

July 22, 2013

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Maximum achieved ORR activities for different Pt nanocluster samples. (a) SAs (specific activity) and (b) MAs (mass specific activity). The activities of two standard high-surface-area carbon-supported Pt catalysts (Pta and Ptb) are included as well. Source: Nesselberger et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Denmark and Germany have found that size-selected platinum (Pt) nanoclusters can reach extraordinarily high ORR (oxygen reduction reaction—a key reaction in hydrogen fuel cells) activities, especially in terms of mass-normalized activity, if deposited at high coverage on a glassy carbon substrate.

When tested in the laboratory, the mass specific activity of commercial Pt fuel cell catalysts is around 1 A mg-1Pt. The researchers, led by associate professor of chemistry Matthias Arenz at the University of Copenhagen, found one of their catalysts delivered almost 8 A mg-1Pt. Their finding on the role of particle proximity in the efficiency of the Pt ORR activity might enable a significant reduction in the use of platinum in fuel cells for a given power output, resulting in less expensive fuel cells. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Materials.

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Five Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell vehicles joining London hydrogen project

July 21, 2013

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The ix35 Fuel Cell. Click to enlarge.

Five Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell models (earlier post) are joining the London Hydrogen Network Expansion (LNHE) project. The ix35 Fuel Cell is Hyundai’s fourth-generation fuel cell vehicle, and its first to enter production.

Hyundai Motor, as a supplier to the LHNE project, will join the existing consortium of companies with expertise in hydrogen transport infrastructure and operation, working to establish the UK’s first hydrogen transport network covering London and south east England. The LHNE project, a government-backed initiative co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, will put hydrogen-fueled vehicles into daily business use and deliver the refueling infrastructure to support their operation.

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European Commission launches new $1.8-billion fuel cell and hydrogen research initiative

July 10, 2013

The European Commission is launching a second phase of the first Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (FCH) Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) set up in 2008. The new Fuel Cells & Hydrogen 2 Initiative—with a proposed combined 50:50 EU-industry budget of €1.4 billion (US$1.8 billion)—will continue to develop a portfolio of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies to the point of market introduction. The new FCH 2 JTI is expected to start in 2014 and will end in 2024.

The JTI is one of five announced as part of a new EU-industry investment of €22 billion (US$28 billion) in research and innovation. The other JTIs address innovative medicines; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics.

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GM, Honda to collaborate on next-generation fuel cell technologies; targeting commercial feasibility in 2020 time frame

July 02, 2013

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2011 Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle. Click to enlarge.

In New York, General Motors and Honda announced a long-term, definitive master agreement to co-develop next-generation fuel cell system and hydrogen storage technologies, aiming for the 2020 time frame. (Earlier post.) The collaboration expects to succeed by sharing expertise, economies of scale and common sourcing strategies.

GM and Honda plan to work together with stakeholders to further advance hydrogen refueling infrastructure, which is critical for the long-term viability and consumer acceptance of fuel cell vehicles.

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Sandia study finds fuel cell barges may be attractive lower-cost cold-ironing solution for some types of vessels at some ports

June 28, 2013

Barge
Basic concept of a fuel cell barge. Although two containers are shown here, the actual number of containers would depend on the power and energy requirements of the vessel to be powered. Credit: Pratt and Harris (2013). Click to enlarge.

A study by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories found that hydrogen fuel cell barges may be both technically feasible and commercially attractive as a clean, quiet and efficient power source to provide electrical power for some types of vessels at berth or at anchorage. This practice in which a vessel at berth connects to a source of electricity on the shore is called “cold-ironing”, shore power or Alternative Maritime Power (AMP).

Vessels that are not likely to be technically feasible are cruise ships, refrigerated bulk carriers (reefer vessels), and some types of liquid bulk tankers, according to the study. This, the Sandia team said, is because their multi-megawatt power requirements and potentially long run times would necessitate multiple MW-class fuel cell units and impractically-large stores of hydrogen. Container ships are likely to be feasible, but their power demand depends primarily on the number of refrigerated containers (reefers) on-board.

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

June 27, 2013

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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.)

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DOE to award up to $9M for demonstration and deployment of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies; medium-duty eTrucks

June 12, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $9 million in new funding (DE-FOA-0000828) to accelerate the development of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in four topic areas: fuel-cell hybrid medium-duty trucks; advanced hydrogen refueling components; backup power systems; and hydrogen meters. (Earlier post.)

DOE is accepting new applications for projects proposing to demonstrate and deploy hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in the first three topics, and for research and development in Topic 4. For the first three topics, the primary objective of each proposed project must be to demonstrate and deploy hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in real-world environments. R&D will not be funded through this announcement. DOE select up to eight projects from industry, academia, and national labs.

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New metal-free ORR catalyst outperforms platinum in fuel cell

June 06, 2013

Researchers from South Korea, Case Western Reserve University and University of North Texas have synthesized new inexpensive and easily produced metal-free catalysts—edge-selectively halogenated graphene nanoplatelets (XGnPs)—that can perform better than platinum in oxygen-reduction reactions. The finding, detailed in an open access paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports, is a step toward eliminating what industry regards as the largest obstacle to large-scale commercialization of fuel cell technology—the high cost and insufficient supply of platinum catalysts.

The XGnPs, which were produced using a simple ball-milling method, were tested as cathode electrodes of fuel cells and revealed “remarkable” electrocatalytic activities for ORR with high tolerance to methanol crossover/CO poisoning effects and longer-term stability than those of the pristine graphite and commercial Pt/C electrocatalysts. In initial tests, a cathode coated with one form of catalyst—graphene nanoparticles edged with iodine—generated 33% more current than a commercial cathode coated with platinum.

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New LANL non-precious metal ORR catalyst can out-perform platinum; possible enabler for economical Li-air batteries, fuel cells

June 05, 2013

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ORR polarization plots after 5,000 cycles in O2-saturated electrolyte comparing the new catalyst and a platinum catalyst. Chung et al.Click to enlarge.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have designed a new type of nitrogen-doped carbon-nanotube catalyst that shows the highest oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity in alkaline media of any non-precious metal catalyst developed to date. When used at a sufficiently high loading, this stable catalyst also outperforms the most active platinum-based catalysts, the team found.

The new catalyst, reported in an open source paper in Nature Communications, could pave the way for reliable, economical metal-air batteries and alkaline fuel cells, providing for practical use of wind- and solar-powered electricity, as well as enhanced hybrid and electric vehicles.

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Navigant forecasts global light-duty fuel-cell-vehicle sales to surpass 2M annually by 2030

May 27, 2013

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Annual light-duty fuel cell vehicle sales through 2030. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.

In a newly published research report (“Fuel Cell Vehicles”), Navigant Research forecasts that worldwide sales of light-duty fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) will reach the 1,000 mark in 2015 and then begin a period of strong growth, surpassing 2 million vehicles annually by 2030.

The light-duty FCV market will be in a long period of supply constraints until around 2020, the report notes, breaking out only if the infrastructure is in place to meet customers’ fueling requirements. This will require a large investment from government and industry, Navigant concludes. If the infrastructure is built out, automakers will increase their production levels, which will result in major cost reductions—a “virtuous cycle” that will lead to a demand-driven market in the period after 2025.

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PowerCell unveils 3kW PowerPac fuel cell APU that converts diesel into electricity

May 21, 2013

PowerCell, a Swedish energy technology company with roots in the Volvo Group, unveiled a functioning full-scale prototype of its PowerPac fuel cell system, which combines an autothermal reformer and a PEM fuel cell stack to convert diesel fuel into electricity. (Earlier post.) The main target groups for PowerPac are truck manufacturers; truck owners; mobile operators; owners of base stations and other telecom infrastructure; and the military.

The PowerPac system is based on proprietary, patented technology. The unit is more efficient than a small ICE (internal combustion engine) generator in combination with an environmental friendly exhaust. The unit produces about 3kW of electric energy.

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California ARB 2013 research project to characterize ZEV market; assessing future market potential

May 18, 2013

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) 2013 research plan includes a project that will comprehensively characterize the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) market, with the ultimate goal of increasing consumer purchases of ZEVs.

The proposed project will investigate the factors that influence sales of ZEVs in California (e.g., price, vehicle range, infrastructure). The project is intended to support the planned upcoming mid-term review of California’s Advanced Clean Cars program (earlier post), coordinated with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

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DOE launches H2USA public-private partnership to deploy hydrogen infrastructure for transportation

May 13, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) launched H2USA—a new public-private partnership focused on advancing hydrogen infrastructure to support more transportation energy options for US consumers, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). (Earlier post.)

The new partnership brings together automakers, government agencies, gas suppliers, and the hydrogen and fuel cell industries to coordinate research and identify cost-effective solutions to deploy infrastructure that can deliver affordable, clean hydrogen fuel in the United States.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for fuel cell hybrid medium-duty trucks

May 11, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO), on behalf of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), announced that it will issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) titled “Fuel Cell Hybrid Electric Medium Duty Trucks, Roof-top Backup Power, and Advanced Hydrogen Refueling Components” (DE-FOA-0000922).

DOE suggests that prospective applicants to the FOA should begin developing partnerships, formulating ideas, and gathering data in anticipation of its issuance, estimated sometime this month.

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Team in Japan develops durable, high-temperature PEM fuel cell

May 03, 2013

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Power density curves of the PVPA-doped MEA measured at 25°C (orange line), 40°C (pink line), 60°C (blue line), 80°C (green line), 100°C (purple line) and 120°C (red line). Berber et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in Japan have developed a novel polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEFC) that shows high durability (>400,000 cycles) together with high power density (252 mW/cm2) at high temperatures of 120°C under a non-humidified condition.

In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the open access journal of the Nature Publishing Group, they suggest that the study “opens the door” for the next-generation high temperature and non-humidified PEFC for use in the “real world”.

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Intelligent Energy, Dyson, Ricardo and TRW Conekt boost fuel cell system power density more than 30%; reliable cold-start down to -20 °C

April 16, 2013

A project, 50% funded by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board and led by power technology company Intelligent Energy, has demonstrated an increase in fuel cell system power density of more than 30% together with reliable cold-start performance at temperatures down to -20 °C.

The project team delivered an improvement in power output from 30kW to 40kW for the chosen test system without increasing system mass or size. Additionally, through the introduction of a new coolant module developed specifically for the project, cold start performance was consistently achieved at temperatures down to -20°C.

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