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Ballard: “Technology Hat Trick” with Fuel Cell Design

Ballard Power Systems engineers have demonstrated a fuel cell stack that can start repeatedly from -20° C (-4° F) and operate for more than 2,000 hours at a substantially reduced cost with no performance tradeoff.

Freeze-start capability, increased durability and cost reduction are three of the crucial performance goals the DOE set in 2003 when it launched a $350 million, five-year funding program targeted at making hydrogen-fueled vehicles a commercial reality by 2015.

We achieved a technology hat trick by demonstrating three of the requirements most critical to advancing fuel cells along the path to commercialization. We believe we are the first fuel cell developer to successfully demonstrate these key technology milestones simultaneously in a single fuel cell stack design. This industry leading technical benchmark represents a significant stride towards the next generations of fuel cells.

—Charles Stone, Ballard Vice President, Research and Development

Ballard subjected the 10-cell demonstration fuel cell stack to 50 free-start cycles from -20° C with no degradation in performance. Ballard’s goal is -30° C (-22° F).

The stack operated continuously through numerous drive cycles from August through December 2004. Actual testing results demonstrated durability to nearly 2,200 hours before a 5% reduction in performance was observed.  The U.S. DOE goal for durability is 5,000 hours.

To tackle cost, the new stack design reduced platinum catalyst loading by 30%  with no reduction in performance. Baseline catalyst loading was reduced from approximately 1 mg/cm2 to approximately 0.7 mg/cm2. While reducing the amount of platinum catlayst can reduce the cost of the stack, it also can make durability and performance more of a challenge.

In April, Ballard will roll out its technology roadmap, highlighting key technology milestones on the path to developing commercially viable automotive fuel cell stack technology by 2010.


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