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Plug Power and Honda Moving Ahead with Next-Generation Home Heating, Power and Hydrogen Stations

Plug Power and Honda have signed two agreements to continue expanding the companies’ collaborative efforts on home co-generation of heating, power and hydrogen.

The first of the new agreements covers the fourth consecutive phase of joint development of the Home Energy Station. The Home Energy Station is a fuel-cell system that provides electricity and heat to a home or business, while also providing hydrogen fuel for a fuel cell vehicle. Honda recently introduced the third-generation of this work, HES III. (Earlier post.)

The third-generation system is 30% smaller in size than its predecessor, with 25% more power output, more hydrogen storage capacity, higher efficiency and significantly faster startup time. The continued phase-over-phase improvement trend is expected to continue with Phase 4. Under this new agreement, Honda R&D will continue to fund Plug Power’s work on the Home Energy Station.

The second new agreement is focused on fundamental research and development work that Plug Power is conducting under funding from Honda. This agreement is focused on the advancement of technology for future Home Energy Stations, as well as more generalized applications, which are expected to benefit other Plug Power products. The system is expected to be more environmentally friendly than traditional energy devices due to its higher efficiency and lower emissions.

HES III uses natural gas as its feedstock, and is able to supply a sufficient amount of hydrogen to power a fuel cell vehicle for daily operation while providing 5 kW of electricity for a household.



Too bad we don't have any natural gas in this country.

"LNG imports are expected to increase substantially and play a prominent role in the future"

Could be good for Honda at home, unless china wants to fight over supplies.


This is obviously perfect for countries without a stable existing infrastructure. Instead of having to build a giant powerplant that tries to play catch up with a development, businesses and homes can just purchase these.

I have to think that pressure based natural gas piped in is more reliable than electricity.

This might be ideal for India which is a close neighbor of Iran and Qatar's natural gas reserves.



It's part of a diverse hetergeneous solution. No approach will work everywhere, but this one may work best in the Northeast corridor of the US where the Iroquois pipeline brings in gas, as well as further north in Canada where they have less gas but fewer people.

And if Russia can maintain gas infrastructure, this has great application there.


Why do they convert natural gas to hydrogen ? Why not just drive car on natural gas? and then why not to have this gas ICE and generator to make energy for home? Especially when technology to do so exist for decades. Its cheaper and wiser to burn natural gas in your cars ICE then convert gas to hydrogen and then burn it in superduper expensive solution for the sake of calling it future. Seems like a joke to me.



You have asked the question that no one has satisfactorily answered. I guess hydrogen is perceived as sexier.


Hello...McFly...wake up people.

98% of the natural gas consumed in the US is produced in the US. We export natural gas to Canada and to Mexico and we also import some from Canada and Mexico. We actually have a massive natural gas surplus at the moment, brought on by the very warm winter.

The bottom of the ocean contains massive reserves of methane hydrate (basically natural gas in an ice like state). These reserves are estimated to be several thousand times more than all known fossil fuel reserves put together.

Burning natural gas still creates pollution and CO2. Converting the natural gas to hydrogen and then not burning but instead utilizing it in a fuel cell does not create any pollution and utilizing the energy in the fuel more efficiently than burning it in an internal combustion engine (where most of the energy is wasted as heat).


This article confirms what you are saying copper. Even though the Gulf Of Mexico is massively shutdown from Katrina yet, a surplus of natural gas still exists in the market.


Idiot Police

You are still left with CO2 when you reform the natural gas. Alex's point is still valid. Whenever you perform a conversion, you lose energy. You can't escape the 2nd law of thermodynamics.


I -think- maybe the idea here could be to get people used to the idea of generating their own power while also allowing for incremental advancement towards fuel-cell cars. Assuming that's where you want to go, this would allow you to, for instance, get a hydrogen ICE car and refuel it conveniently at home now. Later on when/if they develop a practical fuel-cell car then not much else has to change. As other people have pointed out, you also use domestic NG instead of imported crude.

That still doesn't quite explain why one would want to go with hydrogen as the fuel source for the car instead of using NG directly, at least in the near-term. Later on maybe, when (if?) everyone is driving fuel-cell cars, but now..?

What I'd ultimately be interested in for around here (sunny S. California) is a mainly solar-based system for power with perhaps one of these as a backup power generator for extended non-sunny periods. Maybe I'd also use it as a charger for a GO-HEV since grid power here is so expensive. (Our marginal cost per kwh for electricity, retail, here is $.09/kwh in the winter, $.25 or more in the summer). I'd have to see a cost/benefit on that though before I'd sign on and there's not much to go on in that respect in the article.

If they ever get practical fuel-cell cars on the lots, this would be useful there too, especially if they have trouble getting the range up. I wouldn't mind having a cheap commuter car that could only make it to work and back, as long as I could start off every morning with a full fuel tank (and as long as I had a long-range vehicle for those weekend camping trips out away from civilization. )

tom deplume

In climates which have several thousands of heating degree days each winter results in more than 90% of fuel used for heating buildings. A too efficent engine in such a situation would not make sense. In the summer the heat from the engine could power an adsorbtion based cooling system.

Rafael Seidl

The concept of small-scale heat-cold-power co-generation using absorption chillers is becoming feasible technically. There are individual projects in operation in e.g. Germany, though for larger buildings than individual residential homes. Virtually all of these use spark ignition engines and natural gas as a fuel.

There is also a growing trend toward CNG engines in cars in Europe, with Italy and Germany leading the way. Argentina has even more, btw. Setting up a distribution network takes time, but already there are research projects for 300 bar pressure fuelling stations and monovalent vehicles with composite tanks. These no longer have a gasoline tank at all and their engines are designed to take full advantage of NG's superior properties (RON = ~130, ignition limit at lambda = ~4 i.e. no throttle needed). In principle, the CH4 can come from biogenic sources as well.

Compressing a gas to high pressure requires multi-stage pumps, intercooling and safe storage tanks. This is doubly true for hydrogen gas. Special attention must be paid to the filling process for both gases. It's certainly not something I would want to do inside my own home.

IMHO, the whole hydrogen lark is a creature born out of a combination of California's ZEV legislation and the nuclear lobby's desire to make its technology respectable again. The DOE is aggressively funding hydrogen research so anyone who wants US taxpayers to pay for their R&D ties it to hydrogen in some way.


This might be a decent solution for those living in single family houses but there are several tens of millions whom reside in apartments, condos, and similar arrangements where an onsite power generation device could not be installed. Just as solar combined with wind would be a great only applies to single family homes.

Anybody have the projected cost to purchase and install one of these units? Maintenance required? How long will they last?

Lets see, this winter I compared my heating bills to a friends with our energy usage being somewhat close. He uses natural gas for his water heater, stove, and HVAC while I have all electric. His bills were around $150 per month while mine were around $80 per month. You will not see me switching to natural gas anytime soon (especially since a large portion of my electricity comes from hydro power).


Don't understand the theory that on site power generation can only be applied to single family. What is inherent about multifamily that precludes sharing solar, wind, whatever. After all, we're all part of the grid, the ultimate multifamily provider.

As Rafael posted, this is happening in Germany. And this was more common earlier in our nation's history. In fact, I seem to recall an application in New York City where a wind generator provided the power for an apartment building.

I would think that centralized photovoltaic system would be more efficient (up to a point) for multiple dwellings as many of the component costs could be spread out amongst multiple users. Instead of 20 inverters, for example, you could have one inverter servicing 20 dwellings or apartments. Also, you could spread out any maintenance costs.

Robert McLeod

Use of combined heat and power for apartment blocks and office buildings makes perfect sense. They are going to be able to buy larger systems which will benefit from the economy of scale.

Afterall most large buildings are owned by a single individuals. Multiple-owner condos could easier pay-off a retrofit of such a system through their maintenance fees until they amortized it and started making money.


t, Robert-

Yes, it is logical and more cost effective in multi-unit dwellings (compared to single family units). The fact is, the overwhelming majority of apt. owners are looking for profit, not attempting to do something beneficial for the environment. I have never heard of any multi-family dwelling setting up any type of on-site alternative energy components other than the 1 or 2 which have had articles in magazines such as "Home Power". The sad fact is that the majority of people, especially those with the financial capabilities to own large pieces of property, tend to be interested in profitability first and foremost. Secondly, some would even complain that Solar, Wind, or other on-site power generation is not aesthetically pleasing enough (I once had a home in a community with an HOA which stated any solar cells or water heaters could not be visible from the street and my house faced south so I was unable to do what I wanted...ever look into city zoning requirements and trying to set up wind power???).

In climates which have several thousands of heating degree days each winter results in more than 90% of fuel used for heating buildings. A too efficent engine in such a situation would not make sense.
It makes perfect sense; you can run a heat pump and get 3x the energy efficiency.
In the summer the heat from the engine could power an adsorbtion based cooling system.
Typical absorption chiller efficiency is 0.5-0.75.  You are far better off using solar heat to run it and having that high-efficiency engine to run a compression chiller.
Rafael Seidl

Engineer-Poet -

with respect, I beg to differ. In heat-cold-power co-generation, the waste heat of the ICE is used for space climatization year-round. Adding solar collectors or panels increases the initial cost of the installation with no obvious benefit.

The energy contained in an ICE's coolant stream is roughly comparable to that delivered at the crankshaft. Engine-out temperatures of the coolant are about 90 degC at atmospheric pressure. This is quite high enough to achieve COPs of 0.8 or so in a well-designed single-stage absorption chiller with internal heat exchanger. For higher cooling power, you can cycle the coolant at elevated pressure or, exploit the heat of the exhaust gases in a second stage.

The other advantage over traditional compressor-chillers is that you avoid the inevitable slow leakage of R134a refrigerant - a potent greenhouse gas.


Let me get this straight:  you're telling me that it's better to burn fuel in an engine of perhaps 30% efficiency and convert 0.70 * 0.80 = 0.56 of it to cooling, or boost the engine efficiency to 40% and run a compression chiller at 3.0 CoP to get 0.40 * 3.0 = 1.2 times the fuel input to cooling?  Of course, you could also get something out of the exhaust heat (along with far more flexibility in how you use the crankshaft output).

Solar-thermal panels for running heat/chillers gets you space conditioning without burning any fuel.  I thought that was obvious.


Anybody knows if it is possibile to buy the Home Energy System and technical details about, in particular, the Hydrogen Booster (it can reach , if correct, 350 bar of final pressure to feed the vehicle tank.


So now instead of being dependent on foreign oil, we'll be dependent on foriegn natural gas.
The better solution would be to find a renewable source for hydrogen.

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