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Ricardo and Technology Management Collaborate on SOFC Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) Project

TMI’s radial flow cell.

Technology Management Inc. (TMI), a leading Cleveland-based developer of modular solid oxide fuel cell systems (SOFC), is collaborating with Ricardo to develop an integrated multi-fuel auxiliary power unit (APU) for heavy-duty trucks.

The APU could be used to power onboard electrical devices as an alternative to idling large diesel engines. These systems could be in mass production in the next five to 10 years.

To support their efforts, TMI and Ricardo have formed a consortium to help improve the manufacture of the fuel cell system, which has been awarded a $1 million grant through the Ohio Third Frontier Fuel Cell Program. Other key members of the consortium include Remy International and PET, Inc.

Ohio’s Edison Materials Technology Center, Inc. will provide administrative and contract management.

TMI has developed a sulfur-tolerant, integrated hot assembly (vaporizer-reformer-stack) SOFC using a proprietary reforming catalyst and anode composition. The sulfur-tolerant hot assembly permits the design of compact scalable systems packages capable of delivering electric power to a wide range of portable, mobile and stationary applications with varying fuel requirements.

After many years of evaluating various fuel cells for mobile APU applications, we determined that TMI’s solid oxide fuel cell technology has excellent potential for being integrated with the truck platform. Combined with Ricardo’s ability and experience in vehicle power systems, we are well-positioned to take the next step: development of a three-kilowatt APU ready to deploy on a truck operating on standard diesel fuel.

We have our challenges in terms of robustness and package space, but we are in a strong position since TMI’s fuel cell technology has already been demonstrated on distillate fuels with sulfur levels well above the new standards being adopted for 2007.

—Dr. Marc Wiseman, global product group director, Advanced Propulsion Systems for Ricardo

According to Wiseman, TMI has already demonstrated the capability in the laboratory to operate multiple complete systems producing up to 3kW of power. He also said that solid oxide fuel cells could prove to be cost-effective sources of electrical power generation, especially for trucks and military vehicles.

Ohio’s oldest independent fuel cell systems developer, Technology Management Inc. (TMI) was organized in 1990 for the purpose of product development and commercialization of a unique, low-cost, proprietary Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) system technology. TMI designs, builds and engineers for field tests completely freestanding kilowatt-class SOFC systems.

Early funding by the US Department of Defense for mobile military applications provide the basis for TMI’s current systems, which are modular, compact and field-maintainable. The systems operate on a variety of common fuels, including natural gas, propane, military JP-8 kerosene and renewable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and digester biogas.



John W.

Wow, what a super development. I have been hoping someone would come out with a super compact and fairly powerful fuel cell that uses something other than hydrogen, preferably a fuel source that is still readily available. Ultracell makes a super compact cell using Methane, and there have been others of course that also use hydrogen, but this is the first I have heard of diesel. Very good for the trucking industry, though I know, having driven truck for years, that there is a large percentage of "old school" drivers out there (in North America) that will keep on idling their 13 liter engines all day and night just because it's the "thing to do." That will need work.

I haven't looked at their website or product yet, so I wonder what the efficiency rating of this is. Whatever it is, I'm sure there is room for much improvement in the future.

I also hope they can make a super micro version of this that is very light and portable, but I'm sure that's not their initial aim. I have in mind something like a 1 or 2 kilowatt unit that you can put on an electric powered recumbant bicycle, etc, for the ultimate commuter vehicle that gets 3000 miles per gallon equivalent, plus exercise and wind & weather protection, etc. So obviously for that it can't cost 5000.00 dollars and can't weigh 100 pounds. (A one-day, reasonably priced super battery mated with a bank of ultra-caps is still what I am waiting for.) Still, an excellent development headed in a good direction.

allen zheng

Wow, a hydrocarbon reasy fuel cell. I had a similar idea a few years ago, but dropped it when I thought about the CO2.
___It is a way to increase milage in the long haul trucking segment. Overnight idling uses alot of fuel. Perhaps this will push up overall fuel mileage to ~10 mpg from 4-6 mpg.
___A military hybrid truck may work in certain areas, like instead of a meium tactical truck towing a generator, its just the truck with a 500kw stack. The question is, what is the current volumetric and weight power density, and what improvements are feasable in the future.

allen zheng

drop the "reasy"


Lame! This APU is available now.

allen zheng

Darpa vs Darpa

Rafael Seidl

Using a SOFC as a mobile APU strikes me as overkill. Allowing a big truck diesel engine to idle for extended periods of time to heat the drivers cabin and provide power for cargo climatization is aboviously a bad idea from an environmental point of view.

However, a small LDV turbodiesel ICE with acoustic encasulation could perform this task adequately, quietely and cheaply. In certain configurations, the APU could also provide transient boost pressure for the main engine to mask the lag if its much larger turbo and avoid smoke puffs. Hybrid does not neccessarily mean electric motors, just multiple power plants.

tom deplume

The word 'reformer' in the article means this is a hydrogen fuel cell that throws away the energy in the carbon portion of hydrocarbon fuels. It may actually use more diesel fuel than a equal power diesel engine.


SOFCs use hydrogen and CO for fuel, so they do not actually throw away all the carbon.

Paul Dietz

Even fuel cells that just use hydrogen would not throw away the energy in the carbon, since the water gas shift reaction transfers most of that energy to hydrogen.

I'd like to see a SOFC/microturbine series hybrid vehicle, once the SOFCs get cheap enough.


thermo king is already suppling this unit to wal-mart...


i had no idea so many different units were available...


The military is interested in SOFCs because they are quiet. Most of the heat can be reclaimed in the heat exchanger for the reformer, so there is less IR emission. I like them for combined heat/power/cooling for a home or building.


sofc is very wonderfull!

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