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Hydrogen Engine Center and ITM Power Exploring Electrolyzer-Engine System

Hydrogen Engine Center (HEC, earlier post) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ITM Power Plc (ITM), developers of a low-cost electrolyzer technology, jointly to develop products for power-generation systems.

HEC anticipates that ITM can offer an assured supply of hydrogen using ITM’s low-cost electrolyzer technology. ITM anticipates that HEC will provide an early route to the provision of a complete system package using HEC’s proven hydrogen-fueled engine technology.

The two are exploring the combination of a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine and a low-cost electrolyzer as a means to convert intermittent, renewable energy (wind, solar) into a reliable, non-fossil energy supply.

Subject to the production of satisfactory results from the field trials, HEC and ITM will progress into detailed discussions with the intention of entering a more formal commercial arrangement.

Existing electrolyzers cost in the region of $2,000/kW and the US Department of Energy 2010 target is $300/kW for an electrolyzer stack. ITM claims that its patented technology has allowed the company to achieve cost/performance targets which in production would equate to electrolyzer stack costs as low as $164/kW.

ITM has developed a low-cost polymer membrane that demonstrate higher ionic conductivity than those currently used. The technology also offers hydration control and has the benefit of catalyst recycling. The Company announced in April 2006 that it had successfully replaced platinum catalyst of its electrolyzer with a non-platinum system which is a 1/3 of the cost of platinum.

According to ITM, the results to date support its view that in the long term the cost of power from a electrolyzer stack could drop below $100 per output kW—making hydrogen fuel cost-competitive with conventional fossil fuels.



But does this cheaper electrolyzer also address energy conversion efficiency problems?


which efficiency problems ?

a electrolyzer works at a efficiency above 90%,
you get 10kwh from sun, you store 9 in H2,
you recall 0,6 * 9kwh with a fuel cell ...


ok, new batteries with a lot of power and cycle life should be better, but when will we get them?

Lou Grinzo

There are two ways to get clean transportation out of a flow of electrons: Electrolyze water and pump the resulting hydrogen into a fuel cell vehicle, or recharge batteries.

The basic issue is how good will batteries become? They could easily blow hydrogen fuel cells out of the water for passenger vehicle use. In terms of energy expended per mile driven, batteries are about 3X better than FC's. And given the need to build a massive, economy-wide infrastructure for creating, distributing, and dispensing hydrogen, plus the battery advances from various companies, it seems inevitable that EV's will out-compete FCV's.

See the car technologies comparison spreadsheet on my site for some calculations:


I see the challenge to balance transitions to grid and liquid fuel energy sources. Reliance on single source energy e.g. grid or H2 or bio, subjects the system to monopolization tendencies proven by history. A broad mix of grid, bio and H2 develops a competitive energy system resistant to cartels, security vulnerability, monopoly.

Today, 30-60kWH batteries quick charging at "e-fuel" stations during peak hours (people will resist plug-in), would quickly overload a grid-only system. The major feedstocks (coal, NG, nuke)for electric utils have serious GHG/waste impact. With clean energy mixing we encourage new infrastructure economy, small business opportunities and energy security.

I would like to see some studies on efficiencies compared across sources (H2,grid, bio) per transport application, e.g. rail, trucking, commuter, light duty etc.

It seems reasonable to expect certain fuels better for specific applications.


I checked the car comparision in your page.
It seems that the EPA will revise its tests methods because some MPG figures for hybrid vehicles are not very realistic.
According to the EPA the Civic Hybrid gets more MPG than the Golf TDI, but, here in México, some people who work for a car magazine did real driving tests in cities and highways in México and, a Jetta TDI achieved better fuel economy than a Civic hybrid.


Storing electrical energy as hydrogen is extremely inefficient (25%), since 75% are lost in electrolysis, compression or liquefaction, transport and fuel cell. By contrast electricity can be stored in batteries with around 85% efficiency:

Teslamotors technology comparison

European fuel cell forum


thats simply not true,

todays figures with modern methods are around 40-65% depending on what pressure and transportation method you use;
(the same as with gasoline)

do some real research by yourself and don't believe every bullshit some pseudoexperts shout out;


40-65% to the car

35% to the wheel,
far better then gasoline:

Der Wirkungsgrad für die
gesamte Kette vom Bohrloch bis zum Rad (well to
wheel) betrage für Benzinautos gerade 16 %, für
Diesel 20 % und 26 % für Hybride. Aber in den
acht Jahren, in denen Hyundai an der Brennstoffzelle
arbeite, habe man schon 36 % erreicht, und
das Ziel seien 42 %. Das Kernproblem seien die



Do you have some sources for your assertion of 90% for an electrolyzer? I've never seen a number that big for the electrolysis of water.


When talking about h2 you need to keep track of the changes. The newer products generate far more h2 and at far less cost and input energy per output h2.

The exact numbers change too often to realy bother keeping track.



The only relatively cheap H2 I've ever heard of comes from NGas. I would be greatly pleased to hear about 90% efficient electrolysis of water. Got some links?

Roger Pham

Lou Grinzo,

If you produce H2 from electricity via electrolysis, then yes, battery is 2x-3x more efficient. But, if you produce H2 directly from the source like NG, Coal, or crude oil steam reformation, or nuclear or direct solar, then H2 can be produced even more efficiently than H2. From Coal, H2 can be produced at 60-70% efficiency, whereas electricity from Coal is at 35-40% efficiency. Your calculation is therefore misleading.

For obvious reason, Tesla motor site is also grossly misleading all in their favor.

The efficiency of future H2 cars will not be less than than BEV, from well to wheel, if H2 is produced from the most efficient means possible. Total cost of H2-ICE-HEV will be much less than BEV when considering the high cost of battery. Likewise, the cost of setting up H2 infrastructure will be several folds less than producing millions of battery packs for BEV's.


Well lets put it this way. Its gotten to the point they expect to be able to take ecvess wind energy and make h2 out of it then convert that back to energy when needed and STILL profit off it.

Wehhave a bunch of very cleaver and greedy people trying to get rish selling us h2. I doubt they will all fail. Never underestimate the power of greed.



Let's compare apples to apples. It's the cost of the battery pack vs. the cost of fuel cell stack (neither very good at this point) and the cost of an upgraded power grid vs. the cost of H2 infrastructure.

Our existing grid can already handle millions of BEVs and can be upgraded as required. There is no H2 infrastructure of any note.

Battery chemistry and fuel stack technology have been improving in leaps and bounds. IMHO Battery tech is much closer to prime time that fuel cells (I already have a BEV on the road). H2 still has major on-board storage problems. Fuel cells still have the platinum problem.

So the question now is if big money can force the H2 issue before the path of less resistance (BEV) is taken.

PHEV and H2ICE are the intermediate solutions. I'm willing to bet we'll see PHEVs long before we see any number of H2ICE cars.

Roger Pham

I don't understand your cynicism regarding H2. H2 is an efficient and very clean way of exploiting renewable energy from biomass gasification or direct hydrogen fermentation, or solar, or wind energy via high-temp electrolysis. Even from controversial coal energy, H2 can be even more efficient when derived from coal than BEV getting its electricity from coal-fired power plant.

Excess wind energy can very efficiently be converted to H2 at up to 140% efficiency when used in high-temp electrolysis using the waste heat from gas turbine power plants. Excess H2 stored within vicinity of the gas turbine power plant will be fed back to the gas turbine when the wind does not blow, hence will save precious fossil fuels only when the H2 store runs out. This will save the efficiency loss from H2 distribution and long-term storage.

Greed needs not play any part in the future of H2 as energy carrier. Once all the technologies involved with an H2 economy will be perfected, H2 will make its way through the market place based on the merit of its high efficiency, hence low cost, alone!

We're talking energy here, not fruits! It's fair to compare the ADDITIONAL COST of H2 infrastructure for H2-ICE-HEV to the ADDITIONAL COST of battery pack for PHEV. You see, very simply, a PHEV is an HEV + a battery pack, and an H2-ICE-HEV is just another HEV that happens to run on H2. Let's temporarily put FCV's aside, since the final mass-produced cost of the FCV cannot yet be ascertained.


Roger: Comparing apples and oranges ... It's an english expression.

Ok lets talk about energy. H2 vs. electricity.

Generation: Both reasonable although H2 is only really economical if done with steam reformation of fossil fuels. Electricity can be generated by anything that moves, wind,hydro,wave etc....

Distribution: Electricity can be delivered now, H2 no infrastructure whatsoever. No chicken and egg problem for BEVs

Energy Storage: This one goes to H2 ... although it's not very efficient.

Onboard Energy storage: Working batteries exist now. H2 storage - nothing reasonable yet. Quote from a Toyota engineer wrt H2 vehicles "we're stuck on the storage problem".

BEVs are the future. H2s are only a go if massive amounts of money are thrown at the problem to make it fly (even then there's no guarantee they can make it work) and political power is exerted to make sure that BEVs don't see the light of day.

My next task is to source solar panels to run my BEV motorcycle.

If you insist on comparing battery cost to H2 infrastructure (spurious logic), don't forget that the PHEV has a smaller engine and that your H2ICEHEV will still require a battery if it is going to use regenerative breaks. Oh and you can always skip the cost of the engine (and a whole host of other bits and bobs) and go strait to BEV.

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