The UK Carbon Trust launched the “Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge”, which aims to accelerate the commercialization of UK technology that could see the mainstream cost-effective mass production of fuel cell powered cars and buses, as well as providing electricity and heat in homes and business.
The £8 million (US$12.8 million, €8.7 million) Polymer Fuel Cell Challenge will be split into two phases. A newly opened call for proposals will result in the selection of up to three novel ideas, offering up to £1 million (US$1.6 million, €1.1 million) per project to further develop and prove them. If one of these demonstrates its potential for lower-cost fuel cell systems, the Carbon Trust will then co-invest up to £5 million (US$8 million, €5.4 million) in the technology to develop it commercially.
The initiative aims to deliver the critical reduction in fuel cell system costs that must be achieved to make mass market deployment a reality. New Carbon Trust analysis shows that if substantial cuts can be achieved, the global market could be worth over $26 billion in 2020 and more than $180 billion in 2050. The UK share of this market could be $1 billion in 2020 rising to $19 billion in 2050, according to the Carbon Trust.
Fuel cells have been ten years away from a real breakthrough for the past 20 years. This is a critical moment for UK fuel cell technology as emerging markets combine with technology cost breakthroughs to create a golden opportunity to launch world-beating products onto a massive global market. Our initiative aims to drive forward the commercialization of the UK’s unique fuel cell expertise which will play a crucial role in the UK’s Clean Tech Revolution both cutting carbon and creating jobs and economic value.
—Dr Robert Trezona, Head of Research and Development at the Carbon Trust
Current fuel cell system costs are still too high by a factor of at least ten for widespread uses. These costs could be brought down in the future through volume production, but projections cited by the Carbon Trust show that even then, with today’s technology, costs would remain too high by 30-40% for most markets. The Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge will aim to support those breakthroughs that will allow high-volume costs to come down by 35%, making fuel cell systems attractive for mass markets.
The Carbon Trust is focusing on polymer fuel cells for three reasons:
they can be used in many different products, including all the applications with a strong prospect for carbon savings (cars, buses, combined heat and power);
the horizontal structure of the polymer fuel cell supply chain allows the development of new businesses to market component technologies rather than requiring the development of completely new systems; and
there is capacity and appetite from the UK research and industry community to deliver breakthrough polymer fuel cell technologies, which the Carbon Trust has confirmed with extensive recent engagement.
The Carbon Trust is an independent company set up in 2001 by the UK government in response to the threat of climate change, to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy by working with organizations to reduce carbon emissions and develop commercial low carbon technologies.