Vodafone Ventures and Carmel Ventures lead $9.2M investment in hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cell company CellEra
CellEra, developer of a hydroxide (OH−) exchange membrane fuel cell (HEMFC) technology, recently announced a $9.2-million investment round led by Vodafone Ventures, the global venture capital arm of Vodafone Group, together with top-tier Israeli VC firm Carmel Ventures. The two have joined forces with the company’s largest shareholder Israel Cleantech Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on backing Israel’s emerging clean technology companies, as well as B-2-V Partners and private investors.
|In a HEMFC (left), platinum is eliminated in the fuel cell electrodes and replaced with base-metal catalysts. Source: CellEra. Click to enlarge.|
The core of CellEra’s fuel cell is a catalyzed, solid polymer electrolyte. However, as this new form of polymer electrolytes conducts OH- ions as opposed to H+ ions (protons), the chemical environment in the cells is mildly alkaline as opposed to the highly acidic environment in Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) cells. Accordingly, the use of low-cost transition-metal based catalysts instead of platinum is enabled. The mildly alkaline environment further allows for the use of light aluminum hardware, without risk of corrosion, enabling, in turn, cost-effective manufacturing even at initially low volumes, as well as improved thermal management. Finally, the OH- ion conducting membrane itself is made of a less expensive polymer.
(In 2009, the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program awarded researchers at the University of California at Riverside (UCR) a $760,705 grant to support the development of a new generation of HEMFCs that are dramatically more ion-conductive, durable and tolerant of abuse than previous devices. Their work was featured as a cover story in an issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie earlier that year. Earlier post.)
Beyond the available capital, Vodafone’s investment will serve to facilitate our approach to the telecommunications market place, and our ability to direct our cost-effective, clean-energy fuel cell technology towards the requirements of global telecommunication operators.—Ziv Gottesfeld, CEO of CellEra
Ziv added that while fuel cells have now been recognized as a reliable renewable power generation source allowing mobile network operators to reduce power generation related emissions and end-of-life hazards, wide market acceptance has been hampered to date by their high costs. CellEra’s goal is to substantially reduce these costs and allow a rapid return on investment through the development and market introduction of a new form of fuel cell technology, allowing the elimination of high-cost materials and expensive hardware in the fuel cell stack.
CellEra is targeting it introductory product at the US$3-billion telecommunications supplemental-power market, offering an alternative to lead-acid batteries and diesel generators.