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Preliminary cost analysis finds ITM Power fuel cell membranes could reduce automotive fuel cell costs to $35/kW

Cost reduction potential of a polymer fuel cell system using an ITM Power membrane. Source: Carbon Trust. Click to enlarge.

The preliminary results of an independent assessment commissioned by the UK’s Carbon Trust of ITM Power’s fuel cell membrane performance indicates that ITM Power’s membrane technology has the potential, assuming that the significant technological hurdles can be overcome, to reduce fuel cell costs to US$35/kW in manufactured quantities of 500,000 units per year.

This is based primarily upon the demonstrated high power density performance and assumed catalyst loading reductions. Such demonstrations and assumptions were based on information and data provided by ITM Power. ITM Power has published figures showing what it believes is the highest ever polymer fuel cell power density using hydrogen as the fuel and ordinary air, rather than pure oxygen. (Earlier post.)

Unlike the majority of conventional fluorocarbon membrane materials which are expensive and require significant chemical plant to fabricate, ITM’s materials are low-cost hydrocarbons made by mixing together liquid chemicals to a particular recipe.

US Department of Energy (DOE) is targeting $30/kW. Source: US DOE. Click to enlarge.

According to analysis by the Carbon Trust, a cost of below $36/KW is where future fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) are expected to be able to compete with internal combustion engine cars at mass-manufactured volumes on a total cost of ownership basis.

As a point of comparison, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has set a target for 2017 of a 60% peak-efficient, 5,000 hour durable, direct hydrogen fuel cell power system for transportation at a cost of $30/kW at 500,000 units per year. DOE says that 2011 costs are $49/kW.

ITM Power cautioned that the results of the preliminary study remain subject to continuing analysis, independent verification and audit and therefore may be subject to revision. The results of the preliminary study have not been audited or verified by either ITM Power or the Carbon Trust and neither ITM Power nor the Carbon Trust accepts any responsibility in relation to the results of the preliminary study.

ITM Power is now aiming for its technology to be included in the second generation of hydrogen-powered cars expected to be launched in 2017-2018, assuming the first generation rolls out as planned in 2014-2015. To help support the development of potential technologies, and as part of its Polymer Fuel Cell Challenge (under which the Carbon Trust is supporting a number of selected companies) the Carbon Trust is supporting ITM Power to develop its technology and intends to provide high level introductions to key players in the automotive sector.

ITM Power is progressing to its next phase of fuel cell membrane development which will include continued membrane optimization, catalyst reduction and assessment of durability under automotive operating conditions.



"..assuming that the significant technological hurdles can be overcome.." we can all live on the moon and drill oil.


This new efficient technology is ready now. It cost few , last a long time because there is no moving parts.
Begin commercialisation now and start rolling a car without any pollution contrary to diesel, gasoline that pollute and cost a lot and batteries that are too limp and do not accept fast charging. Even the old fuelcell prototypes was already superior from the start to the best gasoline cars like the prius.

These folks 'testing' endlessly hydrogen fuelcells are probably doing so to make patents about them and hiding them from commercialisation and they don't expect to start commercialisation and they did the patents to impede any commercialisation from any newcomers. With the miracle results they got from the start any new business trying to get a market and collect money will have begin commercialisation, they didn't find any limitations and defects whatsoever.

David Snydacker

Looking at ITM's cost reduction figure, it seems they are cutting the membrane size by half. They then assume an 80% reduction in electrode cost. They should explain this assumption to support their claim of US$35/kW.


What about the cost of the H2 tank ?

The system as a whole has to reduce in price, not just certain bits of it.

While parts that overlap with BEVs and HEVs will benefit from mass production, the H2 end of things stands alone and will have to be cost reduced by itself.

A Question:
How does this relate to a methanol fuel cell ?


Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC) are a type of PEM, but at present they are smaller and less efficient than H2 PEMs.

I favor high temperature PEM (HTPEM) fuel cells with a methanol to hydrogen reformer on board. Daimler did this with the NECAR in the 1990s and it worked well.

Roger Pham

"What about the cost of the H2 tank ?"

About $600 for a 4-kg tank.

Because a battery pack will be used to assist in acceleration and recuperation of braking energy, only a 50-kW fuel cell stack is required in a typical 5-seat car. This will cost about $2500 at the present, and down to $1750 when FC will cost down to $35, on par with ICE.


Have you a link for those costs?

On page 17 they evaluate the cost of a 5.6kg hydrogen storage tank at $3,472, plus the hydrogen at $18, for a cost of $19kwh, and hold out little prospect of hitting DOE targets by the use of CF tanks.

On the same page:
'We evaluated the costs of compressed 350- and 700-bar onboard storage systems for Type III and Type IV pressure vessels, and for single-and dual-tank configurations. Our cost assessment projects that the 350- and 700-bar on-board storage systems will cost 4–5 times the DOE 2010
cost target of $4/kWh, even at high production volumes. Dual-tank systems are projected to cost on about $0.5/kWh more than single-tank systems. Type III tanks are projected to cost $1.2 to $2.2/kWh more than Type IV tanks for the 350-bar and 700-bar tanks, respectively. The
discussion in the following paragraphs focuses primarily on Type IV, single-tank systems; additional discussion of the Type III and dual-tank systems is included near the end.'

Roger Pham


Check out this Cheaper Method of making H2 tank.


Hi Roger:
I can't see anything specific on actual costs in this rather old 2009 paper, certainly nothing to substantiate costs as low as $600 for a 4kg hydrogen tank.

Much of the cost of the tank is in materials, and perhaps the most well-known producer, Quantum, is considering basalt fibre for the outer windings which would reduce costs somewhat, but not to anything like the levels you suggest:


Cost is very relative. I recently bought a Chinese built, very thin, (7mm) 10.2 inch up-to-date tablet with more i/p and o/p facilities for less than $100 including shipment. Excellent performance so far. That's less than 20% the price of an equivalent iPad.

The same thing can happen to PEM FCs, H2O tanks and Batteries in the next few years.


What on earth are you talking about?
Some cornucopian notion of progress, particularly when it involved the nonsensical notion that things to which Moore's Law applies, like electronics, parallel possible cost reductions in goods where it doesn't it completely bonkers.
High pressure tanks are inherently expensive, and and not on some sort of rapidly falling cost curve.
To take lots of the cost of hydrogen storage out we need to overcome the considerable difficulties of going to hydride or similar storage.

Please make your posts relevant, not simply utterly pointless false comparisons.


DM...future batteries mass produced 24/7 with multiple (1000s) high speed 3-D printers will be much cheap than today's. FCs, which are basically simple, could also be mass produced the same way in about 10+ years time. Hydrogen high pressure storage tanks may be another story but it may become more effective to produce hydrogen on board, specially in larger vehicles, ships, airplanes etc.

Let's face it, may products will not be mass produced the same old way in 2030. Worldwide competition will force faster manufacturing evolution. Improved automation may be the only way for USA/Canada to compete with China/India.



"..assuming that the significant technological hurdles can be overcome.."


..assuming my aunt had testicles, she'd be my uncle.."

When you're a southern redneck, there is always a more colorful way to express yourself. :-)

Roger Pham

The reference that I made projected cost per kWh will be down to $5, so for a 4-kg H2 tank having 132 kWh of energy, the cost will be $660. This is perhaps this is the lowest cost estimate.
Quantum system's project is higher, at $17/kWh for a 10,000-psi tank, or ~$15/kWh for a 5000-psi tank as I would extrapolate, since the lower-pressure tank contains less carbon fiber per unit of H2 and also the metal hardware will be less expennsive. So, at ~$15/kWh x 132 kWh = $1980 for a 4-kg H2 tank at 2011 technology.

I can almost guarantee with you that comes 2015-1017 time frame when FCV's will be commercially released in mass quantity, the cost for a 4-kg tank will be much lower than $2000 figure at current state of the art.


Why not use a Cornish hydrogen generator : create an underwater electric arc between an aluminium wire and a rotating drum. The aluminium catches oxygen from water molecules, releasing hydrogen and aluminium oxide which can be recycled into aluminium.
US Patent 4,702,894 - Cornish - October 27, 1987


Thje main costs with h2 tanks was the cost of the machines needed to make em. Figure a multi million buck machine that could only put out 1-2k units in its entire service life... also add in back early on 5 and 10k psi tanks needed to use the most spendy of carbon fiber and that carbon fiber was very very spendy back then ...

But now they can belt a tank out in minutes with a cheaper machine that as a result of this speed increase can make more tanks in a day then they used to make in a year... and now they dont need the highest quality carbon fiber materials AND carbon fiber is much cheaper too.....

It adds up.

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