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PowerCell unveils 3kW PowerPac fuel cell APU that converts diesel into electricity

PowerCell, a Swedish energy technology company with roots in the Volvo Group, unveiled a functioning full-scale prototype of its PowerPac fuel cell system, which combines an autothermal reformer and a PEM fuel cell stack to convert diesel fuel into electricity. (Earlier post.) The main target groups for PowerPac are truck manufacturers; truck owners; mobile operators; owners of base stations and other telecom infrastructure; and the military.

The PowerPac system is based on proprietary, patented technology. The unit is more efficient than a small ICE (internal combustion engine) generator in combination with an environmental friendly exhaust. The unit produces about 3kW of electric energy.

The PowerPac auxiliary power unit consists of three modules:

  • The fuel autothermal reformer (ATR) module, which converts standard low sulfur diesel to a hydrogen-rich gas through a controlled catalytic process. The ATR extracts hydrogen-rich gas with high purity, well within the limits of what a low-temperature PEM fuel cell can support in terms of CO. By avoiding combustion, no NOX or particulates are created. Downstream, sulfur is trapped and carbon monoxide is cleaned up while the hydrogen content is enriched.

  • The fuel cell module, which combines the hydrogen stream from the fuel reformer with air to produce power. PowerCell developed its own proprietary PEM fuel cell reducing parasitic losses and increasing system robustness via special gas inlets and flow field design.

    The PowerCell fuel cell design allows for carbon monoxide impurities up to 25ppm.

    The pressure drop of the stack is moderate to get good overall system efficiency, without losing fuel utilization properties.

  • The power electronics module to deliver power to the user.

PowerCell will now test and demonstrate its PowerPac prototype to the global industry and media from its headquarters and research center in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Benefits of the PowerPac for the transport sector would be the ability to produce electricity for climate control without running the engines when resting or loading/unloading. An increasing number of US cities are banning idling, and end customers start to demand green and environmentally sustainable solutions from their suppliers and partners. The PowerPac system produces electricity with no emission of particles and with much less CO2. It is cheaper than running the engine, and is also silent (which would further improve driver environment).

Stationary applications such as telecom base stations are often powered off-grid by diesel gensets, which is both expensive and environmentally harmful. Here the benefits would be both financial (reduced operating expenses by as much as 30%) and environmental.

The military and security sectors would benefit from much simplified logistics, lower power costs, and a much smaller exposure to hostile actions (the PowerPac’s exhausts are close to ambient (prevailing, surrounding) conditions, and the unit is silent).

After testing the PowerPac demonstration units in various applications, full serial production will commence in 2015 for the first market. Future development could include a wider output range and different fuels (e.g. biodiesel, methanol, ethanol, DME and biogas).

PowerCell is based in Gothenburg and is owned by Volvo Group Venture Capital, Fouriertransform, Midroc New Technologies and OCAS Ventures.



I would love to know more about this. ~Price, efficiency, what types of maintenance would it require, etc.

Sounds like a perfect solution for truck idling, but I'm always leery when they release almost zero details. Usually means there's a catch...or two.

Cynicism aside, I hope it works.


Volvo is working with them on a 30kW unit to go into a new C30 model car. Just search for "Volvo HTPEM" to see the reformer that can turn diesel, gasoline or methanol into hydrogen for the fuel cell.


This could eventually become a superior flex fuel range extender for many PHEVs, allowing the use of smaller battery packs? If PEMs with reformers are or could become more efficient than ICEs, the net benefits could be significant.

Less fuel consumed while less noises and emissions created would be welcomed?


I wonder if it could run on SVO like a diesel engine can.


Sounds like a ideal replacement for diesel generators like those used for instance in pleasure crafts.


For comparison, the Volvo C30 electric has a bio-ethanol heater which one report listed as 5kW.
If so, this 3kW PowerPac fuel cell APU might be sufficient. In mild weather, 3kW electric output can reduce the drain on the battery while the waste heat from the fuel cell heats the battery and the cabin. In extreme cold weather, both the electric & waste heat from the fuel cell could be used for heating.
Obviously, more power would be nice, but fuel cells still seem to be astronomically expensive; the Panasonic 750 watt micro chp fuel cell retails for $22,000. Even if the target of $1000 per kW can be achieved, a 3kW fuel cell would still add $3000 to be price of the car. You can buy a lot of ethanol or kerosene to provide winter heating for £3000.

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