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ACAL Energy FlowCath fuel cell reaches 10,000 hours runtime on automotive durability test; 2x US DOE 2017 target

Fuel Cell 1
FlowCath PEM fuel cell. Click to enlarge.

UK-based ACAL Energy Ltd announced that its FlowCath platinum-free liquid cathode system has enabled a PEM hydrogen fuel cell to reach 10,000 hours’ runtime on a third-party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation. ACAL Energy’s approach is also significantly cheaper than conventional fuel cell technology. (Earlier post.)

10,000 hours, the equivalent of 300,000 driven miles, is the point at which hydrogen fuel cell endurance is comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines under such test conditions. This endurance far exceeds the proposed US Department of Energy (DoE) industry target for fuel cell powered vehicles to last 5,000 hours, equivalent to 150,000 road miles, with an expected degradation threshold of approximately 10%. (Earlier post.)

Over the last 16 months, ACAL Energy has put its proprietary design fuel cell through an industry standard automotive stress test protocol that simulates a 40-minute car journey with a start-stop at the end of each cycle.

The cycle, which was repeated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, mimics a vehicle journey with frequent stops, starts and a highway cruise. This particular test is employed to accelerate aging and to stress wear on car engines and fuel cell systems over time.

Unlike a conventional PEM hydrogen fuel cell design, ACAL Energy’s technology does not rely on platinum as the catalyst for the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. The platinum and gas have been replaced with a patented liquid catalyst, which ACAL Energy calls FlowCath.

This approach significantly improves a PEM fuel cell’s durability and at the same time reduces the cost of a system. The liquid acts as both a coolant and catalyst for the cells, ensuring that they last longer by removing most of the known decay mechanisms.

ACAL Energy’s technology reduces significantly the total cost and weight of a fuel cell and enables a competitive fuel cell drive-train with a power output of 100kW—equivalent to that of a 2-liter diesel engine.

Degradation has long held back the potential for the widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells in the automotive sector. Breaking the 10,000 hour threshold during rigorous automotive testing is a key reason our hydrogen fuel cell design and chemistry has been selected for trial by a number of the 6 top automotive OEMs.

With our technology, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can drive over 500 miles per tank of fuel, and can be refueled in less than five minutes, emitting only water. For a driver, the only difference from driving an internal combustion engine car is what’s going in the tank, but for the environment the significance of zero carbon emissions is enormous.

—Greg McCray, CEO of ACAL Energy

ACAL Energy is advised by Innovator Capital, the specialist investment bank, and is funded currently by a mixture of venture and strategic investors including: the Carbon Trust, a key investor in the low carbon technology field; I2BF Global Ventures, an international clean technology asset management group; Solvay, the international chemical group; a large Japanese automotive manufacturer; and the North West Fund for Energy and Environment.

Comments

Engineer-Poet
Actually, how couldn't solar electricity and EVs operate for less? Solar energy discovery costs and distribution costs = basically ZERO.

@kelly:  You're forgetting that capital costs must also be paid, and the cost of variability are often ignored.  What does a cloudy day (or week) do to your system, and what else do you have to keep in reserve for such events... which must also be paid for, and fed with whatever it needs?  If you consider this a question like the provision of food, where even a short-term deficit quickly means starvation, you'll grasp the importance.

Any excess PV electricity can run the house or be grid credited

What credit can it get on the grid, when everyone else is pumping surplus into it too?  Without a feed-in tariff to pay producers for power with low or even negative market value, you'd get nothing for it.  In a sane regime, such bad economics would limit the amount of such generation put into use.  Most Western countries do not have a sane regime at this time.

Engineer-Poet
Fuel cells may also be able to power heavy transport, which anything like present batteries can't do

@Davemart:  Siemens has already demonstrated power from overhead wires on conventional roadways.  This eliminates the need for both fuel cells and batteries; the backup can be conventional ICE, just used far less than at present.

at present an all fuel cell system would save more energy than an all battery one, simply because it can be used by heavy vehicles as well as light.

Who is proposing an all-battery system?  You're arguing against a straw man.

So a heavy renewables system really can't do without hydrogen, unlike a mostly nuclear system.

This is why I'm in favor of a nuclear-first energy program.  Renewables such as biomass can fill in gaps (such as fixing carbon for the remaining liquid fuel demand), but since everyone's calculations prove that they cannot be a mainstay let's admit the problem and work around it.

No doubt there are all sorts of pressures on the DOE and political influences.
Debate is precluded if however instead of engaging in the nuts and bolts of the argument views which oppose yours are simply waved away as due to a conspiracy.

It's not a conspiracy if it's right out there in the open, and it is.  It's pure politics.  Why did you expect anything different?  I'd hoped to shame the Congress into reviving PNGV some years ago, but shame appears to carry a lot less weight than campaign money.

In detail you have not engaged in the pretty obvious point that infrastructure will only be a fairly minor part of total costs

The estimates I've seen for a new hydrogen infrastructure for H2FCEV are about $1 trillion (US gasoline retail sales are around $0.4-0.5 trillion/yr).  That's far from minor.  Further, that's just the supply and filling systems; the energy sources to provide the H2 aren't included in that.  If we're supposed to go with natural gas as the raw material, you need to factor in the cost of drilling and pumping ever-tighter reservoirs.

ICEV can burn methane, if we have it.  We avoid the cost of H2 infrastructure.  PHEV can ultimately get its electrical energy from methane, wind or uranium; it doesn't care.  PHEV leverages existing infrastructure and requires no additions at all until considerable penetration is achieved, compared to H2FCEV which requires a substantial network on day 1.  This is why I see PHEV jumping ahead of FCEV, and ultimately yielding a BEV world.

The rest of your argument, such as it is, seems to consist essentially of:
If we have not already built it, we can't do so, and any gradual roll out is unthinkable.

The ICEV had a gradual roll-out.  This was aided by the products carried by general stores of the period.  One thing you could find in many stores was petroleum-based cleaning fluid, aka naptha.  Naptha is otherwise known as "natural gasoline".  A stranded driver could buy some cleaning fluid and get to the next vehicular filling station.

There's an analogy between the general store's naptha for the Model T, and the ubiquitous power outlet for the PHEV.  There is no such analogy for the H2 FCEV.  People using any random outlet leads to a nation covered in chargers for PHEVs, which is ready for BEVs.  Once an area has gone with PHEV (and is perhaps using them in V2G mode for grid regulation), there's no argument for H2 FCEV.

I like ACAL's view, whose CEO used to be in telecoms and so is used to that argument from the old days when there was no point having the only telephone.

There was already a market for cleaning fluid.  When people are buying all your cleaning fluid for their Model T's, it starts making sense to put a gasoline pump out front.  It makes far more sense to leverage the electrical grid and increase sales than to build out an H2 supply system in the hope that customers will appear... when the customers will look at the coverage and shy away because they cannot be assured that supply will appear.

Its a good job you weren't in charge at the start of air travel, or they would never have built aeroplanes as there were no airports, and grass strips had no petrol tankers!

In the early days, airplanes had very large wheels for rough terrain and could fly out of cow pastures.  Sailplanes still land on them; that crowd calls cows "leather wind socks" because they tend to face away from the wind.  It wasn't until designated strips were made for aviation that anyone paved them, opening the way for larger, heavier aircraft with smaller and lighter landing gear.  This is not unlike the transition from your garden-variety electrical outlet to the specialized EV charger.  Where's the H2 vehicle's analogy to the wall outlet?

Davemart

EP:
A lot of people, I don't say you, are indeed seeking to dismiss wireless charging etc as well as fuel cells, and so my comment about some people seeking to dismiss everything else is directed there.

I have absolutely nothing against charging using electricity from out of the vehicle if that becomes practical, as it would be a clearly superior alternative as the vehicle would not have to lug around either big battery packs or fuel cells, and a lot of the expense in the actual vehicle could be saved.
They would be very lightweight and efficient, even more so than is implied by the information that I recently came across that it may be more efficient to charge wirelessly through the road than suffer the losses to and from the battery!

'Any dynamic IPT system will need to meet these criteria
with overall efficiency of up to 85% or more,at power transfer levels of 10-30 kW or larger. Lower dynamic power transfer efficiency is not restrictive as there is an efficiency gain of more than 15% by powering the motor directly rather than supplying power via a battery with the associated battery losses.

http://www.qualcomm.com/media/documents/files/inductive-power-transfer-systems-ipt-fact-sheet-no-1-basic-concepts.pdf

It is incorrect to assume that I am an advocate of fuel cells against batteries or direct charging.

What seems daft to me is to dismiss fuel cells, which have a major part to play in our future.
Where the division for different tasks will end up we don't know, as we can't know how the various technologies will pan out.

Broadly though my order of preference for transport would be wireless charging, batteries where they can do the job, and fuel cells where the other two don't fit the bill.

For it is simply a fact that fuel cells have a performance envelope which batteries are not currently capable of.
As the CEO of ACAL says, with batteries you have to alter to make them work, with fuel cells you don't.

I can't really take the criticism that the infrastructure for fuel cells and hydrogen is impossibly difficult seriously, as the numbers don't work at all for me.


Very broadly you need a station for of the order of 1 per 1,500 cars or so, whereas you need a plug and regulator for every battery car, plus a few for long distance travel etc.

Since a car costs of the order of $25k, if you spend 5% or so of it on infrastructure then you have a budget of the order of $2 million for a station, or alternatively around £1-1,500 for plugs.

The issue is essentially trivial, and petrol stations need replacing at some time anyway, and new storage regulations in the US make them more expensive than in the past, so much of the expense is simply transferred as we won't switch to either all batteries or all hydrogen overnight.


The argument that hydrogen stations are unique in that they have to have total coverage from day one is incorrect.

Fleets which return to base are early candidates, and their filling stations can be made open to the public as is being looked at in several places.

Small hydrogen stations can also be provided in a container, produce hydrogen by electrolysis and when needed elsewhere be moved:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/06/h2logic-20130603.html

So I would see hydrogen and fuel cells playing a part in our transport future.
How big a part I don't know, as it depends both on how it and how its competitors progress, but it has a part to play and would:

Provide transport with comparable capabilities to today.

Eliminate the need for oil in light transport.

Reduce energy use by around a factor of two in transport well to wheels, at a guess - I have not got around to running the figures, but the fuel cell part uses around 1MJ/mile well to wheels, it is how much the ICE fleet uses in comparable terms that I have not got around to researching.


Enable the use of non fossil fuels for at least part of the use - sewage, biomass, stranded wind, nuclear and others.

Achieve zero pollution at point of use.

I don't think this is a bad check list.
Maybe we can do better yet, but this is a massive improvement on our present circumstances.

kelly

@KP, not everyone has a HD TV, but most households will have one - similar with solar PV power - which has only been less expensive than the Australian grid for under two years.

Solar PV also has to contend with utility company lies and liars.

If things those like Kit P claim are true - there might be a hundred abandon solar PV systems, not a million and more household PV systems rapidly being installed in Australia.

Kit P

“I'm disappointed to read that KitP is still using a low efficiency (SEER-15) Heat Pump instead of a more efficient (SEER-27+) unit.”

Get over it Harvey. A SEER 15 is considered a high efficiency when we replaced our old SEER 9 less than 10 years ago. That is about a 500 kwh improvement from a 1000 kwh. A SEER-27 would provide a 250 kwh improvement. The law of diminishing returns applies in this case.

The point here to look at the specific economics of each example.

“That may be what you do when you work for an electricity supplier?”

I do not work for a utility but I have in the past. Who I work for does not affect my choices in my personal life. By the way Harvey who do you work for or does your wife support you?

HarveyD

KitP...According to IEA, Australia has the dirtiest coal fired power plants in the world emitting 6.75 million tonnes of CO per GW installed followed by India with 6.5. China and Russia have the cleanest coal fired power plants with 4.5 and 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 per GW installed followed by Germany with 4.9. USA sits in the middle with 5.75 million tonnes of CO2 per GW installed.

The world's coal fired power plants (1600 GW installed) emit 8.5 billion tonnes of CO2/year. With another 1000 GW to be installed by 2030 or so, total yearly emissions will reach about 13.0 billion tonnes/year.

Kit P

“KitP...According to IEA ”

@Harvey

Do you have a link? Your numbers look wrong. The correct units are kg/MWh or tons/MWh.

Stating emissions in terms of capacity (CO2 per GW installed) is misleading without knowing the capacity factor.

Also ghg has the lowest environmental impact of power plant emissions. Pollution controls for SOx, NOx, & PM are more important for are quality.

We have very good air quality in the US, therefore our power plants are not 'dirty'. China has a terrible problems with air quality but that using coal to produce electricity is only 10% of their problem.

“total yearly emissions will reach about 13.0 billion tonnes/year. ”

So what is your point Harvey?

HarveyD

KitP....My point is that we (USA) are using too many old coal fired power plants. We are not using the clean units we claimed and that China's are the clean ones and not the dirty ones we claimed. As usual many posters were wrong, including KitP. Also 25+ SEER Heat Pumps have been around for 10+ years, at the same price of even less than older less efficient 15 SEER units. You may have picked the wrong units.

I don't have to work any more. I invested in China (and other places) and live very well from the growing profits.

E-P... with regards to intermittent e-energy sources there may be easy solutions. In the not too distant future, the solution may come from a few million EVs with larger 100+ kWh batteries (each) connected to a smarter grid an average of 22 hours/day.

EVs (huge) stored energy could easily flow both ways:

1. to charge the EVs and/or the home storage unit whenever the home solar system and/or the grid have surpluses.

2. from the EVs to the grid and/or the home storage system whenever the demands are high or at their peak.

Eventually, some 200+ million EVs (in USA) with future ultra quick charge 100++ kWh, 10,000+ cycles e-storage units could do an excellent job to compensate for variable demand and variable production from solar/wind power units.

Another way would be to install a few thousand large flex fuel FCs, at strategic places on the grid, to handle large peak demands and or short and/or extended low production from solar and wind systems.

By the way, visibility was very good last evening and we could see 150 new very large/very high wind turbines rotating about 35+ Km South-West of our place, next to the St-Lawrence water ways, close to the Ontario border line. Not 100% sure but the power from those new turbines probably feed the Ontario grid because our grid is in a large surplus period.

Joel Joines

This is awesome news. They speak of using the "waste" heat to heat a house, but at 110C that heat can be used to run an absorbtion chiller. Meaning it could provide electricity, heat, hot water, and cooling to a building. The initial cost of the unit would be fairly high but it would provide a very low energy bill in all regards so would pay for itself over time, especially if the power companies keep gouging the way they do here.

Engineer-Poet
It is incorrect to assume that I am an advocate of fuel cells against batteries or direct charging.

I think you misunderstand me.  The strongest competitor to any of those things is the status quo ante, the ICE running on liquid fuel.  That's also the best (because cheapest and almost universally available) backup system.  A PHEV can go anywhere an ICEV can go, using electricity where it can, liquid fuel otherwise.  A PHEV can replace a great deal of fuel with electricity from the ubiquitous wall outlet.  The PHEV evolves into the BEV as batteries get cheaper and charging becomes more widely available:  advantage first, infrastructure later.

The H2 FCEV is limited to markets where H2 is available.  Yes, these might start as fleet fueling stations... but they are almost non-existent today.  The infrastructure must come first, and the vehicle can only go where the infrastructure has been provided.  This means a delay before they can be rolled out in quantity, likely 10 years or more.  Then there's the issue of where you get the hydrogen (natural gas via SMR is the most likely source, as electrolysis is going to cost much more).

Through-the-road charging, whether it's induction or Hanazawa's capacitive scheme, is a wildcard.  What's the range of a Leaf at 60 MPH if you can provide 15 kW to it from the road?  Heck, you could probably power a Prius, let alone a Volt or C-MAX Energi.  But the infrastructure issue with that is even bigger than hydrogen, because it involves public works rather than private fuel vendors.  This means the political process with hearings and interests which must get their share to buy them off.  The only way for such things to be done quickly is if we get a dictatorship... which may happen all too soon.

alternatively around £1-1,500 for plugs.

I paid nothing for my plug; I'm using an outlet that also powers an air compressor.  My "convenience cord" is billed at $600 by the dealer, but the actual value of the system in bulk is closer to $100.

The argument that hydrogen stations are unique in that they have to have total coverage from day one is incorrect.

Lack of stations lead to "no-go" areas to which you cannot even do an out-and-return.  The area of feasible ownership is much closer to the stations, because you can't be taking long trips just to get fuel.  The limitations mean fewer people will buy them early on, limiting the pace of expansion.  We're really out of time, and can't afford to wait.

Engineer-Poet
E-P... with regards to intermittent e-energy sources there may be easy solutions. In the not too distant future, the solution may come from a few million EVs with larger 100+ kWh batteries (each) connected to a smarter grid an average of 22 hours/day.

Harvey, 200 million vehicles times 100 kWh/vehicle is 20 TWH; if you can use half of that for buffering, that's 10 TWH of buffer.  The USA's average electric consumption is around 450 GW (it would go up a lot with full electrification); 10 TWH is 22 hour's worth.  You can handle hourly variations in RE with this, but you can't weather the cycles of frontal passages let alone seasonal cycles.

Stop the nonsense, Harvey.  Please learn to do math.

HarveyD

EP: another way to look it is at the individual home level not at the commercial-industrial total national level.

The average USA's home uses less than 10 kWh/day. A single 100 kWh EV battery could supply 10+ days of normal home consumption. The home solar system storage unit + one EV battery could do the same for 20+ days.

Families with 2 or 3 future EVs could supply emergency power to their home for 40+ days from the stored energy in their EVs and solar system? Those are very very long periods for intermittent energy sources. You should know that?

When the majority of private houses with 100+ hWh EVs join in, they could supply enough power from their storage units to satisfy their own needs + many of their ICEV equipped neighbors.

The base load power generation facilities would more easily supply industrial-commercial needs during low wind and/or low sun periods.

The above scenario makes sense and you should know it. Stop thinking that you have the ONLY solutions and all others cannot do maths. Stop your ridiculous accusations.

Engineer-Poet

Harvey, industrial and commercial electric use far outweigh domestic consumption.  Or do you expect people to stay home from work when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine?

Please learn to do math.

HarveyD

Another easy solution for USA is to use liquid fuel and e-energy more efficiently and more sparingly.

Many new technologies are available to do it.

A new Cooler designed by Sandia is 10 times more efficient to transfer excess heat. Used for cooling-heating and HVAC systems, it could reduce e-energy used in USA by as much as 7%.

New 200+ lm/watt LED lights could reduce energy used for lights (in homes, streets, industries, commerce, vehicles, planes, ships, TV, phone, tablets and computer screens etc) by up to 70+%. The total impact on the national consumption could be another 7+% reduction.

Of course Oil, coal, NG, Ethanol, Corn people will resist and do their best to delay the use of most energy saving technologies.

HarveyD

E-P: During short and extended power outages, people can use public transport and leave one EV home to supply essential energy for 10 to 20 days, together with their solar system batteries.

Many industrial-commercial customers would do likewise to cover their critical-essential needs.

If (eventually) 200 million people do that in USA, normal uninterrupted base load generating facilities would have a much easier time to supply industrial-commercial loads.

It would be much like Banks with cumulative private small accounts. Many local Banks and/or Credit unions have accumulated $240B to $800+B with a few million small depositors and they had no problems in 2007/2008 windless and sunless days.

More widely spread e-energy sources (existing 460 Coal units, 400+ NG units, 100 Nuclear units) + (100,000,000+ domestic units and 50,000+ Commercial-industrial units) would offer more stability and security.

HarveyD

Interesting data:

1. the world average e-energy consumption is 7.5 kWh/day/per person. There is a huge difference between industrialized and non-industrialized nations. The huge difference between USA (33) and EU (17) is difficult to justify.

The highest average per capita consumption is in:

1. Norway with 62 kWh/day
2. Canada with 50 kWh/day
3. Finland with 42 kWh/day
4. Kuwait with 41 kWh/day
5. Sweden with 38 kWh/day
6. USA with 33 kWh/day
7. Luxembourg with 33 kWh/day
8. Australia with 27 kWh/day
9. Taiwan with 26 kWh/day
10. So. Korea with 25 kWh/day
11. Germany with 21 kWh/day
12. France with 20 kWh/day
13. Russia with 19 kWh/day
14. EU with 17 kWh/day

.............
xx China with 10 kWh/day

USA at 33 kWh/day/per person is high (about 4 times the world average) but not that high for a highly industrialized nation with hot and cold climates.

The apparent average increase in e-energy consumption (5 to 7 kWh/day) per EV could easily be compensated for with many well known e-energy saving programs, such as 27+ SEER Heat pumps, 200+ lm/watt LED lights, low energy appliances, low energy TVs and computers, 3-elements e-hot water heaters, changes in the construction code, improved insulation for windows, doors, ceilings of existing homes etc,

Kit P

If a place has a small population and aluminum smelter, it will have a high per capita consumption. If a place has a half billion people with no access to power, then it will have per capita consumption.

“difficult to justify”

The USA does not have to justify anything to anyone. First we have 10 nuclear aircraft carriers. Second, the ability of USA to provide power to its population is the model for the rest of the world.
ulation

HarveyD

The questionable comparison was between USA and EU, two similar entities.

ref. your last para: That's what the Romans used to say for almost 700 years, up to about 1600 years ago? Less than fifty years latter they had completely vanished and most of what they had built with slave labor during almost 1000 years had also been destroyed.

Ten+ other large empires outsmart themselves even quicker and also vanished.

No empire or dictatorship is eternal. Their longevity is as short as 20 years.

Kit P

The US is neither a 'empire or dictatorship'. One of the remarkable thing about the US is the number of poor that have emigrated from old Europe, China, Korea and all those other places where governments think like Harvey.

Sorry Harvey you do not get decide how to oppress others. The US will not let you.

HarveyD

KitP...Today's USA has moved a very long way from the original 'We the People' and has moved a very long way from being a true Democracy. It has become a 'Moneycracy' where the real leader (dictator) is the green back or whoever as enough $$$ to influence (buy) the election of the so called representatives or spoke persons.

In a modern world, today's victims are often tomorrow's oppressors and visa-versa.

Look what happened in Irak, Iran, Egypt, Lybia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Syria, and many other places where very costly attempts to impose our style of 'Moneycracy' failed miserably. 'We the People' continue to impose sanctions on whoever do not accept our type of 'Moneycracy'.

Wonder who the oppressor really is?

Engineer-Poet

Harvey, even electric buses need plenty of energy.  Throwing lots of people on electric buses during an electricity shortage is not a recipe for success.

Second, if people don't ride buses all the time, there won't be any buses to add.  They can't be purchased, maintained and staffed on the basis of hypothetical peak demand.

But last, in the USA mass transit outside of certain major corridors and peak commuting times is ruled by the criminal class of racial minorities.  Most up-scale communities do not want transit to come anywhere near them, because it gives the likes of Trayvon Martin access to the area for burglary and worse.  Transit access is followed immediately by white flight and economic decline.

HarveyD

Yes, it is difficult (for most of us living North of the border) to imagine how far/low, large parts of USA, have degraded from what used to be a viable and peaceful 'Democracy'.

Fortunately, we can still use, year-round, 05h to 01:30h, very clean, fast e-train, under the mountain to and from the inner core of our city (about 30 Km) in about 23 minutes without being insulted nor molested, for $1.25 to $2.25. The same trip by car can take twice as long (and more in winter time).

Suburban e-trains and subways can take a lot of extra standing passengers with a high level of safety.

Like hospitals, e-trains and subways are treated as Priority One during the very rare grid failures.

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