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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

Dollared

Davemart, seems like the killer scale application is stationary home cogen, which would require 1)operating on natural gas and/or propane; and 2) a home heating mechanism (heat exchanger/fan or water heater/circulation system). Is it possible to use the Acal system in this way?

HarveyD

Do not under estimate the power of the OIL lobbies in USA.

HarveyD

It is amazing what a few $$B will do in a Moneycracy.

Kit P

Yawn, a press release pandering to the fantasy of HFCV fantasy crowd followed by a debate by the equally delusional BEV powered solar panel crowd.

Both are generally impractical because both are inefficient energy carriers. The reason the ICE is the practical choice 99.88 % is because it works so well.

“Since in the US it is apparently also impossible to build high speed rail when there has been a network in Europe for decades and China are rolling out tens of thousands of kilometres of it with extreme rapidity who knows what will happen in the US. ”

Why would we want to build a high speed train? Europe, China, and Japan are different places. Media centers like NYC, DC, and Hollywood may provide the image that the world sees but most of America is dedicated to a slower life style and less densely populated.

Engineer-Poet
I don't know how you have managed to establish that hydrogen is simply a delaying tactic by big oil.

It's quite simple, really.

  1. In the 1990's, we had the PNGV.  By 1999 each of the Big 3 had engineering vehicles on the road, achieving 72-80 MPG using diesel hybrid drivetrains (PHEV-ready).  PNGV was set to deliver vehicles to showrooms around 2007.
  2. In 2000, the oil-supported Bush/Cheney ticket defeated Al Gore.
  3. In 2001, one of the first acts of the Bush administration was to cancel PNGV and replace it with the hydrogen fuel cell Freedom Car program, with no deliverables scheduled until close to 2020.
  4. PNGV was not revived even when oil prices began to spike around 2005; it was simply not an option on the table.
Any further questions?
You hypothesis that the DOE is also universally engaged in this conspiracy

DOE does what Congress appropriates money for it to do.  If DOE's mission was pursuing the best prospects for cheap, clean energy, we would have a huge fleet of Integral Fast Reactors already.  Congress nixed that in 1994 and told DOE to do other things.  The fact that a number of influential Senators come from coal-producing states cannot be ignored.

their huge volumes of studies, which incidentally come to no conclusion on the 'winner' between fuel cells and batteries, and simply show their likely development until both achieve something like parity with ICE cars without subsidy over the next few years.

This is also pretty simple, at least for the USA.

  1. You can't drive an H2 FCEV anywhere except around a few experimental fueling stations, and that won't change for some time.
  2. LNG fueling infrastructure is starting to be built out, but CNG is still scarce and a great many Interstates have no stations within the single-tank range of a Civic GX.
  3. If you have an EV or PHEV, you can get electricity almost anywhere right now, and even make your own.

The fastest growth potential and penetration is with EV/PHEV, and I don't see that first-mover advantage going away any time soon.  Cost parity is meaningless if you can't drive where you need to, but there are gas stations less than 100 miles apart and even the great empty spaces have power lines along the major roads.

all battery solution would require a plug at every roadside point for the 50% of cars which are parked outside a garage.

Or battery-swap stations all over the place, but I don't see this as a major issue given that EVs are not even 1% of sales yet, let alone 50%.  The abundance of parking meters proves that such infrastructure can be installed over time, and we have plenty of time.  PHEVs can get by with missed charges here and there and still save immense amounts of fuel.  I'm currently pushing my average toward 105 MPG.

Engineer-Poet
We've ALL seen years ago ... EV batteries with MANY times better performance that just aren't in dealerships.

Aside from the Cobasys NiMH debacle, we don't see these batteries anywhere else either.  Batteries have been a hard nut to crack for the last century and some.  But they're coming, give them a few years.

I'd rather buy electricity than another big oil product.

Let me tell you, I'm there and it's wonderful.

kelly

@EP,

A different car, of any kind, isn't in my budget. But I have replaced some local travel with ebikes fueled by solar PV power and I know it works.

Just as I know how ICE/OIL works, having once paid 22 cents per gallon for gasoline - but nearly $4/gallon now.

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

1 KW, 1.33 HP falls on each square meter of the earth profile 24/7, basically forever.

Yes, with earth rotation and inclination, round the power down to 5 full power hours/day. While solar PV panel energy efficiency may presently be only 20%, electric motors compensate with over 90% efficiency(~5 times more efficient than varying speed ICE).

Bottom line, every 5 square meters of solar PV typically provides 5 kw hours(~15 car EV miles or over 200 ebike miles) of 'fuel' daily, warrantied for decades.

Any excess PV electricity can run the house or be grid credited, if the utility doesn't cheat the customer.

All without a single PV energy source moving part and the huge ongoing value improvement of electronics performance and falling costs.

Thomas Lankester

@DaveMart
Fuel cell advances should be welcomed (especially real long duration and low platinum). I also feel that they will have roles in the transport sector. I see the 5 criteria and agree with you that technological progress is, and will continue to, chip away at the barriers (production, storage, transport, cost...).

My concern is down to fundamental round trip efficiency for cars. Renewable (and even nuclear) electricity generation is supply constrained in most markets so what we have has to be used efficiently. Electrolysing water, handling the hydrogen then running through a fuel cell all involve energy losses. Putting the electricity straight in the car involves fewer conversion steps and I can't see how any amount of technology improvement will change that.

Davemart

To answer a couple of posters here:
Yes, this could be used in a home CHP set up. As ACAL says, this is basically a plug in alternative to the cathode part of any PEM fuel cell.

Fuel cells are already up and running in the thousands in Japan.
They use natural gas, and have a reformer in the home.
This would be no different, and would simply alter the cathode.
It would actually be simpler than existing PEM installations, as the humidification and thermal management loads are reduced:
http://www.acalenergy.co.uk/assets/common/0816_ACAL_Poster_1_Costs_v5.pdf

The home fuel cells running in Japan manage fine without any hydrogen storage at all.

IOW the systems needed for home electricity generation and the utilisation of the otherwise wasted heat and power are a done deal.

This will simply reduce costs to an existing system, and improve the quality of the heat so your hot water will be hotter without needing ancillary boosting.

Here is a write up and picture of Panasonic's home fuel cell set up:
http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2013/january/tokyo-gas-and-panasonic-launch-smaller,-more-efficient-and-cheaper-ene-farm-residential-fuel-cell

Note that this is all existing technology, which just needs cost taken out, which the ACAL liquid cathode can help with.

They are not prioritising home fuel cells initially, their targets are stationary commercial storage and autos.

That is wise for a start up IMO.
If someone like Panasonic fancy this to take out costs on their set up though there is no reason why they can't.

Davemart

Thomas:
The answer you are getting is built into your assumptions.
Most transport power is currently from fossil fuels.
Using either natural gas to produce electricity and feeding that into a battery car at the efficiency of the US grid or reforming it to power a fuel cell car uses around 1MJ/mile well to wheels.

So we are on a winner already, as that saves something like half the total energy we presently use for the purpose, and moves the burden from oil which adds to the import bills in most places.
It is also massively cleaner, and avoids much of the costs of exhaust gas pollution.

Fuel cells may also be able to power heavy transport, which anything like present batteries can't do, as fuel cells at present even allowing for the weight of the balance of plant, mainly the CF tank, runs at around 1,500Wh/kg, way better than anything we can do with batteries without a breakthrough such as lithium air, which may or may not occur.

So 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.

You critique about relative efficiency using renewables or nuclear relies on the energy being converted back and forth.

In the case of nuclear it is pretty well true, as that source is ideally suited to powering up battery cars overnight.
That is not to say that nuclear could not provide hydrogen.
It would use more energy, but the convenience may outweigh that as we do lots of things which are convenient rather than energy efficient or we would all be riding bikes to work.

The costs are still not outrageous, largely due to the high efficiency of fuel cells.
How else but with fuel cells can you average 68mpge in a small SUV?

The inefficiencies of the hydrogen production from nuclear are also not as great as might be imagined, both because we could use HT reactors such as the PBR being built by China, and because it is perfectly possible to use the process heat as is often done in Europe for district heating.

Which brings us on to renewables.
That is exactly what Audi, for instance, are doing when they are using excess wind to produce initially hydrogen, so the energy efficiencies are a lot better than would be imagined simply by looking at the efficiency of electrolysis.

And that leads on to the major problem with the argument that if you are using renewables then hydrogen is to be avoided.
All batteries and nuclear works fine, except for heavy transport.
Not so for renewables as the energy doesn't happen when it is needed.

At a 10% penetration of wind in the grid, for instance in Spain, frequently in a gale the wind blows at more than 100% of power consumption.
At other times it is effectively zero, so you still need power.

The same thing applies to solar, which in the UK for instance in the depths of winter is 1/10th as plentiful as in the height of summer.
And then of course there is the inconvenience that the sun doesn't shine at night.

That is why every major renewables scheme I am aware of, for instance Germany, has a massive place for renewables.

Oddly the renewables only crowd tend to be battery only.
This is probably because they mostly find basic arithmetic far too complicated! :-)

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

In addition there are a host of energy pathways which do not involve producing electricity in the first place, currently for instance the use of biomass, which in some regions may be important, or the remediation of sewage.
In the future direct solar cells producing hydrogen may work out.

Davemart

EP:
I am a bit disappointed in that I do not find your line of argument on this issue as productive as you are usually.

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.

In detail you have not engaged in the pretty obvious point that infrastructure will only be a fairly minor part of total costs, which is obvious as soon as you look into it.

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.

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.

You build out both the cars and the infrastructure.


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!

I'm afraid you really are not making any sense to me, which is a rare thing.

Davemart

I have been taking a closer look at the testing regime:

' 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.'


I make that 15,000 or so stop starts, and apparently this is comparable to the very best light diesels.

However, the diesels doing that number of stop starts does not allow for the new requirement for turning off the engine at lights and so on to economise on emissions including CO2.

Discussion I have read on this focusses on the batteries, starter motors and capacitors to enable this frequent stop start.

It occurs that over and above this, there must be impact on the engine itself.
Presumably the much more frequent cycling may reduce engine life, although I would like to see some figures on this to replace my supposition.

For the fuel cell, there is no reason to switch it on and off so often, as it is zero emission at point of use and the CO2 emissions will be well under the regulated limits without stop/starting all the time.

Depending on how great the real impact is from this use on diesels, it would seem that a truly comparable diesel would have to be tested to a much greater frequency to be good for the same number of miles as the fuel cell over its life.

The bottom line is it seems likely that lifetime mileages from diesels will drop with the advent of stop start.

Anyone with any solid info on this point, please share!

Kit P

“put Party before Country ”

Obama stopped the scientific review by the NRC of the geological repository for high level nuclear waste in Nye County Nevada. Nye County Nevada supported the facility. Can anyone think of a better place to put waste than next to where we test nuclear weapons?

Obama owed Harry Reid who owes his office to gambling and prostitute interests. It called putting self before your party and your country.

“Fuel cells are already up and running in the thousands in Japan. ”

Well if it is such a good idea, how is the one working at Davemart's house?

I think the reasons articulated by E-P for his PHEV and kelly's electric bike powered by Harbor Freight PV are done right silly and not many will follow but Davemart is not a doer.

“if the utility doesn't cheat the customer. ”

If you are selling to the grid you are not a customer but a producer. All PV advocates want to cheat the other customers to pay for their hobby.

Davemart

I don't usually bother responding to Kit, as anyone who is happy to breathe the exhaust pipe of countless ICE cars has probably impaired their mental faculties, and should be pitied not condemned.

This comment though is daft even by his high standards:
'Well if it is such a good idea, how is the one working at Davemart's house?'

Technologies are not ready until they are ready, and in the case of fuel cells a lot of sophisticated technology had to be developed and put into production.

I don't have a fuel cell in my home for the same reason I don't drive a 2014 car, although that will no doubt be better than earlier models.

Its not ready yet.

As per my Panasonic link, home fuel cells are still expensive, but costs are coming down rapidly.
The Japanese are rather good at cost reduction.

In 4 years or so they should be competitive with combined cycle natural gas heating in the home.

At that stage unless you really love throwing away 30-40% if the energy embedded in the NG by burning it centrally to produce electricity and not using the heat, then anyone who is not loony will look at putting them in their home.

kelly

@KP, states and countries keep proving you WRONG, but you could care - perhaps like the utilities that pay you.

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/07/solar-wind-geothermalhawaii-reaching-renewable-portfolio-goals-2-years-ahead-schedule/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-07/solar-industry-celebrates-grid-parity/2875592

Considering the sun is the source of all energy and shines on everyone, your little utility seems ".. to cheat the other customers to pay for their hobby."

Kit P

I am not sure about Davemart’s mental facilities. I have no problem finding clean air to breath. If fact I do not know where I would go to find poor air quality because I live in North American. Maybe Davemart lives in one of the EU cesspools a hear about.

There are two reasons to use CHP in the home. The first is that you live in a cold climate and the second is that your utility restricts the amount of power they supply. There are places like that in Japan.

When I live in a cold climate, I used wood for heating.

“throwing away 30-40%”

If I lived in a city with NG available, I would heat with NG directly which is more efficient than CHP. When I lived in a cold climate I did not have air conditioning .

A FC at a hotel that uses lots of hot water may makes sense but Davemart will always find it is poor choice.

Davemart

'If I lived in a city with NG available, I would heat with NG directly which is more efficient than CHP.'

Do try looking up some figures.
Here in the UK we typically use highly efficient combination boilers for heating space and water.

We also use electricity though, funnily enough, which is generated centrally and incurs losses in waste heat and transmission.

That waste heat goes to heat the water, including for space heating in home CHP installations.

If you use something that would otherwise be thrown away efficiency goes up.

The total system gain over using centrally generated electricity and hot water including for space heating from a gas boiler is of the order of 30%.

Both heating and generation/transmission in the US are typically rather less efficient, because of large distances and the very fact that energy is comparatively cheap, so they might do a bit better.

Kit P

Kelly, thanks for the link to Hawaii. I am sure that many of us can learn useful thing about saving energy based on tropical volcanic islands.

Then there is Kelley’s link to Australia that starts out

“The Photovoltaic Association says …”

Of course these scam artist say things like that, they are selling junk that does not work.

I am certainly not an expert on Australia but Australia has 31% of the world's uranium resources and is a leading exporter.

“Australia is the world's leading exporter of steam and coking coal combined.”
http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/coal.cfm

In other words, Australia is the big dog when it comes to supplying fuel to make electric power. Solar not so much.

Kit P

“Do try looking up some figures.”

I do not need to look up things because I already know it. It is what I do. When I provide a link it is on the offhand that someone will want to be better informed.

“Here in the UK we typically…”

I would be really surprised in Davemart has half a clue about energy where he lives but he is not half bad at BS.

“in the US are typically rather less efficient”

In this case, not clue. It would be very hard to beat the US. My SEER 15 heat pump has the same thermal efficiency as any other. Standards in OECD countries are very similar. The heat rete of a modern or overhauled coal plant in the UK, US, Germany, Japan, or South Korea are about the same because we all apply the same engineering standards.

Some countries like Russia and China are pathetic.

It is very unlikely Davemart’s house is more efficient than mine. That is because I am a mechanical engineer. Likely use more electricity in the summer because it is hot and humid in the summers. I set the temperature where sweetie pie wants its. If I can make my wife happy spending $1/day extra that is exactly what I will be doing.

Davemart

As usual Kit, you go on with no reference to reality.

Quoting anecdotal one off installations tells you nothing about the countries overall energy efficiency.

Energy in the US tends to be used less efficiently than in the UK as it is cheaper.
US per capita energy use is far higher than in the UK, which in turn is higher than in Japan.

Of course central generating plants operate at fairly similar efficiencies, although the grid in the US looses a lot more than in the UK in transmission in part because of the large distances, but that is not the case for home heating and insulation, which vary widely by country depending on the price of power and regulations.

Homes in Canada for instance have far lower average insulation levels than in Scandinavia which has a similar climate.

I find it strange that even the simply proposition that not using any gas however economically for heating when you have the heat free as a by product of producing your electricity is beyond you.


Kit P

“electric motors compensate with over 90% efficiency”

One of things I know is when people just make up facts and then state things in a misleading way. If Davemart said this I would just believe he is clueless. However, when someone claims to be an electrical engineer says they are nothing more than a scam artist. When I use motors, the motor belongs to me as a mechanical engineer. The motor control center belongs to the electrical engineer. The power needed to be supplied from the electrical load center is the mechanical load (shaft horsepower) divided by the efficiency. My motors vary between 0-60% efficiency.

Here is where I was hoping E-P would report some actual data. How much does his PHEV power demand vary with load?

kelly

http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/24851 Australia Passes Milestone: Over 1 Million Homes Have Solar

But America has Kit P - always dead wrong..

And what better place to compare total energy costs than an island having to ship in fuel and EVERYTHING that generates electricity + having too little land to risk nuclear radiation disaster.

"Hawaii has already passed grid parity for rooftop solar installations, and even small energy efficiency gains can help businesses and homeowners save thousands on utility costs." and reduce Kit P waste

Read more at http://cleantechnica.com/2013/05/07/solar-wind-geothermalhawaii-reaching-renewable-portfolio-goals-2-years-ahead-schedule/#xVEbiDAGvoziS1s3.99

Kit P

“heat free ”

A tree fell on the church. On the way home I got some free firewood. I can get all the firewood that I need to heat but to do it efficient I would need an efficient wood stove. The payback period would be about fire years ignoring the work done.

To make my own power would require a large investment with long payback period based on the 'free' heat recovered.

It is not strange that almost no one make their power. Even Davemart does not make his own power.

Kit P

'Kit P - always dead wrong'

I am rarely wrong. Apparently 90% of those in Australia agree. Provide me some data that shows me that actual solar production in kwh pays off the solar panels compared to other costs of producing power.

Since is so easy to provide a standard economic analysis, you would think an MBA could back his BS up. Many times I have provides that and all we get form kelly is more links.

HarveyD

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.

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

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