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Plug Power to develop H2 fuel cell range extenders for FedEx Express electric delivery trucks

Plug Power Inc., the leading provider of hydrogen fuel cell technology to the materials handling market, will develop hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for 20 FedEx Express electric delivery trucks, allowing FedEx Express to nearly double the amount of territory the vehicles can cover with one charge. (Earlier post.)

This $3-million project is funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and includes project partners FedEx Express, Plug Power and Smith Electric Vehicles. The resulting hybrid vehicles will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and a 10 kW Plug Power hydrogen fuel cell system. The fuel cell solution is based on Plug Power’s GenDrive Series 1000 product architecture.

The GenDrive product series normally targets 3-wheel and 4-wheel sit-down counterbalanced materials-handling trucks. (Sit-down counterbalanced trucks are most commonly used in high-volume manufacturing and high-throughput warehousing and distribution operations. Counterbalanced trucks serve general purpose and carry the heaviest loads.) GenDrive has accumulated more than five million operating hours at customer sites across North America.

Currently, electric delivery trucks are limited to traveling about 80 miles per charge. By doubling the vehicle range, Plug Power’s range extender makes battery-based electric vehicles feasible for nearly all delivery routes. It is an enabling technology that makes electric-powered delivery vehicles a viable solution for a wide range of applications, including parcel delivery trucks, taxis, post office trucks and port vehicles, the company suggested.

Through the trials with FedEx Express, Plug Power expects to display how its range extender solution increases delivery fleet efficiency to more than 50% coupled with an approximately 35 to 40% decrease in fuel expenses, when compared to diesel trucks.

Customer interest in this technology provides Plug Power with a market expansion opportunity that leverages its existing technology-set and hydrogen fuel cell experience with development funds provided by the DOE, the company noted.

Early customer experiences with electric delivery vehicles have been overwhelmingly positive. But only 1% of these vehicles are electric today; we think that this range extender provides the added distance and quick refueling capabilities needed to really grow this market. Plug Power’s expertise in the materials handling market—where we have more than 90% market share—is an ideal base on which to build this technology.

—Andy Marsh, Plug Power CEO

In his December 2013 business update, Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh noted that, in addition to the range extender opportunity, the company was also eyeing Transportation Refrigeration Units (TRUs) as well as airport ground support equipment (GSE) as potential areas for expansion. Plug Power is working with Sysco Long Island on the TRUs, and with FedEx Express on GSEs. The latter project also has support from the DOE, with $2.5 million in funding.

As of October 2013, Plug Power has delivered more than 4,000 fuel cell units to 44 total site deployments with 24 different customers. Daily hydrogen dispensing is more than 4,600 kg.

Marsh also noted that the company has been averaging approximately 10% year-over year cost reductions ($/unit) in its products from 2010 to 2014.

Comments

electric-car-insider.com

@Roger >FC-H2 is good enough.

Except that it does not actually do much to mitigate climate change, and is more expensive than current 265 mile range BEVs, and there are less than 10 filling stations in the entire US. In all honesty, how is that good enough? Unless we are talking about in 30 years from now, but then let's include fusion in the discussion and spin the propellers on our beanies. I love your enthusiasm but you're more credible when you say we need solutions sooner than that. That we can agree on, Roger. ;-)

> Middle-end user can use a ... Miev. iMiev is now $13,000 in California and $10,500 in Georgia. $15,000 in non-rebate states. That's competing with some of the lowest priced ICEs, before calculating fuel cost savings. That's similar to a Yaris or an ICE Spark, a couple of the cheapest cars available.

It's been on lease for as low as $69. If you are going to be rigorous and calculate fuel cost savings, it is actually a free car.

HarveyD

There are at least five (5) major reasons why all current EVs (with the exception of short range city EVs) should have an on-board range extender (ICE of FC)

1. Very low current battery overall performance.

2. Very high current 100+ kWh battery pack price.

3. Very few ultra high speed (10 minutes) public charging stations.

4. Poor battery performance in cold weather.

5. Not enough clean electricity available in major markets like USA and China.

All the above will have to be addressed before extended range BEVs can replace existing ICEVs. 5-5-5 batteries may be a good first step but some 2000+ dirty CPPs will have to be replaced, starting with those in China, India, USA, Europe, Australia, Canada etc.

Roger Pham

Thank you, Harvey, for the voice of reason.

Furthermore, since H2 can be very profitably produced from solar PV or wind energy, RE will supply the bulk of near-future H2 to displace NG, and thus, FCV will be far cleaner than BEV that depends on the grid's mix, which, for the USA, has only 10% RE and 20% nuclear and 70% fossil fuel. Near-future H2 may be 90% RE, and 10% grid electricity, thus only 7% fossil fuel energy. It is far easier to use RE to make H2 than to supply RE to the grid, since solar and wind are non-dispatchable energy sources and are best used to make fuel that can be stored away.

A.C. R.

This graph has well to wheel CO2 emissions per mile for different vehicles:

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/images/facts/fotw686.gif

Natural gas battery hybrid electric: 185 grams CO2/mile.
Fuel cell battery hybrid electric: 200 grams CO2/mile.

This indicates that the fuel cell on reformed natural gas uses more natural gas per mile than the natural gas hybrid electric (by the way, we were wrong; these cars do exist).

Roger Pham

@A.C.R.,
When FCV's will be around, H2 will be more profitably produced from RE, so NG won't be used for H2 production, except perhaps as backup. This is because it is inefficient to transport H2 if made from NG at a large plant to be efficient. Whereas solar PV and wind are dispersed energy sources and can allow H2 production on the spot. As such, the above point is moot.

A.C. R.

Roger, sadly you're not right.

Almost all hydrogen today is produced from reforming natural gas.

If RE makes hydrogen electrolysis attractive, then we should have seen that already in large hydroelectric dams, especially some that have been paid off already and produce ridiculously cheap power. That power is not being used to electrolyse water. Nor is cheap coal electricity being used to make hydrogen.

Fuel cells are not profitable without subsidies. Electrolysis is not profitable without subsidies. Wind and solar are not profitable without subsidies. Combining three unprofitable business into one business plan is not a good idea.

Fuel cells do not cost $100/kWe. More like $1500-3000/kWe at this moment. Cost come down with mass manufacturing, but not by a large factor (about 2x only).

Roger Pham

Sadly, A.C.R., your data for FC and Electrolyzer are many years old and is quite dated. Wind and solar are already profitable without subsidies. FC and electrolyzer costs have come down dramatically and is now practical in FCV's soon to be released. Toyota said so in a recent press release. Do yourself a favor and look it up, Mr. Rip Van Winkle! Since your last slumber, technology has moved on and did not wait for you! Hint: There's now Google that will answer any question.

Cheer up, all the tools to help us combat global warming are here with us today. LiFePO4 battery is good enough for PHEV. H2-FCV is good enough for long-range ZEV. FC-PHEV will be the best of both world, for low-cost power of the battery and for the low-cost energy storage of the H2 tank with long range and quick fillup. The raw DC output of solar PV and wind turbines can be used directly to power electrolyzers without power inverter and without all the complicated grid transmission infrastructures, and without grid utility storage that would be required with high RE penetration of the grid. As such, electrolyzer uses lower cost RE than bringing RE to the grid.

What more are you asking for?

A.C. R.

Roger, the Gen I and gen II fuel cells have very similar efficiency, except the efficiency band is more narrow (more consistent performance). In terms of average drive efficiency they are still near the 50-55% they were 5-10 years ago.

A.C. R.

Also Roger, the fuel cell costs I quoted are NOT years old. They are based on a 2012 order. Real orders, unlike silly DOE spreadsheet predictions that have been wrong for more than a decade.

http://energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=4290

A.C. R.

For those interested,

http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/13005_well_to_wheels_ghg_oil_ldvs.pdf

is a study on the well to wheels GhG emissions, even for the 2035 technology case, the coventional hybrid on gasoline (like Prius) does better than HFCV on reformed natural gas.

Roger Pham

@A.C.R.,

The Huyndai Tucson FCV will be on lease in the next few months for $499/month INCLUDING FREE FUEL and free maintenance. Now, let's see, a comparable SUV w/ 22 mpg and 1250 miles/month with gasoline at $3.5/gal will cost almost $200/month on fuel cost ALONE. So, excluding fuel cost, the lease cost is only practically ~$300/month, which is even less than that of a comparable ICEV!

Now, you may argue that Huyndai may subsidize the initial batch of FCV, but this proves that FCV's have real potential to be commercially competitive with current ICEV's in the near future, or else, Huyndai would not have spent billions to commercialize FCV's and then offers such a great deal! This means that FC cannot cost much more than ICE per kW basis, since we already know that H2 tank is quite expensive at $3,000 for a 5-kg tank, or $18/kWh. H2 tank costs a lot more than a gasoline tank, but 1/20th the cost of battery per kWh basis.

Engineer-Poet

Roger, you need to stop handwaving claims like this:

Wind and solar are already profitable without subsidies.

Feed-in tariffs, net metering and portfolio mandates are subsidies.  They transfer their costs to other sources/users.

When FCV's will be around, H2 will be more profitably produced from RE

Not to be too emphatic or anything, but NO IT WON'T.  All the claims about cheap H2 from RE assume electric power prices far below levels currently required to get said RE supply to continue to grow.  When it all comes down to nuts and bolts, the H2 will come from SMR or coal gasification.

BEVs can go nuclear a lot more easily than H2 FCEVs can.  The Toyota is likely to become the same coal-burning car that the Leaf's detractors call it.

Roger Pham

@E-P,
The following article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek stated what I've stated:

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-30/renewables-from-vestas-to-suntech-plan-profit-without-subsidy.html

The grid can tolerate only so much solar and wind electricity at peak, or the grid will burn out. So, a way to channel these excess RE to H2 will allow much higher penetration of RE into the grid. With very high RE penetration and H2 storage, then RE with solar and wind complementing each other can supply the grid 100% for most of the time, leaving only some of the time needing rapid-turn-on backup from H2-FC, for a 100% RE grid.

Of course, the above has nothing against nuclear energy. Up north where solar energy is low and less reliable, nuclear energy is very important. In fact, H2-FC will help support further development of nuclear energy as well, to make transportation fuel from NE, and to allow for storage of NE in season of low energy demand (summer) to be used in season of high energy demand (winter), without needing to overbuild nuclear capacity. This is how NE can be competitive without requiring peaking NG plants nor NG for home heating.

A.C. R.

Roger, running electrolysers at 100% capacity factor is currently more expensive than running steam methane reforming of natural gas.

Running the electrolysers at the capacity factors of wind and solar makes it far worse.

Roger Pham

@A.C.R.,
Electrolyzer costs only few hundred USD per kW, while solar, wind and nuclear energy cost thousands of USD per kW, or 10 folds different in price, so which you'd rather have more of? Those that cost a few hundreds, or those that cost thousands? The electrolyzers are what'll make RE and NE practical.

For FC-CHP (combined heat and power), the entire HHV of H2 is available (39 kWh/kg). At 78% efficiency HHV of electrolyzers and winter use of the H2 for FC-CHP home heating, or for heating hot water after sun down using waste heat, round-trip efficiency is quite high, and is comparable to the efficiency of battery storage and any other means of energy storage.

A.C. R.

First let me say that current electrolysers aren't a few hundred/kWe, they are considerably more. But more importantly, it isn't just about capital costs. It is also about staffing costs. Electrolysers are industrial equipment. It needs safety people, maintenance people, logistics people. Lots of people. Those people have to be paid. If the electrolysis rig makes 4x less power because it runs intermittently, it has 4x the staffing cost.

78% efficiency is also not feasible. Large industrial installations get 70% at the moment, smaller ones for a home or small business are in the 50-60% range and have a greatly increased cost/kWe. That means you'll want large scale production, and it means you can't have much cogeneration of hot water.

The efficiency is a function of power density. More current means more production at a lower efficiency, so you do that if your power is cheap. If power is expensive you get a lower current and a higher efficiency. But in both cases electrolysis can't compete.

The simple truth is that less than 5% of today's hydrogen production is from electrolysis. Even though there are many areas with cheap coal or hydroelectric power. Ripping apart fossil fuels is much more competitive.

What I see in industry that electrolysis is NEVER competitive as a rule with virtually no exceptions. It is widely used in aluminium production because there is no alternative process.

Roger Pham

A.C.R.,
Where did you find data to say that current electrolyzers are NOT costing a few hundreds USD/kW?

As of 2009 report by NREL, on the following link, page 9, the costs for different suppliers range from $370 to $1600 per kg/day. Since it takes 50 kWh/kg, each day would require 50 kWh and dividing by 24 hrs will give you 2.1 kW. So, at $370 /2.1 kW = $176/kW. Note that this is total capital cost for producing 1 kg of H2/day, including the entire facility and balance of plant, and not just the cost of the electrolyzer itself.

See page 9: www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/46676.pdf‎

Note that this is 5-yr-old data, and note also that electrical devices often underwent 10-fold price reduction from introduction to final market maturity/saturation. Look at PC's, flat-panel TV's, IC chips, and even look at the FC stacks itself that underwent 100 folds price reduction. Electrolyzer is very closely related to FC in principle and construction. There is room for much more price reduction of electrolyzer.

Read the above reference throughly. You will find also that some electrolyzers are capable of high pressures, including one that can deliver 6500 psi up to 10,000 psi. This means no extra cost and maintenance and efficiency loss of separate mechanical compressor.
You will note also on this reference that electrolyzers need very little maintenance, on average only 5 days out of a year. Operations are automated.

Your pessimistic prediction for electrolysis is not in keeping with scientific data. With continally lowering costs of RE and costs of electrolyzers, the cost of H2 production from RE via electrolysis will be lower than that of using fossil fuels. It may already happen now, if not in the very near future! This means that we still have a fighting chance of averting run-away GW catastrophe if we can convince the industry and everyone of this. Please go and tell others of the good news.

Roger Pham

Sorry, the link above was a bad one. Try the following instead, page 9:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CFIQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hydrogen.energy.gov%2Fpdfs%2F46676.pdf&ei=wCvgUv3XAYOp2QXvkIBY&usg=AFQjCNGYTYyacJRLKKjDOMHnp-3NcJal8Q&bvm=bv.59568121,d.b2I&cad=rjt

Engineer-Poet

Germany's costly push into RE has not reduced its carbon emissions.  Adding costly H2 generation and storage systems isn't going to help.

What will help is Germany, like Japan, restarting its nuclear energy systems and commencing new builds.

A.C. R.

Roger, your reference mentioned a range of up to 1600/kgH2/day, and you used the lowest figure.

That is not appropriate since hydrogen is difficult to distribute, the more expensive, smaller scale facilities (closer to point of use) will be used, at $800/kWe. If you use the biggest cheapest facilities your transport and logistics cost to the refuelling station shoots up astronomically. High pressure pipelines or high pressure transport trucks are very very expensive for long distance hydrogen transport.

A good reality check is that about 4% of the hydrogen today is generated via electrolysis. The other 96% comes from fossil fuels. Surprisingly even petroleum is a major source of hydrogen, despite its higher cost and emissions than natural gas.

If it were attractive to use electrolysers we would be seeing these things all over the world where theres cheap coal and hydro about. We don't see this. We see 4% from electrolysis...

A.C. R.

I did a check based on fuel cell sales in 2012. The total sales/kWe fuel cells in the world in 2012 gives about $8000/kWe.

That's the real fuel cell systems cost based on the current market.

Roger Pham

A.C.R. stated: "A good reality check is that about 4% of the hydrogen today is generated via electrolysis. The other 96% comes from fossil fuels.

It is because RE has just now become competitive with fossil fuel, within just the past year or so. Most people don't know that and are just stuck w/ the notion like you have, that electrolytic H2 from RE can never be competitive with H2 from NG by SMR. It will take many years to design a complete electrolytic H2 plant with surrounding solar farm and wind farm to take advantage of the much lower cost of RE BEFORE going to the grid.
It is because investments were made in steam methane reforming plants and the industry must get its money's worth out of it before investing in RE electrolytic H2...The demand for H2 has been static and hence no new investment was made.

However, what will change the picture will be major increase in market demand for H2, in dispersed distribution that will encourage solar and wind expansion. Then, new players will come into the picture and take advantage of the new-found cost advantage of RE electrolytic H2. If you're looking for where to invest, this is it...new high-growth industry & market to come in RE and H2. Remember when IBM was betting on mainframes while MS and Intel quietly working on PC's? Who won? Then when MS was busy working on PC's, Apple, Google, etc. were busy working on smart phones and tablets...Who won?

Engineer-Poet
Most people don't know that and are just stuck w/ the notion like you have, that electrolytic H2 from RE can never be competitive with H2 from NG by SMR.

Then there are those of us who look at the FITs and other subsidies required to get RE onto the grid at all, and the consequent minimum energy cost per kg of H2, and KNOW that it isn't going to be competitive.  Because numbers.

A.C. R.

RE is not competitive with fossil fuel. Its unreliability means it competes not with capacity, but with energy, so with fossil fuel prices. A few cents/kWh coal and such. Not competitive at all. When you factor in decreased efficiency of the dirt and gas burners, and increased maintenance cost of that, the economic value of wind and solar is something like 1-2 cents/kWh. Since the price is many times that today, it is not competitive in a raw, strict sense.

There are a few exceptions, such as large hydroelectric dams, and to a MUCH lesser extent, geothermal and biomass. They are competitive where they have been competitive for decades, in places that have large reliable hydroelectric resources and less resistance to dam building. This is nothing new. The old renewables are the gold renewables. The new renewables (solar and wind) are pretenders, they are the fool's gold.

A.C. R.

As for hydrogen demand being static... that is not true at all!

http://ceramics.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/hydrogen_growth.jpg

Very big growth is going on. Virtually all of the new capacity comes from reformed/cracked fossil fuels.

Petrochemical industry is not interested in electrolysis because high power electric infrastructure is not available and too expensive to get up, electrolysers cost more than other options, and electricity is more expensive than natural gas.

They will certainly not be interested in coupling an already inferior option to inferior energy sources such as wind. They want reliable hydrogen production, and due to transport issues, preferably close by where its needed. They want 80+ % capacity factor. They are not going to be interested in solar at 10-20% capacity factor to power the electrolyser. They are not going to be interested in wind 15-45% capacity factor. Most industrial areas are not in very high wind speed conditions. So your hydrogen demand is not in the best of wind locations. It is also not in the middle of the desert.

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