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Report: Sumitomo to begin selling fuel cells for commercial vehicles with US Hybrid

The Nikkei reports that Sumitomo Corp., the giant Japanese integrated trading company, will start selling fuel cells for commercial vehicles via a partnership with California-based US Hybrid. Sumitomo, which is strengthening its automobile business and expects growth in the fuel cell market, plans to supply mostly Japanese commercial vehicle makers, according to the report.

Sumitomo has been involved in fuel cell research and development of years, and already produces fuel cell components. For example, Sumitomo Metal Industries developed the world’s first high performance stainless steel for bipolar plates. The plates employed a unique method of adding low-cost alloy elements into the molten steel, resulting in the dispersion of highly conductive metal inclusions throughout the steel, thereby delivering the needed electrical conductivity.

In 2012, Sumitomo Metal Industries merged with Nippon Steel to form Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, the third largest steel manufacturer in the world as of 2015. Other examples include:

  • Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal developed a method of manufacturing special rolled titanium foil, featuring excellent corrosion resistance against the corrosive environment in key parts inside fuel cells. As a result, this material has been adopted in parts for the fuel cell of Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell vehicle.

  • In 2015, Sumitomo Riko established Sumiriko FC Seal Co., Ltd. to manufacture and stably supply fuel cell (FC) components for fuel cell vehicles (FCV).

  • Sumitomo Chemical is developing industrial-scale manufacturing processes for the polymer organic LED technology and proton-conducting membranes for fuel cells developed by the Tsukuba Material Development Laboratory.

  • Sumitomo worked with British start-up ACAL Energy Ltd. to license its FlowCath platinum-free liquid cathode technology for proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuels cells in Japan. (earlier post)

Established in 1999, US Hybrid Corporation has provided electric and hybrid traction drive systems for medium- and heavy-duty commercial trucks, municipality vehicles, and fuel cell transit buses throughout the world. The company is privately held and was founded in Torrance, California by Dr. Abas Goodarzi, Ph.D, P.E., and a 30-year veteran of the electric, hybrid, and fuel cell industries including design and development of General Motors’ EV1 power-train development at Hughes Aircraft Company.

In May, US Hybrid, Nissan, Argonne National Laboratory and National Grid, a utility fleet owner and operator, were selected for a $6-million award from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to design and test a fuel cell range extender for utility vehicles based on Nissan’s e-NV200 platform.

The project’s goals are to (1) test and demonstrate one FCeNV200 at the operator’s sites in New York and/or Massachusetts in demonstration phase; (2) deploy and operate a minimum of twenty FCRXeNV200 for 5,000 hours operation per vehicle (30 months) at the operator’s sites; and (3) conduct an economic assessment, including a payback analysis, cost per unit, and payback time concerning the use of hydrogen fueled fuel cells for range extenders used in commercial operations. The economic assessment will be facilitated using data collected and submitted to NREL quarterly. Upon project completion, the team will be able to make recommendations on the marketability and commercial viability of the FCeNV200.

The three-year pilot program will include prototype design and testing, as well as an economic assessment of the marketability of this emerging transportation technology.



It will be interesting if Sumitomo actually decide to go with ACAL's flow cell technology, which is a very different way of doing things:


Not having to use a platinum catalyst will certainly make the flow fuel cell less expensive.


I would like to see the results of this flow cell combined with SOFC with a liquid fuel such as ethanol. Again, may not be cost competitive with batteries for daily use of cars but if not maybe a clean, non fossil fuel range extender that is reliable.


Using a small 15 KW FC in a 80 to 130 KM PHEV could be a very good cold weather solution.

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