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Element 1 Corp to develop on-board hydrogen generator for fuel-cell buses in China

Element 1 Corp (e1), a developer of hydrogen generation technology, has signed a purchase contract with Blue-G New Energy Science and Technology Corporation in Beijing to deliver an e1 hydrogen generator designed to provide up to 500 liters per minute of high-purity hydrogen on board a fuel cell bus.

The onboard hydrogen generator, based on e1’s patented technology, converts a mixture of methanol and water to hydrogen. Blue-G will integrate the hydrogen generator into fuel-cell buses, targeting customers in China. The successful delivery of the first hydrogen generator is expected to lead to a license agreement between e1 and Blue-G in 2018.

The new contract follows an earlier deal to develop a 100 kg per day hydrogen generator for China fuel cell bus refueling stations, and the formation of a joint venture to commercialize fuel cell systems for China’s telecom market.

Integrating a methanol hydrogen generator into fuel cell bus systems is another technology challenge with promise to enhance fuel-cell bus applications using an alternative and convenient method of supplying hydrogen fuel. However, sophisticated control technology applied to the system is required. Through a joint collaboration program with e1, we hope to add this innovative technology and products into fuel cell deployments within two years.

—Ronald Lee, CEO of Blue-G

e1 has developed technology for two product families centered on small-scale to micro-scale hydrogen generators and flare-gas utilization processes.



Small to micro scale on board H2 generators (from a mixture of high energy content liquid fuel and water) may be a better way for extended range large trucks, buses, trains, ships and airplanes powered with FCs?

Smaller version on board H2 generators and improved FCs, using various high energy liquid fuel mixes, could eventually be used on smaller vehicles as an alternative to compressed H2?


I will be interested in studying the technical specifications of this, as the website for Element 1 seems skimpy about them.

It is possible that this could power long distance trucking, something I have always been dubious about with compressed hydrogen due to space and weight considerations.


I would have a few basic questions. What is the source of the methanol? What is the overall efficiency of the reformer and the fuel cell and is it better than just burning the methanol in an IC engine?

If the bus in question is a transit bus, it would be better to just use batteries.


Lithium batteries = 0.5 MJ/Kg to 1.0 MJ/Kg

Ethanol = 19.9 MJ/Kg or about 20X lithium batteries,
Methanol = 31.1 MJ/Kg or about 31X lithium batteries.
Gasoline = 45.8 MJ/Kg or about 45X lithium batteries.
Hydrogen = 142 MJ/Kg or about 142X lithium batteries.

Methanol + Water could be a good/efficient mix for on-board H2 generation. The higher efficiency of recent FCs would make the process cleaner and more efficent than current gasoline/diesel ICEVs.


Excellent question and always the first question when dealing with Fuel Cell solutions: Where is the methanol coming from? And, I'll bet you one of my Aunt Bessie's pies, there's a fossil fuel burning in the atmosphere somewhere in the mix. In this case I suspect the methanol comes from natural gas or coal.



You are rather less interested in where the electricity to run BEVs comes from, and importantly the energy embodied in huge amounts in batteries and their highly polluting production.

It suits your thesis to assume that methanol is produced exclusively from fossil fuels, when of course the answer as to where it comes from could be a variety of sources, including the power to gas systems already used at small scale in Germany.



You have exchanged the the energy values for ethanol and methanol. Methanol has ~19.9 MJ/Kg. Also, if you have a 1 Kg mix of methanol and water and assuming a perfect reformation conversion of 1 methanol molecule (4 hydrogen atoms, 1 carbon atom, and 1 oxygen atom) and 1 molecule of water (2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom) to 6 atoms of hydrogen and one molecule of CO2, you end up with only 0.12 Kg of hydrogen. But you can not just mix methanol and water and get hydrogen and CO2. You also need to add heat to get the reaction to go. Otherwise, things like vodka, Canadian whiskey or mixed drinks would never exist. So again what is the efficiency of reforming process?

I am not sure how long it will take but I would rather believe in Lithium Sulfur than in mobile reforming systems. The University of Texas at Austin LiS cells had about 3.4 MJ/Kg


Methanol can use sugar cane, corn, grains, coal, NG and many other natural plants as inputs.

The current production of a few million tonnes/year could be multiplied many times.

Using gas from coal as feeder could benefit USA with its huge coal reserves.

Ethanol is another possibility?


Sorry but the energy content of Ethanol (19.9 MJ/Kg) and Methanol (31.1 PJ/Kg) and other fuel/gas used in transport vehicles, was taken from a list published by 'The Geography of Transport System' Louvain University.

Very few current lithium batteries do better than 1.0 MJ/Kg.

Curent FCs used in FCEVs do a lot better.


Been done before



You used a reputable source for your data but it has an error. Longer chain alcohols have a higher energy density. See


sd is correct.

From other sources:

(1) Methanol is about 20
(2) Ethanol is around 25
(3) Butanol is around 36

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