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Archive for 2008

The fuel cell industry asked Congress and the incoming Obama Administration today to set aside $1.2 billion in the planned stimulus package for fuel cells and their fuels.

The text of the plan, compiled by the US Fuel Cell Council, is posted below.  Get involved! Send this to your congressman (learn how here).  And of course, tell us what you think!

Fuel Cell Stimulus Plan Will Create US Jobs and Clean Energy Capacity, Reduce CO2

Congress can dramatically accelerate deployment of a clean, home-grown, US manufactured green energy technology, create an estimated 24,000 jobs[i] and fight back against global climate change, simply by taking advantage of federal laws already on the books.  Fully funding programs of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) at levels Congress has already approved for FY2010, and use of other authorized funds, will invest $1.2 billion in fuel cells, hydrogen and infrastructure.  This investment will put hundreds of fuel cell vehicles and up to 100 megawatts of fuel cell power into customers’ hands, reap efficiency, environmental and security benefits and create green jobs and high-tech manufacturing capacity for the American economy.

Benefits of Fuel Cells

  • Fuel cells generate electricity and heat electrochemically, providing overall energy efficiencies of up to 80%, or even higher. Fuel cells produce benefits in all applications – power generation, industrial equipment, transportation, military power and consumer electronics.
  • Fuel cells are essential to achieving carbon reduction goals, with CO2 reductions ranging from 40% or better using conventional fuel to nearly 100% using renewably derived hydrogen. Because fuel cells are electrochemical systems and do not rely on combustion, they are the cleanest fuel-consuming energy technology, with near-zero smog-causing emissions.
  • Fuel cells can greatly simplify the sequestration of CO2 from hydrocarbon fuels, enabling the environmentally responsible use of domestic fuels like coal and biomass.
  • Fuel cells and hydrogen can help provide stability and continuity to the electric grid since they can provide continuous “base load” power in parallel with or independent of the grid. In addition, they can support intermittent renewable energy. These attributes make them ideal resources for supporting critical loads for military and civilian consumers.
  • Federal support will accelerate job creation and keep innovation, industrial capacity and jobs in the U.S., avoiding the fate of advanced batteries, which are made in Asia.

Steps We Can Take Now

DEPLOY Fuel Cells                                                                                $100 Million[ii]

Dozens of power systems are available today for commercial and defense applications, supplying energy efficiency and secure power for critical loads.  Fuel cells have shorter lead times than large generation systems and most are built in the US.  Federal agencies can buy fuel cells from the GSA Schedule and directly from manufacturers.  Federal policies and federal funds should support public and private sector purchases and leases of fuel cells and infrastructure for stationary, portable and micro fuel cells.  Including fuel cells in federal clean energy installation requirements also would accelerate commercialization.  Authority: EPACT Sec. 783, FY2010: $100 million for purchases.

STIMULATE Deployment, by Supporting a Fueling Infrastructure            $65 million

Federal grants and tax credits for hydrogen and other fuel cell fueling infrastructure will dramatically accelerate activity in existing markets like industrial equipment, and prepare communities for the arrival of fuel cell passenger vehicles.  Federal policy should support hydrogen infrastructure deployment via an investment tax credit and by cost sharing for fueling stations, and fully fund the current vehicle Learning Demonstration. Authority: EPACT 2005, Sec. 782, FY2010: $65 million for vehicles and infrastructure.

IMPROVE Federal Fuel Cell Investment Tax Incentives

Given the current economic climate, Congress should temporarily provide refunds for entities that can pay no taxes because they are losing money, and permanently provide payments for entities like hospitals and schools that are tax exempt.  Technical changes in the language of the Investment Tax Credit for fuel cells would allow its provisions to work better together.  Increasing the credit for fuel cells for homeowners to 30% or $3,000 per kilowatt would give home owners the same support already provided to businesses and industry.  Provisions: IRC Sections 25D, 48.

EXPAND Learning Demonstrations                                                          $375 Million

Learning demonstrations put early commercial and advanced experimental systems in the hands of government and private sector users who help evaluate the systems even while enjoying their real-world benefits.  Federal law already authorizes demonstrations and deployment in civilian and military applications.  Authority: EPACT Sec. 808, FY2010: $375 million.

BUILD American Manufacturing Capacity                                                $100 Million

Fuel cell companies and suppliers need to invest in manufacturing capacity but money from banks and investors is difficult to find.  Federal grants and tax credits for investment in manufacturing infrastructure will keep jobs and industrial capability in the US, stimulate the US supply chain and reduce unit costs.  US manufacturers can begin upgrading and expanding their capacity immediately.  Authority: EPACT Sec. 805, FY 2010:$100 million;* EISA 2007 Sections 136; also IRC Sec. 4.

ACCELERATE Research in Partnership with Industry                                $350 Million

Federal research employs thousands in high-tech professions and trades.  Fuel cell and hydrogen research can retain and expand jobs at universities and national laboratories and in the private sector, and can accelerate commercialization.  Basic research is needed in advanced materials, catalysis and other relevant fields.  Applied research should focus on improved performance and reduced costs, and on improved availability, storage and utility of hydrogen and other fuels for fuel cells. Authority: EPACT Sec. 805, FY2010: $350 million for research.*

INVEST In Fuel Cell Transit                                                                      $180 Million

Fuel cell buses have proved their capability in revenue service operation and transit operators have expressed interest in additional deployments.  Transit provisions in the stimulus should include the purchase of at least 100 zero emission fuel cell buses and funds for relevant infrastructure investment. Authority: SAFETEA-LU Bus and Bus Facilities Program.

INCLUDE Fuel Cells in President-Elect Obama‘s Energy Initiative

The President-Elect proposes to stimulate markets for advanced energy systems by promoting efficiency in federal buildings and by establishing a 25 percent Federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for all electricity consumed in the U.S, and finances clean, US-made power generation via a carbon cap-and-trade auction.  Fuel cells can make a huge contribution to these national programs.

Authorized Total:  $1.2 Billion

Bottom Line: A limited investment now will foster green power

and keep jobs and capability at home.


[i] Derived from Green Recovery estimates

[ii] 2010 Energy Policy Act ’05 authorized level except as noted.

* Section 805 authorizes a range of fuel cell and hydrogen research topics; total FY 2010 Sec. 805 authority is $450M. Our proposal allocates $100 million for manufacturing and $350 million for research.

Two new fuel cell vehicles made their debut at the LA Auto Show (November 21-30, 2008).  Honda revealed its futuristic concept vehicle, the FC Sport (image below), a three-seat sportster with an ultra-low center of gravity.  Honda’s V Flow fuel cell technology was reconfigured for this sports vehicle, with the fuel cell located beneath the two rear seats, the battery placed low in the middle of the Sport and the electric motor just forward of the rear axle.  Two car’s two visible hydrogen tanks are located above the rear axle. Kia’s new Borrego FCEV (image above), the fourth generation of Hyundai-Kia’s FCEV program, features the company’s 115-kW fuel cell system and a lithium-ion battery in a hybrid-drive system and offers a zero starting capability down to -30C.  The SUV can attain a maximum speed of 100 mph with a traveling range of 315 miles.  The company plans to deploy a small fleet of the fuel cell Borregos on roadsways during 2010.  

 

The 2nd China International Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Expo (HFCE 2008) will be next week, November 18th-20th, 2008, at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China.  The main focus of HFCE 2008 is fuel cell applications in the telecommunications industry with a focus on the industrialization of 1-10-kW fuel cell systems.

12,000 attendees are expected, and our own Bob Rose will be giving a presentation on the U.S. fuel cell industry. For more information, please visit http://www.hfce.cn/.

China is emerging as a leading supporter of fuel cell technology so it will be interesting to see the exhibitions and announcements from participating companies.  If you are interested, Fuel Cells 2000 has a compilation of international roadmaps, initiatives, activities and programs.

Recently, it was announced that one of the leading auto manufacturers in China, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group (SAIC), was working on the development of fuel cell vehicles with fuel cell manufacturer Shanghai Shen Li High Tech Co. Ltd.  Three fuel cell vehicles have been developed using the popular Chao Yue vehicle which is based on Volkswagen’s Santana sedan.  The latest model, the Chao Yue III, can attain a top speed of 110 km/h using Shen Li’s 60-kw fuel cell.  The most recent development from the pairing, introduced in 2007, is the Shanghai fuel cell vehicle.  20 cars were deployed for the recent summer Beijing Olympics to shuttle VIPs, athletes and visitors around the city.

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We will be updating Fuel Cell Insider readers with pictures and updates from the show, so stay tuned.

For those of you in the US, don’t forget to get to those polls today! Whatever your political persuasion, make sure your voice is heard.

For a rundown of the candidates’ views on fuel cells and hydrogen, click here.

The industry’s largest expo is only two weeks away! If you are headed to Phoenix, there are several things going on – stop by the joint US Fuel Cell Council and Fuel Cells 2000 booth (#102) for full details.

- On Wednesday the 29th, don’t miss the first ever Women in Fuel Cells luncheon.  The mission of Women in Fuel Cells is to foster the professional growth and leadership of women in the fuel cell industry, provide a forum for discussion of issues common to our members, and encourage scientists, engineers and professionals to pursue careers in hydrogen and fuel cells.  So if you are a woman in the industry or a man who supports this mission, please join us for the inaugural session  on the 29th by registering here.

- There will be a Ride & Drive all day Wednesday and Thursday, with cars from Daimler, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota.  We’ve seen a few already, but can’t wait to try out the others.

- Keep an eye out too for the Council Daily newsletter at the show for more information on the events and news.

- We’ll be posting live from the show as much as possible, and giving you the Inside look you deserve, so stay tuned!

Robert Rose, our frequent guest author, was in Brussels this past week at a series of fuel cell and hydrogen industry workshops, and put together this summary of the week’s events.  Enjoy! ~ The Insiders

The European Union and representatives of industry and research institutions have launched a “Joint Undertaking” that commits the EU to invest up to 470 million Euro (€) (about $625 million, as of October 20, 2008) through 2013 for fuel cell and hydrogen research, development and demonstration.  The press release claims “nearly one billion,” which reflects the anticipated private sector match.

The formal announcement was made October 14 in Brussels amid high hopes but also substantial uncertainty and some disappointment.  The program has been in development for more than six years, and is still unfinished, but an initial call for proposals is available with a budget of €28.1 million with proposals due January 15.

Significant remaining issues include intellectual property, and the process of reviewing and approving proposals (the proposed process raises significant conflict questions).  Research institutions complained about the amount of matching funds required of them.  The members of the industry association formed to collaborate with the EU on the program overwhelmingly rejected a proposed dues increase, leaving the board to declare an interim budget to be reviewed in the spring.  With the exception of the conflict issues, most of these appear to me to be growing pains.  Certainly the quantity and quality of private companies and research organizations participating in the collaboration is impressive.

The structure is complicated for an American observer, and requires some patience and the study of a variety of acronyms.  Here’s my best shot at an explanation.

Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen (FCH):  A public-private partnership among the European Union (EU) and two associations formed for the purpose of the collaboration: the Industry Grouping and the Research Grouping.  It is governed by a board comprising five industry members, one research member and six representatives of the EU.

The Industry Grouping is formally called the New Energy World Industry Grouping “Fuel Cell and Hydrogen for Sustainability” or NEW-IG.  It is a membership organization with dues in two categories, with established companies paying twice as much as Small and Micro- Enterprises (SME).  Membership currently is about 60.

The Research Grouping is formally called the New European Research Grouping on Fuel Cells and Hydrogen, or N.ERGHY.  It is also a membership organization.  I could not find the dues structure; if someone knows, please post it for us.

The JTI embodies the Joint Undertaking (JU) which is the legal entity set up by the EU government to facilitate the flow of funds.  The JTI board will have final vote on project approval.

While a company need not join one of the two associations to apply for funding it cannot be a prime awardee or prime contractor (to use the US term).  US based companies cannot join the associations but may participate as a sub.

It should be clear by now that one challenge is presented by the total money set aside for the program and to judge by the first call, it will be spread very thin. Activity areas for the first €28.1 million call include:

    1. Transportation & Refueling Infrastructure
    2. Hydrogen Production, Storage & Distribution
    3. Stationary Power Generation & CHP
    4. Early Markets
    5. Cross-Cutting Issues

Nevertheless, proposers were urged to “think big.”

In the best year, about €100 million is budgeted, and a demonstration bus project or hydrogen infrastructure deployment might take that much all by itself.

Advocates argue that the real value of membership in one of the Groupings is the ability to shape EU policy, and indeed the program allocation of the second through sixth years is still undecided.

It appears to me that the Groupings will begin to function less like single purpose entities and more like trade associations as time goes on, though the dues, which were proposed at €35,000 (approaching $50,000) will challenge even some larger companies, given that there is no guarantee members of the Groupings will receive funds.

The 2008 Annual Implementation Plan contains a valuable list of abbreviations for those not steeped in the complexities of European industrial policy.  See the last two pages of this document.  

~ Robert Rose, US Fuel Cell Council

This week, both the House and Senate voted on and passed sweeping legislation to shore up troubled financial markets.  Included in the comprehensive bill, was an incentive package that would extend and revise, among other things, the existing Investment Tax Credits for fuel cells.

On Monday the House failed to pass the financial bailout bill, prompting the Senate to come up with a revised version.  On Wednesday, Senators voted on and passed by a vote of 74-25 a financial bailout bill that included alternative energy tax credits to the controversial legislation.

Today the House took up the Senate-passed legislation and cleared the bill by a vote of 263 -171.

The action represents a significant win for the industry.  Without it, the Investment Tax Credits were scheduled to expire on December 31st of 2008.  The President immediately signed the bill into law, making the Investment Tax Credits valid until 2016.  The revised statue will allow purchasers to write off 30% up to $3,000 per kW off the cost of a qualified fuel cell unit from their tax liability.

On Tuesday, the US Fuel Cell Council joined other alternative energy concerns to urge Congress to act before adjourning for the November election.   The public release came on the heels of a report commissioned by the Department of Energy on employment scenarios for fuel cell commercialization.  It concluded that commercializing fuel cells could generate 675,000 new jobs over the next 25 years.

Commercializing fuel cells and shifting to hydrogen for motor fuel could generate 675,000 new jobs over the next 25 years, according to a study DOE sent to Congress yesterday.  Jobs will be created or preserved in manufacturing and assembly, fuel production, repair, recycling, and construction, with the majority created at auto shops and dealerships.

This is encouraging news and particularly valuable in the context of our current economic anxiety.  From the analysis, it’s clear that fuel cells offer substantial job creating potential.  It’s also clear that the faster the transition takes place, the faster the jobs are created.

The authors analyzed two scenarios, one in which 89% of new vehicle sales are fuel cell vehicles and 5% of US power is fuel cell generated by 2035, and a second in which fuel cells account for 20% of vehicle sales and 2% of power generation.  More than three times as many jobs are created in the more aggressive scenario. The study evaluated transportation, stationary and portable power sectors.

The fuel cell industry has been supporting an extension of the fuel cell installation tax credit in collaboration with the solar and wind industries, whose credits are also scheduled to expire December 31.  Certainly the study supports the conclusion that credits like these have tangible value as an economic stimulus.

It’s interesting that a study done in Europe a couple of years ago reached a comparable conclusion, projecting 500,000 jobs by 2030.  The Europeans, however, recognized that those countries that commercialize first will win many of these jobs early on, and they are investing accordingly via an ambitious new Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative.  It’s still an open question whether U.S. policy will keep pace.

According to the DOE report, “If U.S. companies are able to forge a lead in hydrogen technologies, U.S. global competitiveness will be fostered. The movement to hydrogen in particular could well be an opportunity for U.S. automotive firms to recapture market share lost to foreign multinationals in recent years.”

The study evaluated regional effects, and found that a fuel cell transition could produce more than 100,000 new jobs in 41 industries in the five Upper Midwest States, the traditional center of auto manufacturing.

The study, Effects of a Transition to a Hydrogen Economy on Employment in the United States (pdf available here), was ordered by Congress in Section 1820 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and conducted by RCF Economic and Financial Consulting, under a competitive contract.  While noting the usual uncertainties, RCF called the estimate “a reasonable measure of the potential opportunities that hydrogen presents to U.S. employment. ”

One wishes that release of the report had come earlier – the data could have been useful during the months it took for final approval from OMB and DOE.

This article by the National Hydrogen Association was recently published in Renewable Energy World Magazine. We wanted to share it with Fuel Cell Insider readers to underscore the message that fuel cells and hydrogen aren’t “future” technologies, but commercially available in several applications today, and making great strides in demonstrations in others.

Enjoy!

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One of the questions people often ask the hydrogen industry is, “When will hydrogen be ready? How long before it’s actually used?” The simple answer is: right now.

.The real surprise for most is learning how many different ways hydrogen is being used already for everyday applications and how linked hydrogen technologies are with the deployment of traditional renewable technologies.

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Most people think of hydrogen as an alternative fuel for passenger cars. That’s true, but it’s only part of the picture. Adding hydrogen to the variety of clean car technologies in development today is hugely important and something that is developing steadily. In fact, hydrogen vehicles from nine car companies just completed a cross-country tour. At the same time, other products using hydrogen are being sold today for uses most folks don’t know about. Some well-known names, like FedEx, Wall-Mart, Sprint, Orlando and Vancouver International Airports, and others are among those who have begun to introduce hydrogen technologies to their operations. You can read about many of these real-world applications at www.h2andyou.org. In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in this quick overview of just some of the industries and technologies where hydrogen is being put to use today, besides passenger cars, and a reminder of how hydrogen technologies are an enabler for wider deployment of renewables.

Stationary Power and Emergency Back-Up Systems

Hydrogen fuel cells are increasingly being used for backup power to improve reliability in facilities where interruption of grid electricity can spell trouble for public safety or capturing revenue. Telecommunications is a prime example. Fuel cells are currently being used to support over 400 cell phone towers across the U.S. Hurricane Katrina taught us the importance of having cell phone communication for rescue operations. Since then, new legislation now requires cell phone towers to have at least 8 hours of back-up power. Some major wireless providers have found that fuel cells can be more effective than batteries as a reliable back-up source and maybe even cheaper over the life of the system. These fuel cell systems and larger ones can support entire buildings or industrial process, providing clean, reliable off-grid electricity.

Portable Power

Today, some small, portable, emissions-free power generators are using hydrogen fuel cells to power laptops, cell phones, tools, radios, fans, TVs and other appliances. In addition to use by travelers and campers, these systems are designed to be used by emergency responders, the military and others who need power on the “go”.

Forklifts and Other Specialty Transportation

Special function vehicles, like airport luggage tugs and forklifts, are also providing emerging markets for hydrogen fuel cells. These hydrogen-fueled specialty vehicles are particularly valued in locations where elimination of emissions is critical, like enclosed warehouses, and when down time for battery charging and swapping costs money. A hydrogen-powered tug or forklift requires only a minute or two to refuel compared to many times that for battery swapping and charging, and hydrogen can improve operating efficiencies and costs. See this article in Earthtoys.

Hydrogen Buses

Numerous transit systems around the world have conducted demonstration programs placing hydrogen fuel cell buses in operation which provide pollution-free, quiet urban public transportation. For example, AC Transit in the San Francisco Bay area currently has three hydrogen fuel cell-powered hybrid buses operating in real revenue service and is gearing up for more. As a result, these buses have measurably reduced local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and are achieving efficiencies 2 times greater than their diesel buses. By visiting the AC Transit website, you can monitor their power usage and pollution reduction in real time. Additionally, three hydrogen buses helped move attendees around sports venues at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and hydrogen buses will be used at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Hydrogen Injection for Diesel Trucks

A small-scale application of hydrogen technology that is providing truckers with sizeable benefits is now available commercially. After-market hydrogen injection systems, which can be installed on virtually any of today’s heavy diesel trucks, draw a small amount of electricity from the truck engine’s alternator to split water held in a small container, producing hydrogen and oxygen gases. The hydrogen and oxygen gases are both injected along with the diesel fuel into the engine. The result is a significant reduction in air pollution emissions and greenhouse gases, reduced fuel consumption by 10% or more, and an average 5% increase in horsepower and engine torque. Trucking and shipping companies, FedEx among them, together have now logged tens of millions of miles with hydrogen injection systems.

Hydrogen and Renewables

Lots of people know that hydrogen needs renewables.  To make hydrogen, the most environmentally attractive option is to make it from water, with zero pollution, using renewable electricity from wind and solar resources.  Renewables are extremely important for producing hydrogen and helping with long-term pollution reductions in the energy and transportation sectors.  But did you know that renewables may need hydrogen?  Intermittent renewables can store their off-peak electricity for use later or for sale as a fuel.  What if most of the electricity in the grid came from wind and the wind stopped blowing?  Adding a hydrogen system to ensure reliability increases the value of renewables and gives utilities flexibility.  Utilities can use the hydrogen on demand to produce electricity when needed most, just like the back-up power systems mentioned above.  In this way, hydrogen technologies are a key enabler for the wider deployment of renewables.  See information from the Hydrogen from Renewables Forum here.

Jeffrey Serfass, President
National Hydrogen Association

For more informtation on the NHA, visit their website. This article first appeared here, in the Renewable Energy World Magazine.

For those of you who haven’t heard about Formula Zero, don’t worry – we have the Insider’s scoop ready for you.

Founded in 2003, Formula Zero is the world’s first zero-emission race car series, exclusively for hydrogen fuel cell single-seater cars. The 2008 Championship kicked things off recently with a competition between teams of students from 6 universities all over the world.  Mike Samaroo from Team Element One was kind enough to send us pictures and updates from the race in August, and of course we’ve got them for you.

Element One, made up of over 50 members from Lawrence Technological University in Michigan, placed first in the design competition back in March to win a race package of an 8 kW Hydrogenics fuel cell module and hydrogen storage.  The first actual race of the 2008 season was held August 22nd, in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  Although Element One wasn’t able to race that day due to issues with ground clearance, they received an award for “Best Vehicle Design” and made it clear they’d be ready for the next round.  You can see their beautiful design in the pictures below.  EuplatechH2, the team from Spain, came away with the win, beating the 2nd place team by just .172 seconds.  We’ll be watching Element One and the rest of the teams at the next race in March 2009 in South Carolina.

Thanks Mike!

For a few movies from the team, check out their YouTube channel.