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Archive for 2012

In advance of their upcoming Tactical Power Sources Summit in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) has released a fact sheet on energy and fuel use in the military, and the numbers are eye-opening. With $150 billion being spent on fuel and electricity over the next decade, the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest energy user in the U.S. Operational fuel for all branches of the military is being used up at a staggering rate of 50 million gallons per month in Afghanistan, all while the price of fuel continues to increase. The military also faces challenges in supplying critical fuel to the front lines, as convoys are vulnerable to attack; U.S. convoys were attacked 1,100 times in 2010 according to U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM).

Infographic: More Fight, Less Fuel

In light of these challenges, DOD is making a significant investment in renewable energy including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and fuel cell technology. Fuel cells have long been a part of DOD’s arsenal, having been tested on bases, in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and for soldier power in rugged environments. The PEM fuel cell backup power project, initiated in 2011 by DOD and the Department of Energy (DOE), has installed over 200 kW of fuel cell power at nine military installations across the country. Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland will maintain power during grid outages thanks to the fuel cell demonstration, and will provide DOD with operational data to inform future installations. On the vehicle side, Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii has been operating a fuel cell hybrid electric shuttle bus since 2004, and recently received a fleet of GM fuel cell Equinox vehicles for use around the base.

IDGA’s 10th annual Tactical Power Sources Summit will explore the topic of renewable energy in the military further, and will feature speakers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The Summit takes place from January 28-30 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit their website to register and learn more. And be sure to visit for more information about fuel cells and their military applications.

In 2012, major U.S. companies purchased more than 32 MW of fuel cell power and 1,131 fuel cell forklifts, making it another successful year for the fuel cell industry. The latest Business Case for Fuel Cells report, released today by Fuel Cells 2000, highlights new and repeat customers of fuel cell systems in the U.S., and draws particular attention to the ways that fuel cells work with other energy sources – natural gas, biomass, solar, wind, and batteries – to “green” a company’s facility and achieve a measure of independence from the electric grid. For these technologies, renewable or otherwise, fuel cells are an ideal technology enhancer and not a competitor.

Some of this year’s most notable fuel cell customers include AT&T, with more than 17 MW either installed or on order for 28 sites in Connecticut and California; Walmart, with 26 stores in California powered by fuel cells and 3 facilities in North America using fuel cell forklifts; and Sysco, with more than 700 fuel cell forklifts deployed at seven facilities in the U.S., with hundreds more on order.

“Fuel cells have many benefits that collectively help boost a company’s productivity – from longer lasting fuel cells for materials handling; stationary units powering through blackouts and hurricanes; to pairing with other technologies to achieve high efficiency and complete grid independence,” , says Jennifer Gangi, program director, Fuel Cells 2000. “All of the fuel cells referenced in the report were manufactured in the U.S., by U.S. companies, another way the fuel cell industry bolsters the economy.”

Read the full report here:

A newly released report by the National Academy of Sciences (actually written in 2007 and recently declassified) examines the U.S  electric power system, finding it vulnerable and “in urgent need of attention.”  The report declares that the U.S. grid is heavily stressed and at risk of multiple failures following a terrorist attack or a natural disaster – as was recently experienced with Hurricane Sandy.

The report’s authors recommend that regional vulnerability assessments be conducted and cost-effective strategies be developed to reduce these grid vulnerabilities.

The report suggests that further R&D be conducted on distributed generation (power that is generated at, or near, the point of use), as well as micro-grids (a small group of interconnected power loads and distributed power generation resources that are capable of disconnecting from the grid to operate in “island” mode) in order to augment today’s large central power generators.  In particular, fuel cells are identified as one the key distributed generation technologies that bear further examination.

The full range of fuel cells – PEM, SOFC, MCFC, etc. – are suited for distributed power generation, delivering high quality, high efficiency, reliable power to homes and buildings when grid power goes down.  This can be especially important for critical sites such as hospitals, data servers, and communications infrastructure.

And during recovery, we all need supplies – from hardware stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.  Fuel cells are ideal for these sites.  In fact, many companies have already deployed them.  In California, 26 Walmart and Sam’s Club retail sites operate using fuel cell power.  And in California and in the northeast, some of grocery stores operated by Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Fresh and Easy, Price Chopper, Star Market and Albertson’s also use fuel cells.  Given the rate that fuel cells are being adopted my major corporations, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this number grow.

Fuel Cells 2000 highlights U.S. companies deploying fuel cells for primary power (distributed generation) or backup power in our annual reports, The Business Case for Fuel Cells.  We will be coming out soon with our 2012 edition soon, so be sure to keep an eye on our website for this new release.   In the meantime, you can take a look at past editions of the Business Case here.

A German analysis was published in October that examines the potential ecological and economic benefits of small fuel cell combined heat and power (CHP) generation systems under 10 kWe. The study – which was commissioned by the Fuel Cell Initiative and the Fuel Cells Working Group of the VDMA (a German engineering association) and conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg (IFEU) – devised two scenarios, a “very moderate” scenario with a just few thousand fuel cell CHP units, and a “dynamic scenario” with widespread use of fuel cell CHP (tens of thousands of units), and compared these to a baseline scenario with no fuel cell CHP units.

Among other findings, the analysis indicates that:

  • For a partly renovated single family home, and calculated on the basis of the German energy mix in 2020, the fuel cell CHP systems save between 21% to more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to a condensing boiler.

  • In the dynamic (large-scale deployment) scenario, for all of Germany, the use of fuel cell CHP results in annual greenhouse gas emission savings of 1.5 million tonnes, and 22 million tonnes over the life cycle of the fuel cell unit.

  • Also in the dynamic scenario, fuel cell CHP in a partly renovated single family home was found to be cost-competitive, in terms of the future cost of energy, to a scenario evaluating the costs of a gas condensing boiler and solar energy.

In addition, both fuel cell CHP scenarios show a greater economic impact to Germany over the reference scenario (no fuel cells) – with an estimated added economic value of 0.4 billion euro and 3,000 workers in the “very moderate” scenario, and 2.5 billion euro and 18,000 workers the “dynamic scenario.”

I hope everyone living and working in Hurricane Sandy’s path is safe and sound.  We were lucky here in DC area not to be hit as hard as predicted.  Friends and family in NY, NJ and CT are still without power and we hope things get back up and running soon.   Yesterday we received a report from UTC Power, a fuel cell manufacturer in CT, on their fuel cell fleet in the Northeast -

“UTC Power has 23 PureCell System Model 400 fuel cells in the New England and New York area affected by Hurricane Sandy, 16 of which are within the state of Connecticut. All 23 systems are currently up and running either in grid connect or grid independent mode. While one fuel cell in Fairfield, CT shut down during the storm when a fan failed, we repaired the system as soon as it was safe to get a technician to the site and we were able to get the fuel cell restarted while the grid was still out in the area.  The other 22 PureCell Model 400 systems in Connecticut and throughout New England and New York performed as expected during the storm with many units powering our customers even after the grid went down.  As of today, two of our systems are still running in grid independent mode while their respective grids are down.”

We hope to receive other reports of how fuel cells in the area withstood the weather – last year we wrote a memo on how fuel cells performed during Hurricane Irene and Winter storm Alfred.   Both UTC Power and ReliOn, a fuel cell manufacturer with many units providing backup power to telecommunications networks around the country, put out releases on how their units performed during the storms.

We all know the benefits of fuel cells – reliability, efficiency, low-to-zero emissions, etc. but in tragic times like these, some of their other benefits, such as ruggedness, flexible siting (can be installed indoors as well as out) and ability to operate independent of the grid, really stand out.

Exciting news– both Hyundai and Nissan showed their new fuel cell vehicle models at the Paris Auto Show.

Hyundai’s ix35 SUV is a hybrid vehicle that features a 100-kW fuel cell and a 24-kW lithium polymer battery.  The ix35 reaches a top speed of 100 mph (161 km/h), does 0-to-60 in 12.5 seconds, and has a driving range of 365 miles (587 km).  Hyundai has started production of the vehicle and will begin deliveries in December 2012 – with leases already signed in Sweden and Denmark.  Hyundai’s plan is to build up to 1,000 vehicles on the road by 2015, with a post-2015 goal to reach 10,000 units.

Nissan also debuted its TeRRA fuel cell concept vehicle that features the company’s new fuel cell stack which is 1/6th less costly than the previous 2005 version. No vehicle specs are available, but the TeRRA delivers “four-wheel-drive capability” and uses the same front wheel electric propulsion system as the all-electric Leaf.   Jay Leno has already scoped the TeRRA out – you can see a great close-up video of the car here:
(2nd video).

And in a big surprise, Toyota announced during an interview with a German business newspaper that it will begin series production of a fuel cell Prius in 2014!  Vehicle introduction (in 2015) will depend upon the availability of hydrogen fueling infrastructure, but the company is aiming to deploy the Prius fuel cell vehicle in Japan, Europe and the US.

Finally, in a September speech, Honda’s CEO reaffirmed the company’s intent to, “launch an all-new fuel cell electric model sequentially in Japan, the U.S. and Europe starting in 2015.”

Finally coming to the Northeast and the home of many of the major fuel cell manufacturers, long-running fuel cell installations and a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell buses, the Fuel Cell Seminar& Exposition (FCS&E) is headed to Connecticut.  The FCS&E will be held November 5-8, 2012, at the  Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.

By far the largest and longest-running U.S. conference focusing on hydrogen and fuel cells, the 2012 Seminar will focus on commercialization, research & development, market value propositions, business solutions, and deployments. Presentations will cover utility, residential, vehicle, and portable uses of hydrogen and fuel cells in addition to discussions on the challenges in costs, fuels, storage, reliability, lifetime, and adoptability. The Seminar continues to expand on its mission to advance global energy, environmental, and economic benefits offered by fuel cell and hydrogen technologies.

There will lots of featured activities on top of the Plenary sessions and presentation tracks, including Educational Short Courses and Workshops, a day-trip tour on a fuel cell bus exploring Connecticut’s hydrogen and fuel cell installations, a Ride & Drive event, and two networking receptions!

The three free half-day workshops include: Business Services and Export, Investing in Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology, and Fuel Cells for Municipalities.  There is also a free Fuel Cell 101 short course for educators.

Cool fun fact about the conference’s location – the Mohegan Sun had not one, but two fuel cell systems providing power to the Casino over the years.   A report on the fuel cells’ operation provides a lot of background, cost and performance data.

Advance Registration Rates end Sunday, September 30, 2012. After September 30th, attendees will pay the on-site registration fees. Access to register online will end Friday, November 2, 2012.  Additional information may be obtained by contacting the FCS&E directly at 1-803-545-0189 or

To follow the event on social media – Twitter @FuelCellSeminar (Official hashtag – #FCS2012); YouTube @FuelCellSeminar and Flickr @fcs_and_e/.

Hydrogen Education Foundation’s annual Hydrogen Student Design Contest is in full swing and looking for student teams to answer the call.  The theme of the 2012-2013 contest is “Development of a Hydrogen Fueling Infrastructure in the Northeastern United States,” looking for a feasible plan for the implementation of a hydrogen infrastructure, using only commercially available technology.

As a former New Yorker, this theme hits home.  With major hubs in Manhattan, Boston, Philly and DC, the Northeast deserves attention from automakers and hydrogen fuel providers as a target area for deployment.  There are a few stations in New York and scattered throughout the region, but not enough to support fuel cell vehicles when they are commercialized and launched in a few years.  There are fuel cell vehicles already deployed in small numbers in New York and Connecticut, and fuel cell buses in Connecticut and Delaware.  Plus, with Bloom Energy opening a manufacturing facility in Delaware, and major fuel cell manufacturers and hydrogen suppliers located in several Northeast states, it’s great to see some focus on the East Coast for a change.

Recently, a series of hydrogen and fuel cell roadmaps focusing on 8 Northeast states was published by the Northeast Electrochemical Energy Storage Cluster (NEESC), with funding provided by DOE and the Small Business Administration (SBA).  These contain a wealth of information on potential target markets and opportunities for fuel cells and hydrogen, as well as overviews of current activity, policy and industry in each state.

The Contest is open to current undergraduate and graduate students worldwide and is sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota.    Last year, the University of Maryland won the Grand Prize for “Design a Combined Heat, Hydrogen and Power (CHHP) System for a University Campus Using Local Resources”.  Interested students should check out the contest website and get started pulling their team together, as the deadline is fast approaching to register a team.

Good luck!

This week, two major automakers – GM and Kia – reaffirmed their commitment to 2015-2016 as the time frame for the commercial launch of their long-awaited fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).  While both companies have demonstrated major progress with their respective FCEV models over the years, one has been highly visible and the other has kept relatively mum on the subject.

Kia’s eventual launch of their FCEV will represent a major point in a journey that began with the introduction of a fuel cell-powered version of its Sportage model in 2003.  Since then, Kia has aggressively pursued electric vehicles, repeatedly stating its commitment to offer customers a suite of reliable, alternative-fueled vehicles to combat rising oil prices.  Kia has recently improved the performance of their Borrego FCEV, which is now capable of 400 miles per one tank of hydrogen – the equivalent of 54 mpg.  In 2011, Kia signed a memorandum of understanding with four European countries to test their FCEV alongside the infrastructure that is slowly popping up across the continent.

GM has been perfecting their FCEV model since 2007, when Project Driveway endeavored to make its commercial model half the size, 220 pounds lighter, and able to work with about a third of the platinum required by the prototype.  100 of GM’s Equinox FCEVs have been deployed around the world, including for the U.S. military at Hawaii’s Marine Corps Base where a group of 13 agencies, companies, and universities are invested in their success.  As Randy Fox, GM’s manager for Electric Vehicle Technology Communications, stated recently, “We do believe fuel cells can be commercialized by (the) 2015/2016 time frame, in limited quantities, in specific geographic regions where refueling infrastructures exist.”

Both Kia and GM will depend on the deployment of hydrogen fueling infrastructure over the next few years if they are to meet their goals.  Kia, in particular, has stated its desire to produce 10,000 FCEVs by the middle of the decade and expand this number to 100,000 shortly thereafter.

Curious as to what other fuel cell vehicle progress is being made in the U.S.?  Take a look at our latest report, State of the States: Fuel Cells in America 2012, to learn where the hydrogen stations are, where the vehicles are, and what is coming soon.

Japan’s Mainichi newspaper reports that the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is requesting funding in fiscal 2013 budget appropriations for the establishment of about 100 hydrogen fueling stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

METI is concerned that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will increase as the country scales back its use of nuclear power, and it is unlikely that renewable resources would be able to quickly fill the void.  The Ministry hopes that quick deployment of hydrogen fueling stations will lead to a rapid rise in the use of fuel cell vehicles, which emit no CO2.  The hydrogen stations will be deployed by 2015, the date many auto manufacturers intend to begin commercial sales of fuel cell vehicles.

The Ministry will request 30 billion yen (about $400 million) in the budget to support deployment of both the Tokyo-area hydrogen fueling stations, and for the creation of several regional power grids that expand wind power generation.  METI will also support R&D efforts to develop a low cost hydrogen supply system.