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Archive for 2013

Another year has almost passed, but we could not let it close without releasing the latest (fourth) edition of Fuel Cells 2000’s annual Business Case for Fuel Cells report.  We discuss why businesses are purchasing or leasing fuel cells – documenting reported power reliability and emissions, cost, and efficiency savings – and highlight new fuel cell installations by some big name companies.  We’ve been tracking fuel cell deployments and, since our last report, we have calculated that:

* More than 88 megawatts (MW) of stationary fuel cells have been installed or ordered by U.S. businesses and utilities.
* 700+ fuel cell-powered material handling vehicles have been ordered or deployed in warehouses and distribution centers around the country.

Corporate customers are finding that fuel cells pays off – by saving money on fuel and labor costs, reducing emissions, and yielding substantial savings through increased efficiency and reliability.  Fuel cells are now operating in stationary and motive power applications to provide:

* primary power to materials handling equipment, resulting in improved efficiency and cost savings at warehouses and distribution centers;
* reliable, resilient primary power for high-volume data centers;
* high-efficiency, low-emission power for corporate headquarters;
* backup power to crucial computer and communications networks;
* clean, reliable power that keeps retail stores open  even when grid power goes down; and
* megawatt-scale power feeding directly into the power grid.

The number of fuel cell applications continues to grow, with promising demonstrations involving zero-emission trucks at ports, stationary and motive applications at airports, and power for refrigerated trailers used to transport food to grocery stores and restaurants.  Many companies have become repeat customers, purchasing additional, and in many cases, larger, fuel cell systems for their facilities.

Several key markets have developed for fuel cells in the last few years, especially in industries where power reliability is critical.  For example, when a data center goes offline it can cost a company millions.  Fuel cells are an ideal power source for data centers because they generate high quality, computer-grade power, have few moving parts and are extremely reliable.  Several notable data center fuel cell installations were made in 2013, including First National Bank of Omaha, Microsoft, and Equinix.  Other corporations deploying fuel cells at their data centers include Microsoft, Apple, eBay, Google, Verizon, JPMorgan Chase, and Williams-Sonoma.

Major telecommunications companies in the U.S. – AT&T, Sprint, MetroPCS and T-Mobile (which recently acquired MetroPCS) – collectively have located hundreds of fuel cells installed at telecommunications towers and sites around the country.  Fuel cells are capable of providing either short duration runtime or extended duration runtime for telecom switch nodes, cell towers, and other electronic systems that require a highly reliable, on-site, direct DC power supply.  Fuel cells last a lot longer than their battery counterparts – 10 years versus 3-5 years – and require less maintenance, saving both money and time.  In addition, fuel cell products are rugged and durable, so they can provide power to remote sites that may be subject to inclement weather.  Internationally, this market is growing rapidly in Latin America, the Caribbean, Indonesia, India, and South Africa, and as well as expanding into China and Japan.

U.S. electric utility companies have begun to deploy megawatt (MW)-scale fuel cells at electric power stations to generate and deliver electricity to the power grid.  Adding fuel cell power generation helps energy companies meet clean energy requirements imposed by Renewable Portfolio Standards – a regulation in place in many states (and countries) requiring energy companies to acquire a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.  Delmarva Power now operates 30 MW of natural gas-powered Bloom Energy Servers at two substations, enough to power about 22,000 homes, for its Delaware customers – the largest utility-scale deployment of fuel cell technology in the U.S.!  The Bloom Energy fuel cell units performed without trouble during Superstorm Sandy, delivering continuous and reliable power to the grid.  In 2013, several other energy companies announced plans for fuel cell power generation, including NRG Energy (5.6-MW natural-gas powered fuel cell system that will be part of a renewable energy park), Dominion (a 14.9-MW fuel cell power generation facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut – enough electricity to power approximately 15,000 homes), and United Illuminating (UI) (a proposed a 5-MW renewable energy park at the city’s former landfill site that would include a 2.8-MW fuel cell).

The material handling sector has provided the fuel cell industry with an early and growing market in the U.S., with deployments and orders for forklifts and lift trucks inching closer to 5,000.  Companies are finding benefits to converting an existing fleet to operate on fuel cells, or purchasing new fuel cell material handling vehicles, above and beyond the great reduction in polluting emissions.  These include economic benefits, saving a company time with increased productivity as well as money from fuel and labor costs.  Fuel cells last longer than batteries, and take only a few minutes to refuel, allowing workers to spend more time on the warehouse floor moving product than they do swapping out batteries or chugging along as battery power decreases.  Many facilities are also recouping space that was previously allotted to house and change batteries and are now storing more goods.  Many big name companies now utilize fuel cell forklifts, and several have place repeat orders to add fuel cells to other sites, such as BMW, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Kroger, Lowe’s and Walmart.

Corporations are also taking advantage of the cost, efficiency and emissions savings, using fuel cells to power buildings, corporate campuses, production facilities, and retail sites.  In 2013, installations included Intuit, Kellogg’s, Macy’s Target, and URBN (formerly Urban Outfitters), among other sites.  Walmart, which is already using fuel cells to power 35 California stores and operates fuel cell-powered forklifts at several North American sites, is now planning to add fuel cells to several of its retail stores in Connecticut.  These corporations not only benefit from fuel cells’ reliability and emissions savings – stationary fuel cells can generate power at 8-11 cents/kWh, making it competitive with grid energy in many states.

There are many more examples, so take a look at the report – The Business Case for Fuel Cells 2013:  Reliability, Resiliency & Savings – it’s impressive.  The business case for fuel cells is becoming stronger every year!

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) held a two-hour webinar – International Hydrogen Infrastructure Challenges – NOW, DOE and NEDO – that presented an overview of international efforts and information exchange on the development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure.  The panel, which included speakers from Germany’s NOW (the German National Organization Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology program) and Japan’s NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization) also discussed ongoing challenges to hydrogen refueling and possible solutions.  This is an important effort, given that Hyundai will begin commercial fuel cell  sales in 2014, and Toyota and Honda will have production models available in 2015 – albeit in starting low numbers and limited areas where there is an existing hydrogen refueling infrastructure (such as California, Germany, Scandinavia, and Japan).

Over the past few years, there have been several hundred fuel cell vehicles in demonstration around the world, in real-life driving experiences with real customers.  This has offered early experience with the hydrogen fueling infrastructure that has been monitored closely by government, industry and NGO partners involved in these efforts.  Certain shortcomings have been identified and are being addressed to deliver the next generation of hydrogen refueling equipment.

During the webinar, station reliability and “uptime” (operability) was identified as a critical issue that impacts fuel cell vehicle operators seeking to refuel.  Today there are a limited number of hydrogen stations, so making a trip to the local hydrogen station and finding the pump inoperable must be a frustrating experience.  Interim solutions now in place to alert operators of station functionality include placing lights on dispensers to show that the station is operational (Clean Energy Partnership stations in Germany, and Scandinavian hydrogen stations) and a smart phone app developed by the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) that gives the driver advance notice when a station is not functional.

Several additional issues and challenges were cited during the webinar.  These include:

– Fueling equipment hardware issues: premature hose failures, such as leakage or rupture, excessive wear and leakage issues of nozzles, and premature separation of the hose breakaway.
– “Excessive” operational costs to station operators from unplanned maintenance and stocking of expensive repair parts.
– Needed hardware design revisions due to ongoing changes to station dispensing pressures and temperatures.
– Lack of support from fueling component manufacturers in solving current hydrogen refueling performance issues, which has limited the rate of improvement.

Many efforts are now underway to address hydrogen refueling station reliability.  The Japanese government is funding a national R&D project to develop a “fit-for-purpose” 70Mpa hose for hydrogen dispensing.  Germany’s Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) has begun independent, third-party studies on failed hydrogen refueling products from the field.  In the U.S., the DOE is funding projects for new R&D for compressors, hoses and meters.  In addition, a new SAE standard, J2601 (Fueling Protocols for Light Duty Gaseous Hydrogen Surface Vehicles), will be published in 2014 that, “includes lessons learned from the field, new relaxed targets, and has been validated by laboratory and field tests in the U.S. and Japan.”

Germany, which has 100 fuel cell vehicles on the roadway, is investing in a $51 million program to develop 50 hydrogen refueling stations, coordinated by National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW).  So far, 15 stations are in operation, 22 are in application for funding, and 13 are in the planning phase.  This number will grow to 100 hydrogen refueling stations by 2017 and 400 stations by 2023.  In 10 years time, stations will be located a maximum of 90 km apart on the highway, and 10 hydrogen refueling stations will be relocated in each metropolitan area.

In 2012, organizations in Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Hyundai to develop a network of hydrogen refueling stations by 2015.  The goal is to provide 15 stations and 30 satellite stations that will support a fleet of 100 buses, 500 cars, and 500 specialty vehicles.

The European Commission is also targeting hydrogen infrastructure build-up by the end of 2020, developing a minimum level of infrastructure coverage necessary to enable cross-border mobility between member states and support commercialization of hydrogen vehicles.  Hydrogen refueling stations will be located along the TEN-T Core Network (a European transport network across 28 member states and nine major corridors) at a maximum distance of 300 km, plus one hydrogen refueling station per every 350,000 inhabitants in urban areas.

Japan’s goal is, “achieving the world’s fastest dissemination of fuel cell vehicles.”  One hundred hydrogen refueling stations will be operational by 2015, supported by a new subsidy, and 1,000 stations by 2025.  The country is also encouraging streamlining of regulations for hydrogen refueling stations and fuel cell vehicles.  The Technical and Social Demonstration of Regional Hydrogen Supply Infrastructure (2011-2015) is being coordinated by the Research Association of Hydrogen Supply/Utilization Technology  (HySUT), with funding provided by the Department of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

In 2013, a public-private partnership call H2USA was launched to address barriers to fuel cell-electric vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure.  The group’s 19 members include DOE, automakers (Chrysler Group, GM, American Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota) and other stakeholders.  DOE has supported, with 50-50 industry cost share, a fuel cell-electric vehicle (FCEV) and hydrogen station demonstration (now completed) that involved a total of 180 FCEVs and 25 hydrogen stations.  The cars traveled 3.6 million during the trials (500,000 trips), and there were 33,000 refuelings, providing real-world feedback on the vehicles and refueling equipment.  (Click here for our map of North American hydrogen stations.)

At the state level, California is providing strong backing for the rollout of fuel cell vehicles, with $100 million planned to develop new hydrogen stations (the state now has nine public stations) and in the northeast plans are being laid to develop hydrogen infrastructure (Connecticut, New York, New Jersey). In addition, eight states recently signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate and collaborate in implementing their states’ zero-emission vehicle programs, which include battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles and supporting refueling infrastructure (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont).  Hawaii is also working to develop an infrastructure to support hydrogen vehicles (Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative) with a goal of displacing petroleum imports to the state.

Some fuel cell vehicles are now in serial production, so these international efforts to develop hydrogen fueling infrastructure will support auto manufacturer plans to rollout a growing number of FCEVs.  These vehicles will be deployed to locales that have begun to develop a network of hydrogen refueling stations.  With so many efforts under way – bolstered by supportive policies and dedicated funding for hydrogen infrastructure development – the hydrogen highway, which has been talked about for so many years, will come to fruition.

There has been quite a fuel cell flurry in France lately.   While a lot of attention is focused on Germany, Japan, Korea and certain parts of the U.S. with regards to fuel cell progress, France is quietly making some great strides and progress with its growing fuel cell industry and increasing scope of projects.

For the past couple of years, France has had a nice presence at the International Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Expo in Tokyo, Japan, with a Pavilion housing a respectful number of companies, universities and groups.   Hopefully that will be the case at the 2014 show.   It was there last year that I learned about the MYRTE Platform, an energy storage demonstration born from the collaboration of the University of Corsica and the French Nuclear and Alternative Energies Commission, the Hydrogen and Energy Storage of AREVA and located at the University of Corsica site in Vignola.  The system consists of a solar array connected to an energy storage system utilizing an electrolyzer to generate hydrogen and a fuel cell to store and use it.

The French Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association has also been active for a while and published a road map back in 2011 (in French).

More recently, it was just announced that in the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, residents will start receiving their mail delivered via a vehicle using a fuel cell as a battery range extender.   La Poste (the French postal service) will be testing three Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric mail delivery vehicles fitted with fuel cells from French fuel cell manufacturer, Symbio FCell.  The fuel cells will be used to extend the range (doubling it!) of the battery vehicles for the long, cold and sometimes treacherous routes.   Testing will also be expanded to include vans, light trucks and heavy trucks.

We wrote last month about the ALTER Bike, a fuel cell electric bicycle unveiled by three French companies, Cycleurope, Pragma Industries and Ventec, which stores its hydrogen in solid form, in recyclable canisters and uses both a Li-ion battery and a fuel cell.

Air Liquide, the industrial gas company based in France, has been heavily involved in the hydrogen refueling game, helping open more than 60 hydrogen stations around the world for fuel cell cars and buses as well as supplying infrastructure to warehouses and facilities deploying fuel cell material handling vehicles.   The company recently elaborated on its growth plans for the future, including working with the “H2 Mobility” initiative and partners Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total to invest more than $473 million to increase the number of fueling stations in Germany to 400 by 2023, with 100 stations to be opened in the next four years.

Air Liquide also invested $6.5 million (€5 million) in U.S. fuel cell manufacturer, Plug Power to bolster the joint venture, HyPulsion S.A.S., between Plug and Air Liquide’s subsidiary Axane.  This partnership has led to one of the largest (and only) deployments of fuel cell-powered forklifts (20) outside of the U.S., at Swedish furniture company IKEA’s Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, France, shipping logistics center.

Axane is also dabbling in the backup power market, providing a fuel cell to Belgacom to power a remote telecommunications antenna in Wemmel, Belgium.

Another French company, McPhy Energy, a hydrogen storage company, presented in September its system coupling an industrial-scale hydrogen generator with a 100 kg solid hydrogen storage unit, the world’s first it claims. With Power-to-Gas becoming much more prevalent in Europe (see our posts on Germany’s projects), and McPhy working with many of the groups involved, this could help bring more projects to France and surrounding regions.

There are other companies involved and lots of research at the university level coming out of France, we will be keeping an eye out to report.

We were lucky to have four interns from American University’s Washington Semester program helping us out the past few months.  AU’s program attracts students from all over the world to Washington, DC, and this semester we fortunately recruited interns from countries heavily involved in moving the fuel cells and hydrogen industries forward.   When they came to us in early September, they were all fuel cell newbies – smart young men interested in energy policy and international business, but not so familiar with fuel cells.   We threw them in head first, and they were extremely valuable, helping us with writing numerous blog articles, researching various topics for reports and articles, translating materials from or into their native language, and other very useful projects.   For their final posts, we had them write about their individual experiences here at Fuel Cells 2000 and what they learned about fuel cells for your reading pleasure.

Benedikt, Germany

Fuel cells – the better future?

When I started as an intern here at Breakthrough Technologies Institute 2 ½ month ago, I already knew something about fuel cells, but I didn’t know that there is so much out there. Since I’m very interested in energy politics I knew, that German car manufacturers (especially Daimler) are working on fuel cell propelled cars. But I didn’t know how much effort the German government (but also other governments like the Japanese or other European governments) put into this field. I’ve never heard before from NOW, ene.field or Ene-Farm, or from the opportunities power-to-gas is offering. All these things were lost during the debate over the “Energiewende” (energy transition) in Germany. Nobody talked about fuel cells when we decided to shut down our nuclear power plants in 2011, although fuel cells could contribute greatly to the success of the energy transition in Germany. But if you talk about fuel cells in Germany most people think, it is a too expensive technology right now, but they don’t think about the opportunities fuel cells and hydrogen can offer. The German government has acknowledged these opportunities and set up different programs for the promotion or testing of fuel cells, not only in the mobility sector but also in the residential sector and also in the power-to-gas sector. So I want to sum all my experiences up in one post about the opportunities fuel cells can offer. I wanted to start with one with the biggest advantages of fuel cells respectively hydrogen: the ability to store power.

As I pointed it out in one of my first blog posts for BTI, the ability to store energy over a longer period is crucial for the successful transition of the German electrical power supply. As already mentioned there is already a lot of renewable energy in Germany (over 20 % of the power consumption is provided by renewable energies with over 8 % by wind power, 3.6 % by water power, 6 % by biomass power, and over 5% by solar power) and on windy and sunny days, there is always a lot of surplus energy in the system and the operators of these plants must shut down their power plants, what is not very sustainable (and efficient). The solution for that is the storage of power in large scales. Modern batteries like lithium ion batteries are not practical since they are far too expensive have a short life expectancy, need exhaustible raw materials, and the handling is dangerous (see Boeing 787 Dreamliner).

Hydrogen storage is the best way to solve this problem. There are a lot of new projects all over Germany which will demonstrate the advantages of a hydrogen based power storage. With a nationwide infrastructure of turning surplus energy from renewable energies into hydrogen and feed this into the natural gas distribution network, Germany would do a huge step forward in the project of the “Energiewende” (power transition). With this technique it is not only possible to use renewable energy when it’s sunny or windy but also in the night or while still air. This would solve the main disadvantage of renewable energies as a whole. Of course, this field of operation is still young and also expensive, but imagine 20 years ago there were nearly no renewable energies in Germany (except water power) and now they provide more than 20% of the power consumption! If we do more research in this field, prices will fall and efficiency will rise.

If you expand this decentralized concept to a higher level, you can combine this storage concept with hydrogen filling stations fuelled by a nearby wind park (see “H2BER” project) and decentralized combined heat and power plants for a maximum in efficiency. I think Germany is on a good way, since there are a lot of projects in these different fields of operations, but there should be a plan which combines all these technologies in one large concept. If the German government set up a plan which combines the production of power through renewable energy, the storage of surplus energy through power-to-gas, the providing of hydrogen filling stations through the natural gas distribution network, and the production of heat and power in combined heat and power plants, Germany would do a big step forward in its efforts to a greener country.

What I miss in German politics is the greater image of what to do with the energy transition. In my opinion the politician’s overhasty decided to shut down the German nuclear power plants until 2022 because of the catastrophe of Fukushima in 2011. The shutdowns are right, but the “project energy transition” isn’t well planned. There is no big plan how to manage it, that Germany will produce 80% of its energy with renewable energies until 2050. There is just the objective. The German government should bundle all the responsibilities in one agency which oversight the whole project (but this is almost impossible since the states are also very strong in Germany and they don’t want to give up their responsibilities). This agency could implement the smart grid I described above and coordinate all the efforts in this field. I mean there are a lot of projects in Germany, but they are separated from each other or not connected very well. There is of course NOW, but what I miss is the coordination of all efforts in the field of energy politics (maybe an own department or something like that). Hopefully this will change in the future.

Talking about hydrogen filling stations: I think fuel cell propelled cars are the future in the mobility sector. The European Union just decided on stricter emission standards, so that there is the need for a cleaner propulsion technology. I also think Germany should decrease the dependency on oil (and natural gas) from autocratic regimes like Russia since we don’t have big reserves in both (and the new German government will forbid the use of fracking in Germany due to environmental concerns). So if Germany wants to fulfill the EU guidelines it needs new technologies. I think battery propelled cars like the ones from Tesla are good for city use, but due to the short range and the long charging time it is not practical for the use in an area state. There is also the need for a better and safe storage technology, what fuel cells could deliver. The technology is almost there and will be available in the next few years, as well as the hydrogen filling stations will be. The politic should now stimulate the purchase of these new technologies with tax cuts or other instruments. When these cars are produces with mass production the costs will also fall and the cars will be competitive and not just a luxury object for high class citizen. Fuel cells could not only propel cars, but also almost every other vessel on earth. The range goes from cars, forklifts, motorcycles, ships, submarines (already in use) to even airplanes. Especially in densely populated areas like big cities, fuel cells could contribute to a much cleaner air and could avoid cancer.  So fuel cell propelled cars are the better solution than just electric cars with a battery and could also run with renewable energy through electrolyzation of surplus power.

But the mobility sector and the power-to-gas sector aren’t the only application areas for fuel cells. Another big market for fuel cells is coming up in the residential sector. As we reported before and you can see here, there are a lot of different projects all over the world, promoting or testing residential fuel cells. Nowadays, the hydrogen for these fuel cells comes from the conversion from natural gas while ejecting carbon dioxide, but in an imaginable future there are probably decentralized power-to-gas plants all over Germany which can provide green hydrogen to these residential fuel cells without any emissions.

As a conclusion, fuel cells can be deployed in so many different sectors and can contribute to a cleaner world. Of course the technology is still very expensive, but through mass production and further development it will get cheaper and better.

Eirik, Norway

Summary of work

During the first weeks of my internship, I spent a lot of time reading fuel cell material, especially focusing on the Norwegian market to begin with. I also sat in at a webinar covering fuel cell buses. My first post at the Fuel Cell Insider discussed a concept study of how fuel cells may power several vehicles in an airport environment.

Most of my posts have focused on fuel cells applied for vehicles, especially developments in Europe and Norway. I’ve written about buses, racecars and bikes fueled by hydrogen, and also the infrastructure for fueling in Norway. I also did some outreach to potential Norwegian candidates for the Top 200 Companies list.

A lot of my time at BTI has been spent doing research on various topics, especially companies for the Business Case report. While this was tedious and sometimes frustrating due to lack of available information and that everything I found seemed to be known from before, I hope I found at least a few pieces of information that were useful.

The cost analysis work has been the most interesting to me, even though I don’t believe the material is good enough to draw a conclusion. Either way, the information compiled may hopefully be used in some way.

Being the only Norwegian, I could utilize my language to find more material and connect with companies and add value in that sense. In some cases I have needed to read Swedish and Danish material, and also some German.

Learning

For the most part I’ve focused on learning as much as possible about the various applications of fuel cells rather than understanding everything about the science behind them. While the science part obviously is useful, I feel that knowledge of applications are more useful for me.

I’ve learned a lot about the use of fuel cells for vehicles and also combined heat and power and backup power. It has been interesting to read about how big companies utilize fuel cells for cost reduction and to build their brand as environmentally conscious. Learning how fuel cells can enhance life quality, e.g. by reducing air pollution in congested urban environments and providing backup power for telecom has been great. My general impression is that fuel cells seem to be more suited for CHP and backup power than fueling commercial vehicles. Vehicles operating in a limited range like buses, airport vehicles etc. may be more suited.

I have read a lot of material on the Norwegian fuel cell situation. As a result of my internship I have also signed up for a news letter from the Norwegian Hydrogen Forum, and started following some quality fuel cell sources on Twitter to keep up with the latest developments.

Experience

I have enjoyed the casual and flexible environment at BTI. Everyone has been open and friendly, and I feel that communication has not been a problem even though a lot of work is done outside the office.

We’ve been given a lot of autonomy to pick our own topics for posts and what we work with on any day. Suggestions have also been made, making it easier in case we can’t come up with anything on our own.

The flexibility has been really helpful. Sometimes I’ve had to leave early or come in late, neither has been a problem. Working from home at a couple of occasions has also been a good experience.

I have almost not felt as an intern since there’s been virtually no clerical work at all. Replacing the water tank and opening the door has been the closest.

What I have enjoyed the most was covering the BMW i3 event, even though they only mentioned fuel cells a total of 2 times (used for forklifts in Carolina plant). Attending Senate hearings or any other fuel cell related events would be really interesting.

The fact that the organization is so little has taken away some of the office dynamics learning experience and networking part. However, this is something I was aware of and there is nothing to be done with.

Shunsuke, Japan

Before I start this interview I knew nothing about fuel cells. But I was interested in new energy technology because I have written papers about new clean energy for my universities and the internship I used to do was involved in clean energy.

What I have done for this internship was the research about fuel cell market in Japan and other Asian countries. I knew that Fuel Cell Vehicles exist and Japanese companies are trying to commercialize it but I never knew their potential about the market and how government is involved into that project. I didn’t know how much it cost to produce hydrogen fuel station and how many stations are there in Japan. It was interesting to see how the fuel cells markets are created and how private sectors and public sectors are corporate together. Also the fuel cell motor scooter was interesting because I only knew about FCVs. I thought that to make the battery smaller was one of the difficulties commercializing fuel cell, but actually in countries like Vietnam and Taiwan have potential market. I’ve seen on TV and some videos that in those countries, the most common transportation is to use motorcycles and I heard the emission from the motorcycles is one of the issues in those countries. When I was in Japan, I have never looked Taiwan and Vietnam in terms of energy. If I were to research about fuel cells again, I want to look more into Asia and find out the potential market in that area. There might be a chance for Japanese companies to go into the market and do fuel cell business and reduce the emission at the same time.

What was the most difficult thing I faced was to work in English. This is my first time to work in English and I had hard time using both English and Japanese at the same time. I could not understand most of technical terms in English and when I write blog post or report, sometimes I have struggle with the expression and vocabulary to use. But as I keep working with English and Japanese I get used to it. Because I will work as a consultant at Accenture, I think I will use both English and Japanese at the same time, so the working style in this internship trained me to use both languages.

Working experience in this internship will help my career in the future.

Matthew, USA

The office seemed very quiet at first. As I walked in for my first day of work, I met my co-workers and bosses (soon-to-be friends) and after we chatted about ourselves, everybody went to their desks and a productive, working silence fell over the office. Being the freshman in college that I was, the workplace simply seemed foreign to me. I had a lot of questions. How should I act in the workplace? Are there tacit rules that I should follow? Who do I go to if I need help on a specific project? I was really just trying to figure out my place in the office.

Despite how strange the working world seemed to me at the time, nothing could really mute my excitement about fuel cell technology. After I accepted the internship, I did a little reading on fuel cell technology and really enjoyed it. It was cool to read about how fuel cells generate electricity and I was very interested in the challenges that fuel cells have come up against in the past. In particular, I remember reading that, though fuel cells are more efficient than most lithium ion batteries, the hydrogen fuel infrastructure does not exist yet in most countries. It was fascinating.

After a few days of work, I got my bearings and started working on a few projects. Some days I would write blogs about news in the fuel cell world. On other days, I would research certain companies with fuel cell installations. Everything about the work was very relaxed and I enjoyed the freedom to explore these projects as deeply as I wanted. When I was helping out with the research component of The Business Case for Fuel Cells, one of BTI’s main reports, I remember having fun, investigating the fuel cell installations of Coca-Cola, Google, and Wegmans while listening to my music. I am glad that I was able to contribute something to one of BTI’s biggest reports.

Not only did I get to help out with some of BTI’s large projects, but I was also allowed to represent the organization in a variety of different conferences and panels. The energy conference that hosted Senators Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin was easily the most memorable of the conferences that I visited. What was really interesting was that I got to hear about efforts to get an energy bill passed in Congress from an insider’s perspective as well as learn all about the current problems with America’s energy system. When I came back from the conference, I wrote a blog about the whole event and really enjoyed having this unique experience.

All things considered, I had a very fulfilling experience in my time at BTI. I’ve learned a lot about workplace etiquette, I’ve made measurable contributions to help out, and I’ve expanded my horizons with real-world experience. Because of my internship this semester, I’ve practiced essential networking skills and can say with confidence that I have my own smallish network. Now that I think about it, I’ve even come to enjoy the quiet, productive atmosphere here at Breakthrough Technologies Institute.

We’ve talked a lot recently about the flurry of financing, partnerships and deployments of fuel cell bus projects around the world – from China’s interest to Europe’s Clean Hydrogen In European Cities (CHIC) fuel cell bus program to the Federal Transit Administration’s funding awards.

Since those posts, Europe has increased its efforts to deploy more fuel cell buses.  Recently, the  EU Hydrogen Fuel Cell Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public-private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies, released its latest call for proposals, which includes around $20 million (€15 million) to fund up to 24 fuel cell buses.

Ballard Power Systems also signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Van Hool NV, Europe’s fourth largest bus manufacturer, to jointly respond to the EU FCH JU call for proposals as well as any future requests for proposals under the EU Horizon 2020 program,  a multi-billion dollar (Eurp) research and innovation plan.

For the newly funded buses, Ballard will deliver its next-generation fuel cell power module to Van Hool for incorporation into hybrid bus platforms. The MOU also provides for the establishment of a dedicated service and parts center at Van Hool facilities in Belgium, to support all buses powered by Ballard fuel cells in Europe, 27 will be in public transit operation in 2014.

Not too long ago, Fuel Cells 2000 published their Vehicle Comparison Chart that puts the specs of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) side by side with those of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and traditional Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs).

The chart makes some interesting observations about Fuel Cell Vehicles. FCEVs have exceptional range on a full tank of hydrogen. The Tucson ix35, the FCV-r, and the FCX Clarity all get a cumulative average range of about 300 miles. Interestingly, the average range for an FCEV is only 200 miles off from the range of the popular Toyota Camry. Not too shabby!

Range is one thing, but what about refueling time? One of the common complaints with Electric Vehicles is that they can take several hours to fully charge and, as a result, people stick to the comfort of what they already know – ICEVs. Fuel Cell Vehicles, however, have a refueling time that rivals conventional vehicles at an average of 3 minutes from empty to full.

Another aspect of FCEVs that makes them look attractive to new, environmentally-aware markets is their size and weight. Motor heads and car aficionados are very particular about their set of wheels and any minute change in the shape, weight, or handling of a vehicle can make them unreceptive to alternative vehicles. Yet, FCEVs seem to look and weigh most like their conventional counterparts. Honda’s FCX Clarity, for example, has almost the exact same dimensions as both the Volkswagon Passat and the Toyota Camry.

Though FCEVs are still growing and improving, they seem to be the most comparable to the cars we drive today. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles have a range, refueling time, and size that consumers are most familiar with. Truly, the advantage of FCEVs is that they keep to the traditional standards of ICEVs, while also cutting out the harmful carbon byproducts.

Honda FCX Clarity

Hyundai ix-35 FCEV 2014

Toyota FCV-r Concept

Bloom Energy has completed the installation of Bloom Energy Server in M-TOWER at Fukuoka, Japan, which was its  first international project outside of U.S.   The company joined forces with SoftBank in August of this year to form a joint venture with the two companies investing $10 million each.

The 200 kW  fuel cell can cover up to 75% of electricity needed for the whole tower.   The system uses city gas and bio gas to generate electricity efficiently and in the U.S., it is installed at data centers, factories, shopping malls, and other places that need continuous electricity.  The joint venture between Bloom and SoftBank hope to replicate that success in Japan and hopefully even expand to China.   The representative of Soft Bank who owns the M-TOWER says that he believes that Bloom’s fuel cells will become one of the solutions for businesses in the future, and this installation is a significant milestone for SoftBank to further drive the adoption of innovative, clean energy.

Place of Installation M-TOWER, Fukuoka, Japan
Installation Area 60 m2
Power Generation 200 kW
Energy Efficiency 60%
Size/Weight 9.1m×2.1m×2.6m/ 1.9t
Date started   running 11/25/2013

As November winds down and the weather gets colder, motor heads and grease monkeys rejoice as they head to the Los Angeles Convention Center for L.A’s 2013 Auto Show. Debuting some of the most inventive and glamorous cars for the next generation, this year’s show will host more than 12,000 auto industry makers and roughly 4,000 media representatives from 50 different countries, making this event one of the largest car expos in the world. The designer challenge for this year’s convention is “Biomimicry and Mobility 2025,” which challenges interested car designers to model their vehicles on natural solutions to the over-arching problems with human mobility (eg. pollution, congestion, sustainability).

Given the context for this year’s auto show, it is simply fascinating to see how certain car companies have taken to fuel cell technology to meet the designer’s challenge.

Perhaps the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) that is on everyone’s mind is the Hyundai ix35 2014. Hyundai has been working on making a fuel cell electric vehicle comparable to traditional combustion engine vehicles since the early 2000’s and the ix35 has become the proud fruit of their labor. This 4-door SUV boasts an estimated 17.2 miles for every 1 liter of hydrogen fuel (which is about a 71 Miles per Gallon Equivalent) and is reported to have a range of about 360 miles on just one full tank of hydrogen. In fact, Hyundai’s FCEV was recently in London last month to display its sustainability prowess as a part of a Hydroponics System.  Hyundai also announced plans to offer the ix35 beginning in Spring 2014 in the U.S. market (well, Southern California) for just $499 per month, including unlimited free hydrogen refueling and At Your Service Valet Maintenance at no extra cost.   Hyundai is also partnering with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to make the Tucson Fuel Cell available to consumers at select locations in the Los Angeles/Orange County region as well.

Honda is also quickly rising up in the ranks of future cars that promote sustainability. The new Honda Fuel Cell Concept that was dramatically unveiled during the press events earlier this week wowed audiences and stunned automakers. This concept is reported to be able to seat 5 people comfortably and can clear a range of over 300 miles, placing it high on the list of competitors in the slowly emerging FCEV market. Honda is planning to produce and introduce its new fuel cell electric vehicles to the United States within the next two years.

And last but not least, the Toyota FCV-r concept will be a major contender in the FCEV arena. The FCV-r concept is Toyota’s sporty and modern-looking take on a vehicle built designed specifically to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Though it is just a concept now, Toyota plans on introducing this car to infrastructure-ready markets at the same time as Honda’s FCX Clarity. Trying to highlight the only byproduct of this vehicle (H2O), the designers made the car in the likeness of flowing liquid.   We have more details on this car in an earlier post on the Tokyo Auto Show.

Lots of great coverage of the previews so far -

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-auto-show-fuel-cell-20131117,0,3678128.story#axzz2lP7hLR59

http://www.latimes.com/business/autos/la-fi-hy-auto-show-honda-fuel-cell-20131120,0,3472209.story#axzz2lP7hLR59

http://editorial.autos.msn.com/hyundai-tucson-fuel-cell-debuts-at-2013-la-auto-show

It will be exciting to follow these vehicles out of the auto shows and onto the streets!

UK-based company ITM Power, which focuses on hydrogen production and energy storage systems, announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NRM Netzdienste Rhein-Main GmbH of Germany.  In this MOU, the two companies agreed to work together to identify and bid for both German and international Power-to-Gas (P2G) and PEM electrolyzer projects.  The MOU also covers both the direct injection of hydrogen gas into mains gas grids and methanation projects.

The companies have worked together to deploy an ITM Power PEM Electrolysis Power-to-Gas plant at NRM’s holding company Mainova Aktiengesellschaft (a big regional gas, water, heat, and energy supplier in Germany) in Frankfurt, with NRM delivering the compliant gas mixing and grid injection infrastructure.  The plant, which was jointly commissioned by thirteen partners within the Thüga Group to investigate P2G-Technology, is now on-site and is undergoing an extensive testing phase before its live commissioning in December.

This plant is one of many P2G projects recently set up in Germany. We reported about some of these projects in our blog two months ago, describing why P2G is especially important for Germany’s future energy security.

Another big P2G project is underway in East Germany. The Hydrogen Power Storage & Solutions East Germany (HYPOS) initiative is funded with up to €45 million ($60.79 million) from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The HYPOS project coordinates more than 90 partners to use the excessive power from wind and solar parks for the production of hydrogen. This hydrogen will either be fed into the natural gas distribution network or into the already existing Central Germany Hydrogen Pipeline, which connects several chemical companies within the region known as the Middle German Chemical Triangle,  which can use this hydrogen for their production. The initiators want to build a “smart grid” by connecting the electrical grid, the hydrogen production, hydrogen pipelines, the natural gas network, natural gasholder, the production of hydrogen as a byproduct by the chemical industry, and the use of the hydrogen as fuel, to get the best efficiency as possible. 

Electric bicycles are popular in dense urban areas where traffic is an everyday challenge.  In China and the Asia Pacific area, e-bicycles represent a practical and economical means of transportation compared to motor vehicles.  The region accounts for about 90 % of the annual global sales.  A typical problem with e-bicycles has been the range, being powered by a battery, it can only operate as long as the battery allows it to before charging.  Fuel cell technology is looking like a good fit to solve this problem.

A French collaboration has developed an electric motor-driven pedelec bicycle powered by hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion battery, the Alter Bike. The collaboration includes Cycleurope, Pragma Industries and Ventec, specialized in bicycle design and manufacturing, hydrogen fuel cell technology and battery systems, respectively.  For the hybrid battery/fuel cell bicycle, some existing technologies have been adapted, and some have been developed. New solutions for refilling were necessary; they developed recyclable hydrogen cartridges and a new electric system for the bike.

In contrast to the e-bicycle, the range of the Alter Bike is only limited by how many cartridges the rider carries. The rider brings as many cartridges that are needed for the daily trip. No recharging time gives additional flexibility. The bike is demonstrated in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKR32ncntWM

Fuel cells in combination with batteries or other technologies are being applied in a variety of products. Dr. Jörg Karstedt stated that “the combination of fuel cells and batteries enables long distance emission free e-mobility without any range anxiety”  in an interview about hybrid vehicles[1]. For example, the combination has been tested in London taxis. The taxis combined a PEM fuel cell with a 14 kW li-polymer battery, giving it a range from 160 to 250 miles which is longer than battery-only options. For a normal shift of 8 hours, a taxi needs ability to cover about 150 miles. Rapid refueling is an advantage; it typically took less than 5 minutes. The key benefits were zero emissions, quiet operation and high system efficiency, proving the potential of combining fuel cells and batteries in vehicles.

While at the Fuel Cell Seminar in Columbus, Ohio, Jean Zhao from EcoSpinners gave a very interesting presentation about her company’s fuel cell electric bike.  EcoSpinners spun out of Case Western Reserve University and is integrating a direct borohydride fuel cell (100 W) into an electric bicycle to allow for 100 mile range and almost instant recharging.   The bike is 10 times lighter than a moped and will cost a lot less than a conventional electric bicycle.

Another company using a fuel cell in an interesting way, Atsumitec, a Japanese company, has upgraded the exhaust system on a motorcycle to integrate both a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) and a thermoelectric conversion element. An additional 200W of power is generated in two ways, utilizing the hydrogen and carbon hydride, and the heat from the exhaust. The power is used for on board systems, allowing higher fuel efficiency.

And earlier this year, Intelligent Energy and Suzuki announced the completion of a ready-to-scale fuel cell production line in Japan. The production line will allow high volume production of fuel cell systems, reducing costs of manufacturing and assembly and improving cycle times and product quality. The completion will hopefully lead to quicker commercialization of Suzuki’s fuel cell vehicles.

An overview of specialty fuel cell vehicles, including bicycles, scooters and more can be found here –  http://www.fuelcells.org/images/specialty.pdf


[1] http://www.automotive-iq.com/PDFS/Interview%20with%20J%C3%B6rg%20Karstedt_Fuel%20Cells_FINAL2.pdf