H2FC Hannover 2012 Day Three

25 Apr 2012

Smith Electric Ribbon Cutting

The launch of the Smith Electric truck with Proton Motor range extender


Between key presentations at the Public and Technical Forums today, we found the time to roam the exhibition floor and hear updates from several companies. Today’s updates are based around the applications we saw during the day.


Fuel Cells in Transportation

Fuel cell buses continue to be successfully demonstrated in a number of projects around the world, but are generally viewed as still being some way from commercial viability. This may be about to change.

Ballard’s plans for the future of its fuel cell bus module were outlined today by European Account Director Geoff Budd in a very well-attended interview at the Public Forum. While the drive for clean air and reduced carbon dioxide emissions is a compelling reason to adopt fuel cell buses in cities, Budd was clear that the buses should be cost-competitive too. This may seem a distant prospect but Ballard has a product in development that it believes will help achieve this: its seventh generation fuel cell module, the HD7, is being designed-to-cost in an intensive development programme, and redevelopment of the other elements of the drivetrain and ancillaries is also underway. The aim is for the total cost of ownership of a fuel cell bus to match that of a comparable diesel-hybrid bus by 2014.

A parallel aim is to increase the lifetime of the fuel cell units to match that of internal combustion engines in conventional buses in their first lifetime, which means at least 30,000 hours of operation, and it is expected that this target will be met in the second half of 2014; in fuel cell development terms, that is just around the corner.

Hydrogenics is also advancing its fuel cell bus technology. Its HyPM module has been designed to be very compact, light and simple to integrate, and is being produced in various outputs to suit bus size and level of integration. The company currently offers a warranty to 20,000 hours of stack operation plus an all-in service contract to reduce customer risk and is in talks with bus OEMs and transit companies.

In another exciting development in fuel cells for transportation, the Smith electric truck with integrated fuel cell range extender from Proton Motor Fuel Cell was officially launched today at a ribbon-cutting by Smith Electric Vehicles’ CTO Robin Mackie and NOW head Klaus Bonhoff. The 7 kW PM-REX more than doubles the range of the truck (a standard model from Smith Electric Vehicles) which is on display here at the Exhibit and will hit the road next week in a flagship demonstration in Puchheim. Twenty such trucks will be produced in the next year for a NOW-funded pilot to test the trucks in real-world conditions in Germany.


Hydrogen Generation

Yesterday we saw a new application for electrolysers rapidly emerging in the form of power-to-gas; today we caught up with Proton OnSite, who has found commercial success over the last sixteen years in offering clean on-site electrolysis to replace packaged hydrogen delivery in power plant operation, the process industries, and laboratories. One of only a handful of profitable electrolyser businesses, Proton has sold over 2,000 units into more than 70 countries and is continuously working to improve its electrolyser technology and apply it to markets as they become commercially viable – what it calls the ‘fast follower’ approach.

The company has a unit ready for 1–2 MW demonstrations, which could be modularly scaled up to 10 MW; this could easily be adapted to large-scale renewable energy storage and power-to-gas applications when market demand rises. Indicatively, this year’s Group Exhibit marks the return of Proton after a decade’s absence from the show. Proton prides itself on its agility; it will quickly tailor and modify existing products and technologies to new applications as they emerge as solid value propositions, allowing for swift capitalisation.

Returning to the theme of transportation, Proton has also completed more than twenty hydrogen filling stations for fuel cell vehicles worldwide, some integrated with renewables; its new C-Series electrolyser produces 65 kg of hydrogen per day at 30 bar and is fully compliant with ISO standards on water electrolysis.


Fuel Cells for Stationary Power

At the Exhibit are two new products that each integrate electrolysers with fuel cells to provide autonomous back-up power systems. It is interesting that this solution has been arrived at from opposite starting points: one product is by Acta, a supplier of very cost-effective electrolyser stacks, and the other by FutureE, a fuel cell stack developer.

Acta’s system grew out of an Italian government funded project with Enel to develop a product for micro-generator peak-shaving. Enel specified a 5 kW system producing hydrogen at 30 bar as optimal for use within an average Italian home fitted with solar PV panels and this is what Acta has produced in compact  form, fitting into a cabinet the size of a small refrigerator. The system even sources its own water, which is collected from a gutter installed under the solar panels to catch run-off and then treated and filtered. It is based on Acta’s rack-mounted electrolyser stack designed for modular scaling which is also supplied directly to integrators.

The FutureE Independence system uses the company’s Jupiter 2 kW rack-mounted fuel cell stack integrated with a water tank, an electrolyser, two cabinet-sized hydrogen storage cylinders and a small battery for power management. The system requires minimal servicing, as hydrogen is produced during periods of excess power and stored in the tanks for later use by the fuel cell during power outages; it is capable of sustaining power during lengthy outages of several hours. The company’s development of back-up systems that are specifically aimed at the telecoms industry has been customer-driven: following the deployment of Jupiter back-up systems at Deutsche Telekom (DT) sites, DT bought further systems and took a stake in FutureE. FutureE is now poised to manufacture and deliver hundreds or even thousands of units and is awaiting orders.


As ever keep your eyes on our liveblog for developments throughout the day tomorrow, but for now guten abend! Jonny and Marge. 


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