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Fuel Cell Today Industry Review 2011

 

Arguably, fuel cells

represent the most

versatile energy

solution ever

invented.

 

 

Fuel cell technology offers clean, efficient, reliable power generation to almost any device requiring electrical

power. It competes to replace a range of power supplies in many portable, stationary and transport applications,

from battery chargers to home heating and power to cars. Arguably, fuel cells represent the most versatile

energy solution ever invented.

 

In this Review we begin with an introduction to fuel cell technology, discussing the six main types of fuel

cell in use today. We also include a history of the fuel cell, from its invention by William Grove in 1839,

through developments in the twentieth century such as its use in the space programme, to the present-day

commercialisation of the technology which, for some applications, began in 2007. In the Current State of the

Industry chapter, we present developments in unit shipments and megawatts shipped during the period 2007

to 2010, as well as a forecast for the full year of 2011. Unit and megawatt shipment totals are broken down by

application, region and electrolyte, and developments in fuel and infrastructure are analysed. The final section

of this Review presents an outlook for fuel cell adoption in the future, analysing planned demonstration projects

and commercial roll-outs and reporting Fuel Cell Today’s expectations for unit shipment growth. The final

chapter presents Fuel Cell Today’s unit shipment and megawatt data for the period 2007 to 2010, together with

a forecast for the full year of 2011.

Over the last five years there has been a twenty-fold increase in shipments of fuel cells with year-on-year growth

in both units and megawatts shipped. In 2010, total shipments of fuel cells grew by 40% compared with the

previous year, approaching a new high of 230,000 units. Portable fuel cells accounted for 95% of this total

but there was substantial growth in other sectors. Over 97% of fuel cells sold worldwide in 2010 used proton

exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) technology, and most were hydrogen-fuelled. Europe has been the

leading region of adoption for fuel cells since 2009, followed by North America and Asia (including Japan ),

with all four regions (including the Rest of the World) seeing substantial increases in shipments over that time.

 

Portable Applications

 

In terms of shipments, the portable sector is the largest by a considerable margin, accounting for at least 75%

of total shipments in each year since 2007. There has been impressive growth in shipments of fuel cell toys

and educational devices, which dominate the portable sector over the five-year period under review. In the

consumer electronics segment, there have been notable developments in miniaturisation for use in external

battery chargers, and thousands of units have been sold to consumers. While the opportunity for fuel cells

in consumer electronics still holds promise for the future, this market has not been the near-term commercial

success story it was once predicted to be, with some companies ceasing development in this field. By contrast,

cumulative sales of methanol-powered fuel cell auxiliary power units (APU) have reached tens of thousands

during the last five years, principally in the camping and leisure sector where they offer a longer-running power

solution than batteries and a cleaner alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) generators.

   

Stationary Applications

 

The market for stationary fuel cell systems is currently dominated by North America and Asia . Fuel Cell Today

sub-divides the stationary sector into three main parts: megawatt-scale units used for prime power, smaller

uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units for backup power and combined heat and power (CHP) units such as

those for residential use.

Fuel cells have found significant commercial interest in UPS applications, where they are used to provide

backup or standby power to telecoms sites and other critical infrastructure. The North American market has

dominated shipments of these units due to the predominance of US companies selling this technology and

also government incentives available for fuel cell installations. Fuel cell UPS technology has now proved its

ability in this application. The global potential for emergency power, guaranteed backup and off-grid operation

is only beginning to become apparent; backup power for the rapidly growing global mobile telecommunications

industry is just one example with significant potential for fuel cell UPS.

The adoption of stationary fuel cells in Japanese homes has been a particular success, with tens of thousands

of micro-CHP fuel cell units sold cumulatively since 2007 under the Ene-Farm brand, providing residential heat

and power. This is a success Fuel Cell Today expects to be replicated in other markets such as Korea , parts

of Europe and the USA . Our analysis shows that, in addition to the current Japanese case, if only four projects

worldwide are implemented at the same rate as Ene-Farm, we expect 20,000 micro-CHP units to be sold

annually from 2014, and 100,000 units to be cumulatively installed globally by 2015.

 

   

The commercial

success of fuel

cells is vital to help

meet the world’s

accelerating

energy demands in

a sustainable way.

 

 

 

Overview

 

Fuel cells have been developed for more than 170 years and there have been some notable successes of the

technology in the space programme and in transport and stationary applications. There are various types of

fuel cell technology, which over time have developed to suit particular applications. However, it is only in the last

five years that fuel cells have become truly commercial in that they are now sold to consumers, supported by

warranties and service capability.

The advantages provided by fuel cells often outweigh those of incumbent technologies such as combustion

engines. Fuel cells offer genuinely unique operational characteristics, such as low emissions, exceptional

efficiency and reliability, and are capable of offering combined heating, cooling and power in certain applications.

The value proposition represented by fuel cells has been realised in the last five years in end-use applications as

diverse as auxiliary power units (APU) for campervans; stationary prime power for large industrial installations;

micro combined heat and power (micro-CHP) for homes; clean city buses; and materials handling vehicles.

 

Fuel Cell Applications

 

Fuel Cell Today categorises the use of fuel cells into three broad areas, defined as follows:

 

-               Portable fuel cells encompass those designed to be moved including APU;

-               Stationary power fuel cells are units designed to provide power to a fixed location;

-               Transport fuel cells provide either primary propulsion or range-extending capability for vehicles.

 

Fuel Cell Today also considers fuel and infrastructure, relating to the production, storage and distribution of

fuels for fuel cells, as this is crucial to implementing fuel cell technology. Each of these topics is discussed in

more detail in the Current State of the Industry chapter.

 

 

Introduction to Fuel Cells

 

Fuel cells generate electricity from an electrochemical reaction in which oxygen and a hydrogen-rich fuel

combine to form water. There are several different types of fuel cell but they are all based around a central

design. Fuel cells have a broader range of application than any other currently available power source. The

electricity produced can be used in many portable, stationary and transport applications, and the by-product

heat can also be used for heating and cooling.

 

A fuel cell unit consists of a stack, which is composed of a number of individual cells. Each cell within the

stack has two electrodes, one positive and one negative, called the cathode and the anode. The reactions

that produce electricity take place at the electrodes. Every fuel cell also has a solid or liquid electrolyte, which

carries ions from one electrode to the other, and a catalyst, which accelerates the reactions at the electrodes.

The electrolyte plays a key role. It must permit only the appropriate ions to pass between the electrodes.

 

If free electrons or other substances could travel through the electrolyte, they would disrupt the

chemical reaction.  Fuel cells are generally classified according to the nature of the electrolyte (except for direct methanol fuel cells which are named for their ability to use methanol as a fuel), each type requiring particular

materials and fuel.  The significant fuel cell types are described below, in order of commercial importance:

 

Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC) use a water-based, acidic polymer membrane as the

electrolyte, with platinum-catalysed electrodes. PEMFC operate at relatively low temperatures (below 100°C)

and can tailor electrical output to meet dynamic power requirements. They typically run on pure hydrogen,

though many use reformed natural gas. This reformate must undergo purification to remove carbon monoxide,

a known poison for platinum catalysts.

 

A variant of this, which operates at elevated temperatures, is known as the high temperature PEMFC (HT

PEMFC). By changing the electrolyte from a water-based to a mineral acid-based system, HT PEMFC can

operate up to 200ºC. This overcomes some of the current limitations of PEMFC with regard to fuel purity as HT

PEMFC are able to process reformate containing small quantities of carbon monoxide. The balance of plant

(BoP), such as humidifiers and pumps, can also be simplified.

 

 

 

Direct Methanol Fuel Cells (DMFC) are similar to PEMFC in that they use a polymer membrane as the

electrolyte. However, the platinum–ruthenium catalyst on the DMFC anode is able to draw the hydrogen from

liquid methanol directly, eliminating the need for a fuel reformer.

 

Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC) use a molten carbonate salt such as zirconium dioxide or cerium

dioxide suspended in a porous ceramic matrix as the electrolyte. They operate at high temperatures of around

650ºC and can be fuelled with coal-derived fuel gas, methane or natural gas, eliminating the need for external

reformers. However, the operating life of these cells is somewhat limited by the corrosive nature of the electrolyte.

 

Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFC) consist of an anode and a cathode made of a finely dispersed platinum

catalyst on carbon and a silicon carbide structure that holds the phosphoric acid electrolyte. They are resistant

to poisoning by carbon monoxide but tend to have lower efficiency than other fuel cell types in producing

electricity. However, these cells operate at moderately high temperatures of around 200ºC and overall efficiency

can be over 80% if this heat is harnessed for cogeneration. They are usually fuelled by reformed natural gas.

 

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) use a solid ceramic electrolyte, such as zirconium oxide stabilised with yttrium

oxide, instead of a liquid or membrane. Their high operating temperature means that fuels can be reformed

within the fuel cell itself, eliminating the need for external reforming and allowing the units to be used with a

variety of hydrocarbon fuels. They are also resistant to sulphur in the fuel, compared to other types of fuel cell,

and can hence be used with coal gas.

 

 

 

 

Alkaline Fuel Cells (AFC) use an alkaline electrolyte such as potassium hydroxide in water and are generally

fuelled with pure hydrogen and oxygen as they are very sensitive to poisoning by carbon monoxide. The first

AFC operated at between 100ºC and 250ºC but typical operating temperatures are now around 70ºC. They

offer relatively high fuel to electricity conversion efficiencies; as high as 60% in some applications.

The above list is not comprehensive in that it does not include certain types of fuel cell, such as microbial fuel

cells, which are largely at the R&D stage and are unlikely to be commercialised in the near future.

 

Fuel Cells: A History

 

The concept of a fuel cell had effectively been demonstrated in the early nineteenth century by Humphry Davy.

This was followed by pioneering work on what were to become fuel cells by the scientist Christian Friedrich

Schönbein in 1838. William Grove, a chemist, physicist and lawyer, is generally credited with inventing the

fuel cell in 1839. Grove conducted a series of experiments with what he termed a gas voltaic battery, which

ultimately proved that electric current could be produced from an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen

and oxygen over a platinum catalyst. The term fuel cell was first used in 1889 by Charles Langer and Ludwig

Mond, who researched fuel cells using coal gas as a fuel. Further attempts to convert coal directly into electricity

were made in the early twentieth century but the technology generally remained obscure.

 

In 1932, Cambridge engineering professor Francis Bacon modified Mond’s and Langer’s equipment to develop

the first AFC but it was not until 1959 that Bacon demonstrated a practical 5 kW fuel cell system. At around the

same time, Harry Karl Ihrig fitted a modified 15 kW Bacon cell to an Allis-Chalmers agricultural tractor. Allis-

Chalmers, in partnership with the US Air Force, subsequently developed a number of fuel cell powered vehicles

including a forklift truck, a golf cart and a submersible vessel.

 

The Space Programme

 

In the late 1950s and early 1960s NASA, in collaboration with industrial partners, began developing fuel cell

generators for manned space missions. The first PEMFC unit was one result of this, with Willard Thomas Grubb

at General Electric (GE) credited with the invention. Another GE researcher, Leonard Niedrach, refined Grubb’s

PEMFC by using platinum as a catalyst on the membranes. The Grubb-Niedrach fuel cell was further developed

in cooperation with NASA, and was used in the Gemini space programme of the mid-1960s.

 

 

 

International Fuel Cells (IFC, later UTC Power) developed a 1.5 kW AFC for use in the Apollo space missions.

The fuel cell provided electrical power as well as drinking water for the astronauts for the duration of their

mission. IFC subsequently developed a 12 kW AFC, used to provide onboard power on all space shuttle flights.

While research was continuing on fuel cells in the West, in the Soviet Union fuel cells were being developed

for military applications. Although much of this early work is still secret, it did result in fuel cells being used to

provide onboard power to a submarine and later to the Soviet manned space programme.

 

The 1970s

 

The 1970s saw the emergence of increasing environmental awareness amongst governments, businesses

and individuals. Prompted by concerns over air pollution, clean air legislation was passed in the United States

and Europe . This ultimately mandated the reduction of harmful vehicle exhaust gases and was eventually

adopted in many countries around the world. The 1970s was also the era of the OPEC oil embargoes, which led

governments, businesses and consumers to embrace the concept of energy efficiency. Clean air and energy

efficiency were to become two of the principal drivers for fuel cell adoption in subsequent decades, in addition

to the more recent concerns about climate change and energy security.

 

Earlier, General Motors had experimented with its hydrogen fuel cell powered Electrovan fitted with a Union

Carbide fuel cell. Although the project was limited to demonstrations, it marked one of the earliest road-going

fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). From the mid-1960s, Shell was involved with developing DMFC, where the

use of liquid fuel was considered to be a great advantage for vehicle applications.

 

 

Concerns over oil availability in the 1970s led to the development of a number of one-off demonstration fuel cell vehicles, including models powered by hydrogen or ammonia, as well as of hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engines. Several German, Japanese and US vehicle manufacturers and their partners began to experiment with FCEV in the 1970s, increasing the power density of PEMFC stacks and developing hydrogen fuel storage systems. By the end of the century, all the world’s major carmakers had active FCEV demonstration fleets as a result of these

early efforts. The focus by then had shifted back to pure hydrogen fuel, which generates zero harmful tailpipe

emissions.

 

Prompted by concerns over energy shortages and higher oil prices, many national governments and large

companies initiated research projects to develop more efficient forms of energy generation in the 1970s. One

result of this was important advances in PAFC technology, in particular in stability and performance. There were

significant field demonstrations of large stationary PAFC units for prime, off-grid power in the 1970s, including

a 1 MW unit developed by IFC. Funding from the US military and electrical utilities enabled developments in

MCFC technology, such as the internal reforming of natural gas to hydrogen. The use of an established natural

gas infrastructure was a key advantage in developing fuel cells for large stationary prime power applications.

 

 

 

 

The 1980s

 

Substantial technical and commercial development continued in the 1980s, notably in the area of PAFC. A

bright future for the technology was widely predicted around this time for stationary applications and buses.

Ambitious conceptual designs were published for municipal utility power plant applications of up to 100 MW

output. Predictions of tens of thousands of units in operation by the end of the century were made, but only

hundreds were to actually appear by that date. Several experimental large stationary PAFC plants were built, but

saw little commercial traction in the 1980s. With subsequent advancements in membrane durability and system

performance, PAFC were rolled out in greater numbers almost two decades later for large-scale combined heat

and power applications.

 

Also in the 1980s, research, development and demonstration (RD&D) work continued into the use of fuel cells for

transport applications. The US Navy commissioned studies into the use of fuel cells in submarines where highly

efficient, zero-emission, near-silent running offered considerable operational advantages. In 1983 the Canadian

company Ballard began research into fuel cells, and was to become a major player in the manufacture of stacks

and systems for stationary and transport applications in later years.

 

The 1990s

Attention turned to PEMFC and SOFC technology in the 1990s, particularly for small stationary applications.

These were seen as offering a more imminent commercial possibility, due to the lower cost per unit and greater

number of potential markets – for example backup power for telecoms sites and residential micro-CHP. In

Germany , Japan and the UK , there began to be significant government funding devoted to developing PEMFC

and SOFC technology for residential micro-CHP applications.

 

Government policies to promote clean transport also helped drive the development of PEMFC for automotive

applications. In 1990, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) introduced the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV)

Mandate. This was the first vehicle emissions standard in the world predicated not on improvements to the

internal combustion engine (ICE) but on the use of alternative powertrains. Carmakers such as the then-

DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, and Toyota , all of which had substantial sales in the US , responded to this by

investing in PEMFC research. Companies other than automakers, such as Ballard, continued PEMFC research

for automotive and stationary clean power. Ballard went on to supply PEMFC units to Daimler and Ford. The

programmes initiated in the 1990s still continue, albeit with some changes to the strategic focus of some key

players.

 

Significant advances in DMFC technology occurred around the same time, as PEMFC technology was adapted

for direct methanol portable devices. Early applications included portable soldier-borne power and power for

devices such as laptops and mobile phones. MCFC technology, first developed in the 1950s, made substantial

commercial advances in the 1990s, in particular for large stationary applications in which it was sold by

companies such as FuelCell Energy and MTU. SOFC technology also underwent substantial developments

in terms of power density and durability for stationary applications. Boosted by general optimism in hightechnology

industries, many fuel cell companies listed on stock exchanges in the late 1990s, only for prices to

fall victim to the crash in technology stocks shortly after.

 


The 2000s

 

The last decade was characterised by increasing concerns on the part of governments, business and consumers

over energy security, energy efficiency, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Attention has turned once again

to fuel cells as one of several potential technologies capable of delivering energy efficiency and CO2 savings

while reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

 

Government and private funding for fuel cell research has increased markedly in the last decade. There has

been a renewed focus on fundamental research to achieve breakthroughs in cost reduction and operational

performance to make fuel cells competitive with conventional technology. A good deal of government funding

worldwide has also been targeted at fuel cell demonstration and deployment projects. The European Union,

Canada , Japan , South Korea , and the United States are all engaged in high-profile demonstration projects,

primarily of stationary and transport fuel cells and their associated fuelling infrastructure. The genuine benefits

that fuel cell technology offers over conventional technologies has played a part in promoting adoption. For

example, the value proposition that fuel cell materials handling vehicles offer in terms of extended run-time,

greater efficiency and simplified refuelling infrastructure compared with their battery counterparts makes them

attractive to warehouse operators. Tens of fuel cell buses were deployed in the mid-2000s as part of the HyFleet/

CUTE project in Europe, China and Australia . Buses were, and still are, seen as a promising early market

application of fuel cells due to their combination of high efficiency, zero-emissions and ease of refuelling, and

due to the vehicles running on set routes and being regularly refuelled with hydrogen at their bases.

 

 

2007: Fuel Cells Commercialise

 

Fuel cells began to become commercial in a variety of applications in 2007, when they started to be sold to

end-users with written warranties and service capability, and met the codes and standards of the markets

in which they were sold. As such, a number of market segments became demand driven, rather than being

characterised by oversupply and overcapacity. In particular, thousands of PEMFC and DMFC auxiliary power

units (APU) were commercialised in leisure applications, such as boats and campervans, with similarly large

numbers of micro fuel cell units being sold in the portable sector in toys and educational kits. Demand from

the military also saw hundreds of DMFC and PEMFC portable power units put into service for infantry soldiers,

where they provided power to communications and surveillance equipment and reduced the burden on the

dismounted solider of carrying heavy battery packs.

 

 BLUEGEN Micro CHP Unit for Home Power - by Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited

 

A large-scale residential CHP programme in Japan helped stimulate commercial stationary PEMFC shipments.

These units began to be installed in homes from 2009, and more than 13,000 such units have been installed to

date. Demonstration programmes for backup power systems in the USA gave further impetus to the stationary

sector. This was also driven by practical concerns over the need for reliable backup power for telecoms networks

during emergencies and rescue operations. The inadequacy of diesel generators was illustrated during the Gulf

of Mexico Hurricane Katrina disaster, when many ran out of fuel, disrupting the telecoms network and hampering

relief efforts. The need for reliable on-grid or off-grid stationary power in developing countries also gave a boost to

fuel cells. In the late 2000s, hydrogen and natural gas fuelled PEMFC units began to be sold in parts of India and

east Africa to provide primary or backup power to mobile phone masts. The rapidity of mobile phone adoption

in these regions means that the conventional grid infrastructure cannot keep pace with new power demands,

or is too unreliable for an effective mobile network. Fuel cells provide a solution to this previously unmet need.

 

 

BLUEGEN Micro CHP Unit for Home Power - by Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited

In transport applications, the greatest commercial activity occurred in the materials handling segment, where

there is a strong business case for their use in place of the incumbent technology, lead acid batteries. Funding

for demonstration fleets of fuel cell materials handling vehicles saw increasing numbers deployed in warehouses

across the USA , although the overall numbers remained small compared with those for stationary and portable

fuel cells. Fuel cell buses have been commercially available for several years and their usefulness has been

well demonstrated. However their cost, at around five times that of a diesel bus, plus the cost of hydrogen

infrastructure means that they are only used where a city deems the environmental benefit to be worth the extra

investment. Fuel cell cars are currently only available for lease; these vehicles are being made available by

manufacturers to gain experience ahead of a commercial launch planned from 2015.

 

In the past decade, PEMFC and DMFC have dominated the total market share in the portable, stationary and

transport sectors. Their uptake by consumers has been facilitated by the development of codes, standards

and government policies to lower the barriers to adoption; such as allowing methanol fuel cartridges on board

aircraft and feed-in tariffs for fuel cell CHP installations.

 

Recent Developments

 

Over the last five years growth in shipments of fuel cells has

accelerated rapidly as various applications have become commercial. Portable fuel cells saw the most rapid

rate of growth over the period since 2009 as increasing numbers of fuel cell educational kits were sold to

consumers. This genuine commercial market generated much-needed revenue for several key players and has

allowed those companies to invest in research into larger stationary and transport applications. The portable

sector has also been boosted by shipments of APU products for the leisure market, in particular camping and

boating. Shipments in the portable sector were also augmented by the launch of Toshiba’s Dynario fuel cell

battery charger in 2009. On a limited production run of 3,000, demand for the Dynario far outstripped supply.

Stationary fuel cell adoption has increased rapidly as the roll-out of the Japanese Ene-Farm project took place

and fuel cells for uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) were adopted in North America .

The supply chain has also been steadily growing alongside the increase in the number of fuel cell system

manufacturers. There has been an expansion of the component supply chain and related services, from the

manufacturers of MEA to fuel and infrastructure providers. Manufacturing capacity has tended to increase

more rapidly than output. This is particularly true in North America , one of the leading regions for fuel

cell manufacturing.

 

 

In 2010 total shipments of fuel cells grew by 40%, reaching a new high of almost 230,000 units. Portable fuel

cells accounted for 95% of this total and over 97% of fuel cells sold worldwide in 2010 used PEMFC technology.

In this Review Fuel Cell Today publishes figures dating back to 2007, and significant growth can be seen yearon-

year, including a twenty-fold increase since that date.

 

 

Fuel cell technology offers arguably the most versatile energy solution ever invented. It competes to replace a range of power supplies from batteries to internal combustion engines in a huge variety of applications from home heating to mobile phone chargers and cars. The range of fuels which fuel cells can use also separates them from competing technologies. While ICE technology is normally limited to a few types of liquid fuel, and batteries need electricity for recharging, fuel cells can utilise any fuel which can provide a source of hydrogen.

This opens up enormous possibilities for the technology, from integrating directly into existing natural gas infrastructure, to processing waste hydrogen from chemical plants, and to using bio-methane from landfills.

 

 

 

 

Reproduced with acknowledgement - Fuel Cell Today -  http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/

 

 

mercedes benz SL63 Electric vehicle
 

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