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Fuel Cell 2005 Conference review, Part 1...

World Fuel Cell Demand to Reach US$2.6 Billion in 2009
by Shirley and Donald Georgi

The June 2005 Conference, Fuel Cell 2005, highlighted advancements in fuel cell applications and technology on the industry’s  quest toward commercialization in the next five to ten years.

Topics discussed at the conference are listed  in the following general categories.

     • General trends
     • PEM fuel cells
     • SOFC fuel cells
     • Regulatory issues
     • Backup power
     • Hybrid buses with ICE
     • Forklifts (motive power)
     • Power conditioning
     • Hydrogen
     • Membranes & Misc. items

Microsoft Excel ChartTotal commercial fuel cell demand in 2004 totaled $375 million and is anticipated  to grow to $2,580 million by 2009. This anticipated figure includes revenues associated with prototyping and test marketing activities.  By 2014, the forecasted growth should reach $13.6 billion. World fuel cell spending (including research and development funding and investment in fuel cell enterprises, in addition to commercial sales) will more than double to $10.8 billion in 2009.  

Electric power generation is emerging as the first large-scale commercial application for fuel cells and will account for more than half of global product and service demand through 2014.  

However, portable electronics applications are projected to register the strongest gains over the next ten years, rising from what are now extremely low levels of demand to become the second largest fuel cell market.  

Fuel-cell-powered industrial stationary and motive power equipment will achieve some commercial success as well.

Motor vehicle-related fuel cell demand is potentially gigantic but has not yet lived up to its potential, constrained by technical and infrastructure-related issues, as well as by high cost barriers.  Nevertheless, the use to fuel cell vehicles in government and commercial fleets will provide some impetus to market growth through 2014, as automakers continue to invest in demonstration and test marketing programs.  

Proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which currently account for well over half of world commercial demand, will maintain their dominant position through 2009 and beyond.

With few notable exceptions (such as China), future demand for fuel cell products and services will largely be concentrated in geographic areas where pre-commercialization activity has been concentrated - - the U.S., Canada, parts of Western Europe and Japan.  Fuel cells are also expected to find some use as a source of electricity in developing countries with inadequate central power grids.

(Information and data are courtesy of  The Freedonia Group. The full report, “World Fuel Cells,” 05/2005,   is available  for $5,200.  More information is on the website, +

In this issue and ensuing months, BD will summarize information presented at the conference ( Fuel Cell 2005, Jun 7-8, 2005, Hyatt Regency , Minneapolis, MN, USA, organized by Webcom CommunicationsCorp.) This month we focus on the topics of Motive Power, Power Conditioning, and Solid Oxide Fuel Cells  as discussed at the conference.

Motive Power

 A Growth Market

At the Battery Council International (BCI) Convention  in April 2005, there was good news about U.S. motive power trends.  The Lead-acid industry reported that the battery market for forklift trucks increased by 17 percent in 2004.  Equipment spending for 2004 increased at a rapid pace.  In early 2004, BCI projected that the motive power segment would only grow by 8 percent, but that figure nearly doubled by year end.  The 2004 North American battery sales in motive power totaled $513 million.

Adobe Photoshop Image(Chart is from presentation, “North American Industrial Battery Forecast,” given at the 117th Convention of Battery Council International, 04/2005.  Special thanks to the presenter, Bob Cullen of Hollingsworth and Vose.)

The motive power market is dominated by industrial lift trucks. (See chart on 2004 North American Sales of Motive Power.)  Most of these trucks  are in material handling fleets which  serve in a  dedicated   location and environment and perform specific tasks.  This market is gradually increasing and by the end of  this year (2005),  the Lead-acid industry anticipates a six percent growth will be achieved. (See chart on Motive Power Battery Trends.)  

The fuel cell community views this market as one with great potential for its industry.  In fact, Chris Reid, President of Cellex Power Products, Inc., stated, “”Lift truck fleet operations will be one of the first applications to adopt fuel cells on a commercial basis and are the stepping-stone towards the widespread adoption of fuel cells in the transportation market where hundreds of millions of vehicles are in service.”  (Statement made on June 15, 2005 when Cellex Power Products signed a contract for $9.5 million funding assistance with the technology Partnerships of Canada for Research and Development of a family of hybrid fuel cell products for use in industrial vehicles.)

Adobe Photoshop Image(Chart is from presentation, “North American Industrial Battery Forecast,” given at the 117th Convention of Battery Council International, 04/2005.  Special thanks to the presenter, Bob Cullen of Hollingsworth and Vose.) +

Competing with Lead-acid  

1) The first of three presentations on this topic at Fuel Cell 2005   was entitled “Integrating Fuel Cell Hybrid Technology into Forklift Trucks” by Bruce Townson, Director of Corporate Development, Hydrogenics.   Mr. Townson provided  a positive rationale for fuel  cells in  solving material handling problems.    He noted the value proposition for fuel cell-powered forklifts was  dominated by production improvements.  
Productivity  - reduces time spent recharging or swapping out batteries and maintains peak performance throughout a shift through consistent Voltage output level.
Safety - reduces injuries by eliminating the swapping out of discharged batteries  
Maintenance - eliminates need to water batteries

Reprint of the chart is courtesy of  Hydrogenics. The  presentation, “Deploying Fuel Cell Hybrid Technology in Material Handling Applications,” was given by Bruce Townson, Director of Corporate Development, Hydrogenics. +

Although Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive in comparison to fuel cells, he noted  that in examining the total  cost of ownership  (TCO)  for battery-operated forklifts, the costliest item was in  labor - a whopping 96 percent.   In a study comparing the operation of  forklifts utilizing batteries with rapid charging versus  fuel cells, Hydrogenics found that the fuel cell power pack provided an 8% increase in uptime (vs. downtime).  He commented that the  percentage may seem small, but in a month’s time, the improvement can represent approximately $1,515  in truck labor savings.  (See graph, “Fuel Cell Power Pack Provides 8% Increase in Uptime.”)

A Demonstration Test - Hydrogenics partnered with Hyster Corporation, a manufacturer of lift trucks, to build two  fuel cell-powered lift truck prototypes which were tested at a General Motors’ (GM) plant in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada between January 17, and April 8, 2005.  A standard electric truck was retrofitted with a Hydrogenics’ fuel cell power pack.

Reprint of the diagram is courtesy of  Hydrogenics. The  presentation, “Deploying Fuel Cell Hybrid Technology in Material Handing Applications,” was given by Bruce Townson, Director of Corporate Development, Hydrogenics. +

One of the highlights of this demonstration was Hydrogenics on-site hydrogen generation system  (HyLYZER) which was the world’s first deployed indoor H2 (hydrogen) refueler.  The HyLYZER electrolyzer   used  GM facility’s electricity and water to produce  hydrogen.  Because of the indoor  refueling, approval from the Canadian Standards Bureau was required.   Deployment statistics showed that the fuel cell forklifts consumed approximately 2.8 kg of H2 per day when operated for 24 hours (3 shifts); this savings  translated into only two refuelings per day.  Time spent refueling was very minimal; one refueling took about two minutes for a truck in operation  during one and one/half   shifts (12 hrs. total).

The next phase of testing fuel cell hybrid forklifts will be at the Fedex facility in the Toronto area.  Real-time data will be collected as well as data on  user validation.  

Mr. Townson stated that early fuel cell deployments will require an integrated approach.  The designed systems will be hybrid solutions with ultracapacitors and/or batteries. (See diagram entitled “3 Benefits Drive Focus on Hybrid Power Solutions.”)  Hydrogenics’ primary emphasis is on  developing fuel cell-hybrid-ultracapacitor forklifts for indoor warehouse and manufacturing facilities.   

Hydrogenics is currently working with other large material handling businesses to enable further evaluation of the technology and the market potential for all partners.   Their offerings in demonstrations  to partnering companies  will be fuel cell power modules ranging in power outputs from 7 - 65 kiloWatts.    

2) Charlie Myers, Director of Marketing for Nuvera Fuel Cells, concentrated his discussion on “Industrial  Hydrogen Generation Infrastructure for Fuel Cell Hybrid Forklift Trucks.”  Because hydrogen is produced and sold as a chemical commodity and not as an energy carrier,  it is important that special hydrogen dispensing units be developed for high-efficiency compact fuel processing on-site at the material handling plants where forklifts are in continuous use.  To meet this need, Nuvera has developed  PowerTapTM, a hydrogen generation system.  The unit uses national gas and can fill 2.6 kg of H2 in less than 5 minutes.       

Nuvera has a first commercial offering, a 5 kW hydrogen fuel cell power module system for material handling and ground  support equipment.  John Deere is currently testing and evaluating a 5.5 kW H2eTM fuel cell power module as a potential future power source in off-road equipment.  The unit is well-suited to battery hybrid applications.

Early in 2005, Nuvera partnered with East Penn, a Lead-acid manufacturing company in the U.S., to develop a hybrid battery/fuel cell electric “engine” to power lift trucks and other off-road industrial vehicles used in material handling.

3) Steve Medwin, Manager of Advanced Research for The Raymond Corporation, believes that productivity of warehouses, using fork lift trucks, can be improved if  the truck manufacturers look to fuel cell powered units as an answer.  In his presentation, “Application of Fuel Cells to Lift Trucks,”  he listed  many of the same “pros” of  fuel cell-power  over Lead-acid battery-power  that Bruce Townson from Hydrogenics discussed.  He emphasized the  added operating costs such as the 30 minute time for battery exchange after four to eight hours of usage.   Fuel cell-powered units, on the other hand, may not need  refueling before being used for eight hours or  longer,  and even then, the time for refueling  would take only a few minutes.  “The bottom line is productivity,” he noted.

In designing a forklift truck, his message to the  manufacturers and fuel cell system suppliers was to keep  the location and  size of the    fuel cell system compartment  the same as  the battery  compartment     This would include the fuel cell, hydrogen storage, controls and counterweight; these package components must also match the same center of gravity and weight that would be utilized by batteries.  

Once again, the “hybrid concept” was reemphasized to include a battery and/or ultra capacitor because forklifts need  additional power for some lifting operations.  Since fuel cells provide a steady flow of current, another power source is needed to provide that surge of power when needed.  

Going forward

Although commercialization for fuel-cell powered forklifts could take place in the next five years,  there are issues to address:  
• Fuel cells must meet or exceed battery performance in terms of life and reliability.
• There still remains technical challenges to create improved membrane designs for fuel cells as well as to lower costs of producing the fuel cells and stacks.  
• The  fuel (hydrogen) handling, safety and delivery must be tailored and meet Standards  for  indoor (i.e., warehouse) operations.
• The cost to get the hydrogen to dedicated facilities need, to be addressed.
• Management and individuals working in daily operations will need to look at new policies and practices.  
• Dollars will need to be put into training and warehouse design as well as new fuel-cell powered forklifts.

But the improvements in the productivity for forklift trucks in the material handing industry are the drivers behind the arduous work being put forth in this area.  Fuel cell companies and their partners are committed to create an avenue for commercialization in this market.     

Power Conditioning

Designing Power Conditioning Systems for Fuel Cells, Dr. Prasad Enjeti, Engineer, Fuel Cell Power Systems Laboratory, Texas A&M University: In a natural gas powered fuel cell system, the power conditioning can constitute more than 1/3 of the system. Whether in size or cost, this component of the system must be accommodated because the raw DC electricity from a fuel cell usually needs to be converted to AC or to a different DC Voltage, or it must be a buffer from the slow-to-change power output of a fuel cell to the transient loading which an automotive or electronic device may place on the system.

The presentation by Dr. Enjeti  went into details on conversion and conditioning in automotive, computer and stationary systems. A significant goal in  the DOE Freedom CAR program is to drop the power conditioning cost to $12/kW (peak). Present  inverters cost $150-$450/kW. Semiconductor costs have dropped over the years but offer a challenge in further power system cost reduction. Efficiencies are in the  mid 90% region, so significant improvements here may be difficult to obtain. Certainly, economies of scale may drop conditioning costs.

Safety standards are a major concern, but fuel cell power conditioning can ride on the coattails of the photovoltaic business which already has standards in commercial and residential applications. The standards developed by UL, VDE and the IEEE directly apply to fuel cell systems used in these applications. (See UL standard 1741, VDE 0126, IEEE 929-2000 and 1547-2003.)

Texas A & M has a membership program for fuel cell organizations. Design review, consulting, simulation and testing are provided.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

Integrated Testing of  a CPOX Reformer & SOFC, Lyman J Frost, Director, Special Energy Projects, Idaho National Laboratory: Cost is one of the two major hurdles for fuel cells, Mr. Frost addressed the issue by citing an application where fuel cells can be more cost competitive by taking advantage of their increased efficiency. In the remote villages of Alaska, the total cost of supplying a gallon of diesel fuel is in the neighborhood of $4.00. (This figure is probably more with our recent runup in fuel prices.) As an example, Lime Village, Alaska uses two diesel generators to provide a peak load of 60 kW for under 400 people. Access to the village is only by river or aircraft. Because of Alaska’s pristine environment, its preservation is a necessity. The higher efficiency of the fuel cell system would be a perfect solution for this area. Considering all of Alaska, which in the year 2000 generated 391 GWh from diesel, there is a potential for saving up to $60 million/year with  the greater efficiency of fuel cell systems. (Ed note: It is assumed that this savings comes only from the higher electrical generating efficiency and not in the recovery of heat for hot water and dwelling warmth - factors which would add to the savings.)

Adobe Photoshop ImageLyman J. Frost is the Director of Special Energy Projects at the Idaho National Laboratory, (DOE).  He has over 12 years experience in fuel cell and reformer development and commercialization. His presentation discussed the reasons to target a costly fuel cell system to a unique application which presently has a high fuel cost, and he fillowed up with a summary of the system development and test results to meet the needs of such an application. (Staff photo)+

Using a fuel cell with the existing fuel source means adding a reformer for diesel fuel, so the study included a CPOX (Catalytic Partial OXidation) reformer  to convert diesel to hydrogen. The ouput reformed hydrogen of the the CPOX combines with air to fuel the tubular solid oxide fuel cell which is relatively tolerant to the sulfur from reformed diesel. A CPOX reformer built by SOFCO-EFS was  chosen to provide fuel to an Acumentrix four stack, tubular solid oxide fuel cell which produces a nominal 5 kWe when operated directly with natural gas. The combination was tested with methane and low sulfur and synthetic diesel . The fuel cell operated better on the reformate than on the natural gas and provided suitable operation at elevations up to 5,000 feet which would often be the altitude of  many Alaskan villages.

The test results showed that the SOFC with CPOX reformer could be a suitable technical substitute for diesel generators. There was no mention of the durability of such a system. (Ed. note: The cost factor may still be fomidible as our perceived mention of cost was that it would be in the region of $40,000/kW.)