August 2009

8.28.2009
Hydrogen investment may offer 10-1 return for South Carolina (view article)

8.27.2009
Nissan Adopts Fuel Cell Powered Factories, Will Big Rigs Be Next?
(view article)

8.27.2009
Fuel Cell Powered Aston Martin Project Unveiled
(view article)

8.27.2009
Future Tense: How a solar-hydrogen economy could provide us with all of the energy we need.
(view article)

8.27.2009
South Korea plans fuel cell subsidy for 2010
(view article)

8.24.2009
Cummins says fuel cell mobile power ready in 2 to 3 years
(view article)

8.23.2009
Is hydrogen a distraction or complement to wind power?
(view article)

8.19.2009
Coble: Innovista crucial to job creation, higher incomes
(view article)

8.19.2009
Alkaline Fuel Cell Membrane Delivers Promise of Affordable Fuel Cells
(view article)

8.18.2009
GM shrinks its hydrogen fuel cell, makes it cheaper, more durable (view article)

8.17.2009
Nuvera and Airgas Announce Joint Agreement
(view article)

8.12.2009
Honda Backs Hydrogen as U.S. Favors Battery Vehicles
(view article)

8.7.2009
US Navy's fuel cell drone takes to the air.
(view article)

8.6.2009
Toyota Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle Completes Government Field Evaluation
(view article)


August 28, 2009
(view original article)

Hydrogen investment may offer 10-1 return for South Carolina

The state’s investment in the hydrogen industry seeing a return on its investment at a 10-to-1 ratio, said House Speaker Bobby Harrell Jr.

Through direct state appropriations and support of the Centers of Economic Excellence program, South Carolina has invested more than $12.2 million in hydrogen over the past 5 years. By conservative estimates, this has spurred more than $115 million in non-state investments.

“When we created the Centers of Economic Excellence to help grow our state’s knowledge-based economy, we did not know for certain what direction this public/private partnership would lead us,” said Harrell, R-Charleston. “Driven by industry investments and world-class scientists, hydrogen research took off and presented itself as a viable industry that could lead to a booming knowledge-based economy for South Carolina.”

In April 2009, the SC's first Hydrogen Freeway opened. The stretch of I-20 from Aiken to Columbia will lead the way for future hydrogen infrastructure development (File Photo)

The investment in hydrogen has created 229 jobs in South Carolina. With 65% of those jobs being created in the last 5 years, this is proving to be a growing industry, he said.

Pursuing a knowledge-based economy and growing related industries is crucial for the state’s economic future, Harrell said. Unemployment in May was at 12%. Since 2003, the number of unemployed people in South Carolina has increased by more than 100%.

“Our current economic development strategy of inaction needs to end, watching other states successfully attract new jobs and investments while our economic development leaders stand idly by is hurting jobless South Carolinians,” Harrell said. “If we are going to combat this 100% increase in unemployment, we must actively pursue new economic opportunities. Hydrogen has the potential to create the high-paying jobs of tomorrow by becoming the next economic engine driving our state’s knowledge-based economy.”

In 2005, ICF Consulting conducted a thorough statewide analysis of South Carolina’s hydrogen and fuel cell potential. The study determined that “this industry represented a significant knowledge-based market opportunity for the state.”

Most industry experts think the technology for affordable hydrogen-powered vehicles is still far off. This is one of the main reasons that the Obama Administration proposed cutting the federal funding for hydrogen vehicle research. However, many other uses for this technology are viable and are ready for real world application, Harrell said.

Bridgestone Firestone Manufacturing in Aiken is switching over its entire forklift fleet to run on more efficient and cost effective hydrogen fuel cells, the city of Columbia is backing up its emergency broadcast towers with longer lasting fuel cells and is operating a hydrogen fueled city bus and ETV is using cameras that run on hydrogen power.

“The results we are seeing from our state’s investment in hydrogen are significant,” Harrell said.

"In just the Midlands alone, we have seen a 60% return on investment. Most importantly, our partnership with over 40 companies means that the pursuit of this knowledge-based industry is being driven by the private sector.”

-Courtesy of Charleston Business

For more information regarding South Carolina's hydrogen investment, please see our Jobs and Incentives Factsheet.


August 27, 2009
(view original aricle)

Nissan Adopts Fuel Cell Powered Factories, Will Big Rigs Be Next?

Oorja Protronics says Nissan and other large companies hear the fuel cell message. Prices are dropping too.

Fuel cells – laugh if you want but in some markets they are apparently on the rise.

Nissan will replace 70 chargers for conventional battery-powered tugs – little cars for moving stuff around factories – with 60 methanol fuel cells from Oorja Protonics at it Smyrna, Tennessee factory. The carmaker, which has tested out the methanol fuel cells for 18 months, will add 30 more next year, said Mark Sorgi, manager of material handling at Nissan. Other sites may evaluate them as well.oorjis

Oorja will also announce more deals with grocery store chains and food distributors in the next few months, said CEO Sanjiv Malhotra. The company will additionally come out with a larger, 5-kilowatt fuel cell that can be used to charge the batteries for running the living quarters in big rigs (a market that Firefly Energy pursues with its novel lead acid battery components) and for powering cell phone towers. Deeya Energy, which makes flow batteries, started shipping its cell tower batteries in June.

"It will provide about three times the power of the fork lift" fuel cell, Malhotra said.

The deals Oorja has been landing in part stem from the particular dynamics of market it – and competitors – are tackling. Forklifts and other industrial vehicles are relatively slow, lumbering vehicles that often drive indoors and rarely venture far from a central station. (See me get thrown off of one in this video.) Diesel engines won't work in a lot of locations because the fumes would get trapped indoors.

Grocery stores and factories, thus, rely on forklifts loaded up with lead-acid batteries. A lead-acid battery pack, however, can only power a forklift for about four hours. As a result, companies have to buy lots of extra batteries, appoint employees to run charging stations and carve out large areas to serve as a charging bay.

Oorja's OorjaPac fuel cell sits on the fork lift and funnels electrons to the battery pack, charging it as the day progresses. Filling up the fuel cell at the beginning of a shift, ideally, provides enough power for the day. The charging infrastructure – otherwise known as a pump – costs less than a tenth of what a battery bay will run, claims Oorja.

For its part, Nissan will save around $300,000 next year by not having to buy more batteries and $225,000 a year in operating costs, said Sorgi. In all, the methanol fuel cells save about 35 hours a day in employee time: four employees in the battery bay are being deployed.

Competition looms. A few other companies like PlugPower have launched methanol fuel cells for forklifts while several Japanese giants – Kawasaki, Toshiba – have discussed plans to bring nickel metal hydride or lithium-ion batteries to forklifts. Presumably, these longer lasting batteries wouldn't need ride-along chargers.

Like some of its other competitors, Oorja does not participate in the fuel cell market for personal electronics, which has been a tough sell. PolyFuel, which touted methanol fuel cell components that could be used in things like notebooks, went out of business earlier this month. The parent company of MTI MicroFuel Cells got de-listed in May. And these are the methanol companies: The hydrogen fuel cell guys are having even a harder struggle.

At the same time, Oorja has improved the performance of its fuel cell. The new 1.6 kilowatt Model H is about 25 percent to 30 percent smaller than the previous version, at $16,000 costs about 50 percent less than the earlier version, and can be refilled with methanol in about a minute.

"We have reduced the number of components by 35 percent," Malhotra added. "Assembly time is way down. You can install it [on a forklift] in about 15 minutes."

As part of its expansion plans, Oorja is scouting out factory locations near Stockton, California.



August 27, 2009
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Fuel Cell Powered Astin Martin Project Unveiled

A fuel cell powered Aston Martin "Volare" project has been unveiled by James Trim, the projects designer.

aston martinTrim says that “the two-seater Volare adopts a high-power fuel cell stack, located between the front seats, a rear mounted battery pack, and a co-axial electric motor at the front. To aid the Volare’s weight distribution, the two hydrogen storage tanks have been positioned directly above the car’s rear axle.” He says that the layout ends up giving the Volare an optimum weight distribution.


August 27, 2009
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Future Tense: How a solar-hydrogen economy could provide us with all of the energy we need.

What one energy source has the ability to – in the long term – supply the people of the world with all of the energy they need in an reliable and renewable manner? According to Derek Abbott, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia, there is only one possible answer: solar-hydrogen.

Solar-hydrogen means using solar power to generate electricity and then using the electricity to electrolyze water to generate hydrogen when necessary – for example, to run automobiles on hydrogen power. Abbott believes that solar-hydrogen could one day produce about 70 percent of the world's energy requirements, and he's done some math over on PhysOrg that he says proves him right. The short version: the solar energy that hits the earth (and is not reflected or absorbed by clouds) is "more than 5,000 times our present global energy consumption."

Aside from the sustainability angle, solar-hydrogen beats all other energy sources on economic grounds, Abott believes. His preferred method of capturing the energy of the sun is solar thermal collectors. Here's how he thinks it'll work in the coming decades:

Governments should begin by setting up sizable solar farms that supplement existing grid electricity and provide enough hydrogen to power buses. Enthusiasts will then buy hydrogen cars, retrofit existing cars, and refuel at bus depots. Then things will grow from there. You gotta start somewhere.

Abbott's other reasons for choosing H2 over battery-powered electrics include: fewer chemicals and toxic waste due to lack of batteries and that "gasoline combustion engines can be retrofitted to run on hydrogen, and the car manufacturing industry has infrastructure tailored to combustion technology." Hmm, maybe he should read Greenlings.


August 27, 2009
(view original aritcle)

South Korea plans fuel cell subsidy for 2010

Government tries to promote renewables by establishing RPS requirements and making its own plans for 140 MW of wind, including a test site in Saemangeum for Korean wind technology.

The Korean government is forging ahead with plans to promote renewable energy, announcing plans today to offer subsidies starting in 2010 that would eliminate 80 percent of the cost of hydrogen fuel cells to power and heat homes.

According to Korea's JoongAng Daily newspaper, the subsidies would drop to 50 percent of the system cost from 2013 to 2016, and to 30 percent from 2017 to 2020 before expiring. A system today would typically cost 50 million won ($40,300), but government subsidies and economies of scale could reduce the cost to 10 million won in 2015 and 5 million won in 2018.

South Korea generates 2.49 percent of its electricity from renewables, with less than 0.1 percent from fuel cells, solar and wind. The government has announced plans to reach 3 percent renewables within three years, with the Renewable Portfolio Standard increasing to 10 percent of energy demand from renewables by 2020.

Wind is expected to make up a significant portion of energy demand by 2014, which is the targeted completion date for two major projects still in the planning stages.

The Korea Development Institute is studying the feasibility of a proposed 40-megawatt project on reclaimed land at Saemangeum that would serve as a test-bed for Korean wind technology (see S. Korea plans $72M for renewable energy). The Presidential Committee on Green Growth said today it wants to build a 400 billion won, 100-MW wind farm on the country's west coast.

Solar is expected to also comprise a significant portion of the RPS requirements, with government aiming for 100 MW by 2011. A 2008 JP Morgan report said South Korea is going to be one of the fastest growing solar markets during the next four years, potentially growing power generating capacity 89 percent to nearly 1 gigawatt from solar (see Spain leads 2008 solar market)



August 24, 2009
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Cummins says fuel cell mobile power ready in 2 to 3 years

Cummins Power Generation said mobile power products using fuel cell technology could be commercially available within two to three years, with larger 100 kW stationary units available in seven to 10 years.

cummingsCummins is focusing on solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) products. These operate on a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide and can be used with existing fuels such as natural gas, with by-products being water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide. They offer advantages over fuel cells that require hydrogen gas, which is not widely available as a fuel.

Xin Li, a senior researcher in the fuel cell field who works as a technical specialist with Cummins Power Generation, said; "These units offered the potential to be manufactured at costs approaching conventional stationary power-generation technology."

Cummins said its SOFC power system - which has been co-developed with US fuel cell manufacturer Versa Power - has the potential to replace diesel powered generator sets in many applications and can provide virtually silent power with significantly lower fuel consumption and exhaust emissions than existing generator sets.

A prototype Cummins unit has produced 3 kW of electrical power and ran for over 2000 hours at Cummins Power Generation's test facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It operated at an efficiency of over 37%, compared to comparably sized small engine based generator sets where efficiency is generally well below 30%, said Cummins.

Xin Li said the SOFC solution offers numerous benefits; "The technology represents a highly efficient, clean emission (no exhaust treatment required) source of high quality AC power, which is compatible with other energy resources such as diesel generator sets, solar and wind.

"The power output is quiet making it more environmentally attractive than traditional engine driven generators, with low vibration levels, and the whole system boasts the added appeal of low maintenance".



August 23, 2009
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Is hydrogen a distraction or complement to wind power?

fuel cellSouth Carolina's effort to build an offshore wind industry is just a puff compared with its work on hyrdogen fuel cells.

State taxpayers have chipped in $12.3 million to hydrogen fuel cell efforts, while federal, municipal and private sources have invested an additional $115 million in South Carolina, said Shannon Baxter-Clemmons, executive director of the S.C. Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance.

A shining new building complex in Columbia and a billboard touting hydrogen's potential greet motorists in the capital city.

The University of South Carolina, meanwhile, has lured some of the nation's top hydrogen researchers and is working with five private companies on hydrogen-related projects, including General Motors, Boeing, LG Electronics and the Savannah River National Laboratory.

The hydrogen group also has developed some political muscle.

When the Obama administration proposed cutting millions of dollars in federal hydrogen research to focus more on electric cars, the state's congressional delegation and Columbia officials successfully lobbied to restore the money.

State lawmakers, such as House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston, are big hydrogen supporters. But Gov. Mark Sanford generally has opposed state funding for hydrogen research.

Baxter-Clemmons said the state's work on hydrogen would complement a wind power push. That's because wind power could be a clean way to produce hydrogen and because hydrogen fuel cells would be a good way of storing energy when the wind isn't blowing.


August 19, 2009
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Coble: Innovista crucial to job creation, higher incomes

Mayor Bob CoblInnovista has been in the news recently with the announcement of the relocation of the Moore School of Business and the university’s decision to end its relationship with the developer. Despite the delays caused by the current recession and financial crisis, Innovista will be the Columbia region’s greatest opportunity to create jobs and increase our per capita income.

While we knew creating a research campus would be a challenging and a long-term process, I think it is important to remember the crucial economic development reasons that Innovista and the entire effort of Columbia and the University of South Carolina to enter the knowledge and green economy are critical to our economic future.

In February 2003, Columbia adopted our regional technology plan. We created Engenuity, a coalition of leaders from the public, higher education and private sector to implement the plan. USC President Andrew Sorensen announced his vision to build a research campus in downtown Columbia in late 2003. In December of 2004, The State’s editorial board said that the USC research campus would “likely reshape the whole city.” In April of 2006, USC, the Guignard family and the city unveiled a master plan for the 500 acres in downtown, from Innovista to the waterfront. The state of South Carolina was the key catalyst for this progress with the creation of the Life Sciences Act and the endowed chairs program.

The first phase of Innovista, with the Horizon Center and the Discovery Center, is complete, as are the two parking garages built by the city of Columbia and Richland County, representing an investment of more than $140 million. The Association of University Technology Managers recently ranked USC No. 11 out of 114 public universities in the number of startup businesses created. We are working hard to make sure the money from the federal stimulus legislation for alternative fuels and energy efficiency are spent effectively. I am confident that Innovista will be the driving force in building a strong new economy with more jobs and an increase in our per capita income.

The National Hydrogen Association convention in March at the Convention Center and the opening of the new Columbia hydrogen fueling station were important steps forward in Columbia’s efforts to enter the knowledge and green economy.

The delegates, from all over the world, were enthusiastic about Columbia’s friendly hospitality and the community’s knowledge of hydrogen and fuel cells, including the research going on at USC under the leadership of President Harris Pastides.

We know we must work to ensure that our entire diverse population benefits from the knowledge and green economy. Engenuity began working with the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, New Carolina and Columbia Opportunity Resource on the Columbia Talent Magnet project. More than 8,000 students graduate from a Columbia institution of higher education each year. The Talent Magnet project is designed to keep these bright minds in the Columbia region by connecting them to existing community initiatives. In addition, the USC Columbia Technology Incubator has assisted 63 companies and created 554 new jobs, including 142 jobs held by minorities and women.

Entering this new knowledge and green economy will create jobs and raise our per capita income. During these tough economic times, we must work even harder to strengthen our economy.

Mr. Coble is the mayor of Columbia.



August 19, 2009
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Alkaline Fuel Cell Membrane Delivers Promise of Affordable Fuel Cells

Riverside Calif. A major innovation in the world of fuel cells was published today in the German Chemical Engineering Journal Angewandte Chemie. Professor Yushan Yan of UC Riverside and associates have developed an alkaline membrane that they believe will one day replace Nafion® and enable non-precious metal fuel cell catalysts that are composed of elements such as cobalt, nickel, iron and silver.

These metals cost between $2 and $12 per ounce as compared to platinum that currently trades in the range of $1,200/ounce and peaked at over $2,000/ounce last summer.

As this innovation is commercialized it will lead to a massive drop in the cost of goods needed to produce fuel cells. This price reduction will allow fuel cells to have a lower price point per watt than internal combustion engines and batteries. Currently fuel cells are considered to be superior to internal combustion engines and batteries in terms of size, weight, temperature, noise, safety, scalability and carbon footprint. However, cost and durability Fuel cells are currently used to power backup generators, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), scooters, golf carts, cell phones, laptops, emergency generators and in next generation automobiles like the Honda FCX Clarity. New Fuel Cells

Despite the many advantages and demonstrated uses of fuel cells, they are expensive because they require platinum and other precious metals as catalysts. The best way to eliminate platinum while maintaining the many benefits is through the use of a high performance hydroxide exchange membrane, the Nafion® equivalent for a alkaline fuel cell. Recently, Dr Yan’s lab has demonstrated a power density of 250 mW/cm2 using an alkaline membrane composed of quaternary phosphonium based polymers. His team expects to improve this in the near future.

By switching from an acidic medium to a basic one, hydroxide (OH-) exchange membrane fuel cells (HEMFCs) have the potential to solve the problems of catalyst cost and durability while achieving high power and energy density. In a basic environment, the cathode oxygen reduction over-potential can be significantly reduced, leading to high fuel cell efficiency, and non-precious metals can be used as catalysts which are also more durable in a basic medium. Further, HEMFCs can offer fuel flexibility using hydrogen, methanol, ethanol, ethylene glycol, and other inexpensive, easily produced and biodegradable fuels because of their low overpotential for hydrocarbon fuel oxidation and reduced fuel crossover.

“This is a breakthrough that will make fuel cells so efficient and inexpensive that it will revolutionize energy conversion and storage on a global scale.” said Dr. Yan.

Dr. Yan and UC Riverside have licensed this invention to Full Cycle Energy, a California start-up that is leading the revolution in low-cost high-durability fuel cell technology. Currently Full Cycle is commercializing another of Yan’s inventions, a platinum nanotube fuel cell catalyst (PtNT) that reduces cost by 2/3 and increases durability by a factor of 10. Production of PtNT is currently being scaled up for integration into a range of fuel cell products. According to CEO Andrew Behar, “The only thing stopping fuel cells from replacing fossil fuels and batteries is cost and durability. Dr. Yan’s innovations will enable a world powered by inexpensive, clean and abundant energy.”


August 18, 2009
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GM shrinks its hydrogen fuel cell, makes it cheaper, more durable

GM's Fifth Generation Hydrogen Fuel Cell
On the left side of the photo above is the fuel cell stack from the hydrogen-powered GM Equinox (93kW of output) and on the right side you can see the new fifth generation GM fuel cell stack (93kW of output also). Even without looking at the technical specifications, it is pretty obvious that the next gen GM fuel cell is an improvement on the previous version, but size and weight is not all there is to it... GM shinks fuel cells

Incremental Improvements (but Significant)
The biggest improvement is no doubt the lower cost. GM engineers have reduced the amount of expensive platinum used by more than 50%, from about 80 grams in the 4th generation stack to about 30 grams in the 5th. GM's roadmap also aims for a further platinum reduction for the 6th generation, with the goal of bringing the total used under 10 grams per fuel cell stack.

Economies of scale will no doubt help drive the cost per fuel cell stack down too; While the 4th generation had a production volume of about 500 units per year, the 5th generation should reach about 10,000 units per year in 2015.

Real-world testing has also allowed GM to improve the durability of its fuel cells. From about 30,000 miles when they were first introduced to around 80,000 miles after some updates based on this real-world feedback. But that's for the 4th generation. GM expects that the 5th generation will reach about 120,000 miles at introduction in 2015.

Hydrogen Progress
It's certainly good to see that hydrogen vehicles are still getting significantly better with each new version (f.ex. Check out the Toyota FCHV-adv with its 431 miles range) and that engineers haven't yet hit a wall, this doesn't exactly solve the bigger problem of how to get a hydrogen infrastructure in place (an expensive and technically complex proposition).


August 17, 2009
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Nuvera and Airgas Announce Joint Agreement

By Roberto Cordaro, President and CEO

Nuvera Fuel CellsDeveloping a product that could make and dispense hydrogen on-site was necessary for the success of fuel cell power in the material handling market, and today we’ve established the final link through our partnership with Airgas: creating a distribution channel to the North American market.
PowerTap users will now have access to maintenance and repair service provided by accredited technicians already specialized in industrial gases. PowerTap is equipped with onboard telemetry which will connect with Airgas monitoring centers around the country which will provide proactive service and hydrogen backup.

PowerTap
Airgas will provide full service lease programs for customers who want to avoid upfront capital investment in PowerTap. These programs will also provide full flexibility to customers as they gradually convert their entire fleet of forklifts requiring added hydrogen capacity onsite.

Let the games begin

For more information about Nuvera's PowerTap refeuling solutions, please visit this link, http://www.nuvera.com/products/tps.php


August 12, 2009
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Honda Backs Hydrogen as U.S. Favors Battery Vehicles

Honda Motor Co. is backing hydrogen power for the cars of the future, waving aside a decision by the Obama administration to drop the so-called fuel-cell technology in favor of battery-run vehicles.

“Fuel-cell cars will become necessary,” said Takashi Moriya, head of Tokyo-based Honda’s group developing the technology. “We’re positioning it as the ultimate zero-emission car.”

Honda, the only carmaker to lease hydrogen-powered autos to individuals, opened a production line last year in Tochigi prefecture to make 200 fuel-cell FCX Clarity sedans, the model being leased in a trial in Los Angeles. The Obama administration sought to eliminate hydrogen-station funding and instead lend $1.6 billion to Nissan Motor Co. and $465 million to Tesla Motors Inc. to make electric cars, and give $2.4 billion in grants to lithium-ion battery makers.

“Honda has a propensity to think very long term,” said Ed Kim, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, California. “It’s also part of the company culture that if they’ve made a decision they think is correct, they’ll really stick with it.”

Honda is not alone. Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG, General Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. say hydrogen, the universe’s most abundant element, is among the few options to replace oil as a low-carbon transportation fuel.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in May his department would “be moving away” from hydrogen as it’s unlikely the U.S. can convert to the fuel even after 20 years. Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn predicts electric vehicles may grab 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020. Honda hasn’t announced plans for a battery-powered car.

Honda shares fell 2.6 percent to close at 3,040 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Fuel Costs
Hydrogen, made mainly for industrial use from natural gas, costs about $5 to $10 per kilogram for vehicles in California, more than double an equivalent amount of gasoline. The Energy Department estimates future prices for hydrogen will fall to $2 to $3 a kilogram, Toyota said on Aug. 6.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Aug. 5 his company plans consumer sales of fuel-cell cars within six years. Toyota, like Honda, is making “exponential progress” with fuel cell technology, Justin Ward, manager of Toyota’s U.S. advanced powertrain program, said in an interview.

Battery-powered electric cars are further along in the market. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. started selling the i-MiEV last month. Tesla sells a $109,000 Roadster and Nissan unveiled its first electric car, the Leaf, this month. It plans limited sales of the model in Japan and the U.S. next year.

Fueling Time
Honda says hydrogen vehicles match the refueling style drivers are used to: filling up in minutes at a service station. Nissan’s Leaf recharges fully in 30 minutes with a fast-charger, or up to 16 hours on a household outlet, said Tetsuro Sasaki, senior manager of Nissan’s battery test group.

A budget crisis slowed plans for more hydrogen stations in California, home to the biggest fleet of cars using the fuel. At the federal level, Chu sought $333.3 million in May for battery and advanced gasoline autos in the 2010 budget, up 22 percent. Hydrogen funds were cut 60 percent to $68 million, slashing money that would have gone to transportation projects.
The Clarity is available in the U.S. only in Los Angeles, where drivers can use about 16 hydrogen stations. The 5- passenger car has a top speed of 100 miles an hour and goes 240 miles (386 kilometers), more than double the 100-mile range of Nissan’s compact electric car. Through July, Honda leased cars to 10 drivers for $600 a month.

Filling Stations
One problem for Honda is the need for a network of hydrogen filling stations.

“We cannot do infrastructure alone,” said Moriya. “We’ve been developing the cars on our own without government support.”
The Senate and House voted in July to restore the funds. President Barack Obama must approve the final budget.

Honda and Toyota will have to reduce production costs to win over consumers. Fuel cells need more platinum -- a precious metal that costs more than $1,200 an ounce -- and current durability is half that of gasoline engines, according to Moriya.
Honda plans to offer hydrogen-powered cars at costs comparable to midsize gasoline autos by 2020. Honda said its 2005 hand-built predecessor to the Clarity cost about $1 million. Moriya wouldn’t discuss the Clarity’s price.

Expensive Platinum
Honda engineers in Tochigi are trying to trim costs. For 13 months, technicians have worked in a semiconductor-style clean-room, coating rolls of plastic film for fuel-cell membranes. Nearby, a press stamps stainless-steel plates that will grip the material. Hundreds of the cells are then sealed in a metal case, forming the fuel-cell stack.

Honda’s hydrogen push has been undermined by plunging sales in the U.S., its main market. Last quarter, profit at Japan’s second-largest carmaker fell 96 percent to 7.5 billion yen ($79 million). Its research budget is 515 billion yen this fiscal year, down 8.5 percent. Funds for fuel cells were cut and some spending shifted to other “priorities,” Moriya said, without elaborating.

Honda probably spends “a few tens of billions of yen” a year on fuel cells, said analyst Mamoru Kato at Tokai Tokyo Research Center in Nagoya.

“Maybe, just maybe, fuel cells will be the future,” said Edwin Merner, who helps manage about $3 billion at Atlantis Investment Research in Tokyo. “And if you’re not in there, then you have a big disadvantage.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Tokyo at aohnsman@bloomberg.net; Makiko Kitamura in Tokyo at mkitamura1@bloomberg.net.


August 7, 2009
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US Navy's fuel-cell drone takes to the air

H2 XFC UAS is vg, says USN

The US Navy''s Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has completed a successful flight test of a fuel cell-powered drone.

The XFC (eXperimental Fuel Cell) unmanned aerial system (UAS) was airborne for more than six hours in early June, although the miliary has only just released the information.

The flying robot is the first long endurance fuel-cell powered drone in the Navy's arsenal.

Powered by hydrogen gas, not American 'gas'

Compared to internal-combustion powered vehicles, battery-powered drones are inherently stealthy because they're relatively free of noise and lack a strong thermal signature. They're also easy to start, operate and maintain. However, they have poor payload capacity and endurance.

Cue the XFC, whose hydrogen fuel cell greatly extends endurance and allows the drone to carry a heavier payload. The non-hybridised power plant allows the drone to stay aloft for seven hours, travelling at up to 52 knots (60mph), all while carrying surveillance equipment or laser-guided bombs.

In May, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that fuel cells for consumer automobiles would be impractical for the next 10 to 20 years, and announced that the US government would not be funding any further research in that direction.


August 6, 2009
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Toyota Advanced Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle Completes Government Field Evaluation

FCHV-adv achieves 431 mile estimated range

TORRANCE, Calif., Aug. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (TMS) announced today the results of a recent collaborative fuel cell hybrid vehicle range and fuel economy field evaluation. The Toyota Highlander Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle - Advanced (FCHV-adv) achieved an estimated range of 431 miles on a single full tank of compressed hydrogen gas, and an average fuel economy of 68.3 miles/kg (approximate mpg equivalent) during a day-long trip down the southern California coast.

To view the Multimedia News Release, go to: http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/toyota/39419/

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20090806/NY57784 )

In mid-2008, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), approached Toyota to participate in a collaborative evaluation of the real world driving range of the FCHV-adv. On Tuesday, June 30, two fuel cell vehicles, two Toyota Technical Center engineers, an SRNL engineer and a NREL engineer completed a 331.5 mile extended round trip drive between Torrance, California and San Diego.

"This evaluation of the FCHV-adv demonstrates not only the rapid advances in fuel cell technology, but also the viability of this technology for the future," said Jared Farnsworth, Toyota Technical Center advanced powertrain engineer.

The drive began at TMS headquarters in Torrance, traveled north to Santa Monica, turned south to San Diego and finally retraced the route back to Torrance. The route encompassed a variety of drive cycles, including high speed highway driving, moderate highway driving and stop and go traffic on surface streets, in an effort to capture a typical commute. Each vehicle was outfitted with a data collection system that captured vehicle speed, distance traveled, hydrogen consumed, hydrogen tank pressure, temperature and internal tank volume.

Driving range data from each vehicle was calculated by SRNL and NREL engineers. The results were averaged for an estimated range of 431 miles, with an average fuel economy of 68.3 miles/kg.

For comparison, the 2009 Toyota Highland Hybrid achieves an EPA-estimated rating of 26 mpg combined fuel economy and has a full-tank range of approximately 450 miles. With premium grade gasoline currently priced at about $3.25, the gasoline-powered V6 Highlander hybrid is estimated to travel approximately 26 miles at a cost of about $3.25. Currently, hydrogen gas pricing is not fixed, but DOE targets future pricing at $2 to $3 per kilogram. Therefore, the FCHV-adv is estimated to travel approximately 68 miles at a projected cost of about $2.50 - more than double the range of the Highlander Hybrid, at equal or lesser cost, while producing zero emissions.

SRNL and NREL analyzed all data gathered during the evaluation and prepared a formal report to DOE verifying range results and miles per kilogram achieved. This report will assist regulators and government research programs to accurately assess the status of the fuel cell industry and viability of the current technology.

"Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell technology has advanced rapidly over the last two years," said Irv Miller, TMS group vice president, environmental and public affairs. "In 2015, our plan is to bring to market a reliable and durable fuel cell vehicle with exceptional fuel economy and zero emissions, at an affordable price."

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photography to accompany this story is available and can be retrieved in digital form by media without charge at www.toyotanewsroom.com.


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