October 2010

Mercedes Starts Taking Orders for California Fuel-Cell Car
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A Hot New Look at Working Fuel Cells
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Energy Tests Out Hydrogen Cars
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BMW to Use Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Power Equipment in Spartanburg Plant
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Fuel-cell Generator Operates Using Commercial Fuels
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UK Fuel Cell Power Plants Come Big Step Closer
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Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge Announces 2010 Award Recipients
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First Commercial Hydrogen Filling Station Opens
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Japan Planning a Really Smart Grid Worth Envying and Following
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Federal Grant to USC Will Fund Fuel-Cell Research
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October 06, 2010
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Mercedes Starts Taking Orders for California Fuel-Cell Car

Tim Higgins / Bloomberg News

Daimler AG has begun taking orders for its new Mercedes-Benz hydrogen fuel-cell car that will be leased to customers in California as the automaker joins a wave of alternative-fuel vehicles reaching the U.S.

The monthly lease price may be $600 to $800 including fuel, Sascha Simon, director of advanced product planning for the automakers sales U.S. unit, said today in an interview. The leases are being limited to drivers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco area because of the restricted availability of hydrogen fuel.

Mercedes this week is introducing a marketing campaign that it says will better explain alternative-fuel options to consumers. The campaign will include a website that goes live Thursday and includes stories of how people use alternative-fuel vehicles.

"We are in the process of reinventing the automobile," Simon said. "Customers right now still don't know exactly where this is all going. Our job will be to actually work with them and make it easy for them to understand."

Mercedes joins Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co. and others introducing alternative-fuel vehicles this year and in early 2011. President Barack Obama last year announced stricter rules for greenhouse-gas emissions and the first boost in fuel- economy standards in decades.

Nissan said last month that U.S. customers had put in 20,000 reservations for the battery-powered Leaf hatchback. The company has said the Leaf will travel as far as 100 miles when its lithium-ion pack is fully charged.

Chevrolet Volt
GM, which is coming out with the electric-drive Chevrolet Volt in November, also is developing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The automaker in May announced a program in Hawaii with a local gas company to create hydrogen fueling stations for test vehicles.

Mercedes has said its hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle will have a driving range of 240 miles, and there will be six hydrogen fueling stations open to the public in the Los Angeles area this year, Simon said. That contrasts with Germany, where about 1,000 hydrogen fueling stations will be open by 2017, Simon said.

Mercedes has invested about 2 billion euros ($2.79 billion) in hydrogen-electric technology in the past 15 years, he said.

Lessors will receive the vehicles beginning in mid- December, with 5 to 15 in the initial delivery and more expected next year, he said. The company has said it planned to lease 200 of the B-Class F-Cell, a four-door hatchback, in the U.S. and Europe in 2010.

We have seen so far good interest -- we would like to see more interest, Simon said.

He declined to say how many vehicles have been ordered since the company's website began taking reservations within the past month.

"I do not believe we will have a problem finding customers," he said.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101006/AUTO01/10060420/Mercedes-starts-taking-orders-for-California-fuel-cell-car#ixzz162sG1g1y

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October 06, 2010
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A Hot New Look at Working Fuel Cells

SOC Icon

Researchers studied the electrochemical properties of a model fuel cell operating at extreme heat, using a new system for ambient-pressure x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy at the Advanced Light Source.

Measuring a fuel cell’s overall performance is relatively easy, but measuring its components individually as they work together is a challenge. That’s because one of the best experimental techniques for investigating the details of an electrochemical device while it’s operating is x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Traditional XPS works only in a vacuum, while fuel cells need gases under pressure to function.

Now a team of scientists from the University of Maryland, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories, and DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has used a new kind of XPS, called ambient-pressure XPS (APXPS), to examine every feature of a working solid oxide electrochemical cell. The tests were made while the sample cell operated in an atmosphere of hydrogen and water vapor at one millibar pressure and at very high temperatures, up to 750° Celsius (1,382 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Our team, led by Bryan Eichhorn of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, combined the expertise in fuel cells at U Maryland, the experience of our Sandia Lab colleagues in collecting electrochemical data, and Berkeley Lab’s own development of a method for doing x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy in situ,” says Zahid Hussain of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS). “Together we were able to measure the fundamental properties of a solid oxide fuel cell under realistic operating conditions.”

The researchers report their results in the November, 2010 issue of Nature Materials, in an article now available to subscribers in advance online publication.

How a solid oxide fuel cell works

Basic Plus Fuel Cell Model

In a basic solid oxide fuel cell, diagrammed at left, the cathode on one side of the electrolyte ionizes oxygen, which flows through the electrolyte to the anode (left), where fuel is oxidized to free electrons. In the model cell built for the APXPS experiment, all the components are on the same side of the electrolyte and can be reached by the x-ray beam.

Like a battery, a fuel cell is a device that uses chemical reactions to produce electricity. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell won’t run down as long as it’s supplied with fuel and oxidant from outside. The main components are two electrodes, an anode and a cathode, separated by an electrolyte.

Instead of stacking the components as in a real fuel cell, the sample’s arrangement was a planar design that placed all the components on the same side of the electrolyte, so the x-ray beam from the ALS could reach them. This allowed direct measurement of local chemical states and electric potentials at surfaces and interfaces during the cell’s operation.

In a solid oxide cell (SOC) the cycle begins at the cathode, which ionizes oxygen (usually from air) by adding free electrons. These oxygen ions then flow through the solid oxide electrolyte (from which the SOC gets its name), often a material known as yttria-stabilized zirconia. High temperature is needed to maintain good conduction of oxygen ions through the electrolyte. 

The oxygen ions travel through the electrolyte to reach the anode, where they oxidize the fuel. (The fuel may be pure hydrogen gas or a hydrocarbon.) Electrons freed by oxidation form the current in the device’s electrical circuit and eventually return to the cathode. Unused fuel or other compounds, plus water formed from the positive hydrogen ions and negative oxygen ions, exits the fuel cell.

For the APXPS experiment, the University of Maryland collaborators built a model fuel cell that combined the essential elements of an SOC in a special miniaturized design less than two millimeters in length. Except for the electrolyte of yttria-stabilized zirconia, which formed the base of the device, the various components were thin films measuring from 30 nm up to 300 nm thick.

Says the University of Maryland’s Eichhorn, “We designed and fabricated solid oxide electrochemical cells that provided precise dimensional control of all the components, while providing full optical access to the entire cell from anode to cathode.”

SOC States

Using an electrostatic lens, the APXPS detector collects photoelectrons emitted from the surface of the sample by the x-ray beam. Chemical states (green circles) and electric potentials (red squares) are measured locally. The greatest activity was measured where the electrode (green) met the electrolyte (blue).

Michael Grass of the ALS says, “What you need to know to improve any kind of fuel cell is where the inefficiencies are – places where energy is being lost compared to what theoretically should be possible. By scanning across the surface of the cell while it was operating, we could directly measure both the inefficiencies and the chemical states associated with them.”

Introducing ambient-pressure x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
Photoemission occurs when light ejects electrons from a material. By collecting the emitted electrons and analyzing their energies and trajectories, photoelectron spectroscopy establishes exactly what elements are in the material and their chemical and electronic states within narrow regions. At the Advanced Light Source, intense x-ray light is used to explore what happens at or near the surface of materials: the only photoelectrons that can escape are from atoms near the surface.

The APXPS system begins by shining the x-ray beam on the sample fuel cell inside a chamber at the ambient pressure of the gas needed for it to operate. The emitted electrons then travel through chambers pumped to lower pressure, finally entering the high-vacuum chamber of the detector. By itself this arrangement would lose emitted electrons at every stage because of their spreading trajectories, leaving a signal too weak to be useful. So Berkeley Lab researchers developed a system of “lenses”—not made of glass but of electric fields—to capture and refocus the emitted electrons at each stage, preventing excessive loss.

“This is what allows us to find out what’s happening within small regions on the surface of a sample in the presence of a gas,” says Hendrik Bluhm of Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division, one of the inventors of APXPS, which was awarded a coveted R&D 100 Award in 2010. “Using the APXPS instruments at the ALS’s molecular environmental science beamline, 11.0.2., and the chemical and materials science beamline, 9.3.2, we can spatially correlate the catalytic activity with the electrical electrical potentials across the different components of the model fuel cells.”

Says Zhi Liu of the ALS, “At first we weren’t sure we could use this technique with an operating fuel cell, because we had to bring it to 750° C—an extreme temperature for such ambient pressure experiments. Few people have done it before. Now we’re able to perform this kind of analysis routinely.”

Fuel Cell Team

Hendrik Bluhm, Michael Grass, Zahid Hussain, and Zhi Liu with the APXPS detection system at beamline 11.0.2.

A new way to study electrochemistry in action
With their model SOC, the Maryland-Sandia-Berkeley Lab team saw details never seen before in an operating fuel cell. Where an overall measurement gave only the fuel cell’s total losses in potential energy, the APXPS measurements found the local potential losses associated with the interfaces of electrode and electrolyte, as well as with charge transport within the ceria electrode. The sum of the losses was equal to the cell’s total loss, or inefficiency.

“The in situ XPS experiments at 750 C allowed us to pinpoint the electroactive regions, measure length scales of electron transport through mixed ionic-electronic conductors, and map out potential losses across the entire cell,” Eichhorn says. “Others have suggested similar experiments in the past, but it was the remarkable facilities and scientific expertise at the ALS that facilitated these challenging measurements for the first time.”

APXPS can provide this kind of fundamental information to solid oxide fuel cell designers, information not available using any other technique. New fuel cell designs are already taking advantage of this new way to study fuel cells in operation.

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October 11, 2010
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Energy Tests Out Hydrogen Cars

By Olivia Branco
Federal News Radio

You may be driving a hybrid vehicle around, and while that may be better than a traditional gasoline car, there is even newer technology out that the Department of Energy is testing out.

The new technology? Cars fueled by hydrogen.

As part of Federal News Radio's Greening of Government series, Sunita Satyapal, program manager for the Office of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell technologies at the Department of Energy, joined Chris Dorobek on The DorobekINSIDER to talk about the Department's work and to give more information on the technology.

"Hydrogen and fuel cells are part of the overall portfolio of activities within DoE and industry has been looking at them for both vehicles like buses and light-duty vehicles, fork lifts, as well as stationary power like back up power or large powerplants," Satyapal said. "Hydrogen and other fuels can be used in a fuel cell that can produce electricity directly without having any combustion so they're much more efficient than for example you gasoline internal combustion engine."

Patrick Serfass, the vice president of technology and communications for the National Hydrogen Association, also joined The DorobekINSIDER for the Greening of Government series, to give a more in depth look at hydrogen and its uses.

"You generally use it in a fuel cell, you can burn it in an engine just like you do gasoline or natural gas and some people are doing that but most people are using it in a fuel cell," Serfass said. "A fuel cell is kind of like a continuous battery. It keeps supplying the fuel cell with hydrogen gas from a tank and oxygen from the air and it produces clean electricity with no emissions with a little bit of heat and water along with it."

Where the hydrogen could affect the general population is with cars. Emissions that come from gasoline-powered cars can be overwhelming, however there are hydrogen cars that can eliminate emissions all together.

"There are some combustion engine vehicles that run on hydrogen but the majority that you're hearing of are fuel cell vehicles," Serfass said. "Since they put out electricity, they are electric vehicles. They run on full electricity, and when you hear of electric vehicles, most people only think of the battery vehicles, but electric vehicles actually include battery vehicles and fuel cell vehicles and in many cases on the vehicle, you have both the battery and the fuel cell providing the electricity to the motor which is what drives your wheels."

But Serfass explained that it's not just cars that hydrogen can be used for.

"The biggest ways hydrogen is used today is industrial uses. Making everything from literally peanut butter to rocket fuel. We use millions and millions of kilograms of it in the U.S. every year. But expanding the use of hydrogen from those industrial uses to be able to use it to power your vehicle, a bus, fuel cells which make electricity that you can power everything from your cell phone to your neighborhood there are tons of different applications.

"Each one of these applications are at a different stage of commercial readiness so while you might not be able to buy a vehicle today, you could buy a fuel cell and there are lots of companies that are doing so."

Satyapal explained that the Department of Energy is continuing it's research and they are hoping to lower the costs of hydrogen. One gallon of gasoline runs about $2-4.

"And it turns out that one gallon of gasoline has about the same energy content as a kilogram of hydrogen. So we need to be at about the same, about $2-4 per kilogram of hydrogen. We're getting there, but we still need more to go but we have reduced the cost of the fuel cell itself by about 80%."

While the Department of Energy continues it's research, Serfass explained other ways that government could get involved with hydrogen. He explained that providing incentives, similar to the ones for hybrid vehicles, could help encourage people and companies to buy.

"There are incentives that can be put into place that Congress can help with but also on the federal government side helping to buy a large number of fuel cells to provide power to buildings and emergency power to critical facilities like the National Weather Service and safety and police, hospitals, and also buying vehicles in large fleets where these fleets of vehicles can fuel at a central facility around the agency are great ways to jumpstart the industry," Serfass said.

"it's going to help to make sure that the technology that are available to us as every day consumers are more advanced and cheaper and therefore affordable."

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October 12, 2010
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BMW to Use Hydrogen Fuel Cells to Power Equipment in Spartanburg Plant

Company committed to renewable energy

Fred Rollison/BMW
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An employee refuels a hydrogen fuel cell at the BMW facility where the new X3 Sports Activity Vehicle is being made. The company announced Monday it will use hydrogen fuel cells to power forklifts and other materials-handling equipment.

Spartanburg-based BMW Manufacturing Co. is continuing its commitment to use alternative fuels in its production processes.
The company announced Monday it is implementing hydrogen fuel cells to power materials handling equipment in its new Assembly North facility, where the new X3 Sports Activity Vehicle is being made.

An initial fleet of 85 vehicles the automaker uses to move goods and equipment throughout the plant, including forklifts, tuggers and stackers, will use the new technology, BMW said. The program is meant to complement the company's existing Landfill Gas to Energy initiative, which uses methane from the Palmetto Landfill to supply about 50 percent of the plant's power.

“BMW has taken another important step to affirm our global commitment to sustainability with a project such as this in Spartanburg,” Josef Kerscher, president of BMW Manufacturing Co., said in a statement. “There's a clear vision and determination to reach our goal of using renewable energy as much as possible throughout the plant site.”

BMW has partnered with Linde North America and Plug Power for the program.

The automaker said it recently completed a storage and distribution center within its 11-megawatt energy center.

Six on-site fueling stations will be spread out across the facility.

The project will reduce the company's electricity consumption by 1.8 million kilowatt hours per year.

Hydrogen fuel cells will run a 2-kilogram fuel tank for 8 to 10 hours and can be refueled in less than three minutes, the company said.

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October 12, 2010
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Fuel-cell Generator Operates Using Commercial Fuels

By: Ellie Zolfagharifard

Nordic Power Systems (NPS) has developed what it claims to be the first fuel-cell generator that can operate on commercial fuels such as diesel and bio oils.

Based on technology created at RWTH Aachen University in the late 1990s, the system uses an on-board cool flame reformer that converts diesel into reformate hydrogen, which reacts with air in a high-temperature fuel cell to create electricity and heat.

Tor-Geir Engebretsen, managing director of NPS, claims that using reformate hydrogen will result in lighter and cheaper diesel fuel-cell systems in the future. ‘Our system can use regular fuels and it is virtually emission free. There are no sulphur or carbon monoxide emissions and there is a significant drop in CO2.’

In August, NPS worked with Californian firm SAFCell to deliver a 250W stack to its testing facility in Porsgrunn, Norway. The stack was tested with both dilute hydrogen and hydrogen produced by an NPS reformer. The results showed similar performances between the two fuel streams.

Engebretsen said that because the technology is scalable, it can also be used as a range extender. ‘You could use the technology as a range extender in an electric vehicle,’ he explained. ‘As the battery levels drop, the clean fuel-cell range extender starts to automatically recharge it. So there is no need for external grid and no need for a regular combustion generator that you find on board hybrid cars.’

The group now hopes to market its technology for the defence industry and has signed development agreements with the Royal Norwegian Armed Forces and the UK’s Marshall Land Systems. A fuel-cell unit being developed in collaboration with Marshall is expected to be ready for market launch by mid-2011.

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October 13, 2010
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UK Fuel Cell Power Plants Come Big Step Closer

Developer AFC Energy said that huge hydrogen fuel cell stacks capable of providing thousands of homes with green power may arrive in a few years thanks to cheaper component parts.

Although hydrogen fuel cell technology has been around for decades, commercialization has been restricted as expensive platinum was needed to make the catalyst, a problem AFC said it has overcome by using low cost ceramic minerals instead.

AFC said that "You can buy these ceramic catalyst materials, which used to be around GBP 30 a gram, at around 30 pence per gram, which has changed the economic argument."

This compares to around GBP 34.6 per gram for platinum. The alkaline fuel cell developer plans to test a 50 kilowatt block next year, which is designed to be connected to others to build huge stacks.

Mr Howard White founder of AFC said that "That leaves plenty of time to scale up. For tens of megawatts for the chloralkali industry in 2013, and hundreds of megawatts from 2015 onwards, we see no reason why it can't be commercialized by next year. This is substantially less than a fossil fuel turbine based plant."

AFC is part of two consortiums that are developing large fuel cell power projects in Britain. One, with clean technology company B9 Coal and utility Powerfuel, aims to install up to 300 MW at Powerfuel's planned 900 MW integrated gasification combined cycle Hatfield power plant. Powerfuel intends to convert coal into a carbon less synthetic gas to burn in the Hatfield plant as well as process it to produce hydrogen for the cells. The other project with B9 Gas and Rio Tinto Alcan's 500 MW Lynemouth coal fired plant in northeast England would also use syngas from underground coal seams to make hydrogen to power the fuel cell. While there are a number of large above ground commercial facilities that produce syngas from coal similar to the Hatfield project, there are only a few small underground syngas projects which the Lynemouth plant plans to use.

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October 20, 2010
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Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge Announces 2010 Award Recipients

Winners Gain Backing to Commercialize Fuel Cell Technologies

SAN ANTONIO, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, The USC-Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative announced the winners of the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge 2010 at the Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition 2010 in San Antonio, TX.  The Challenge, organized by the University of South Carolina (USC), the City of Columbia, SCRA, and EngenuitySC, is an innovation-based business plan competition focused on commercializing novel hydrogen, fuel cell, and clean technologies.

Since its creation in 2006, the Greater Columbia Fuel Cell Challenge has gained national recognition by accelerating the commercialization of ideas and discoveries and providing a springboard from which pioneering technologies can be deployed. This year, the Challenge organizers reached out to a panel of industry experts from science, academia, industry, and the investment community.  Applications were received from across the U.S. and Europe.  

Winners were announced in two innovative spaces and will be receiving access to startup capital, incubation resources and business planning support to take their innovative technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace in the Greater Columbia area of South Carolina.

"The Fuel Cell Challenge demonstrates on a global scale the Columbia region's level of commitment to cutting edge fuel cell and clean technologies," said Bill Mahoney, CEO of SCRA.  "The Challenge is more than a one-time prize; it's an investment in ideas that will have a driving effect on the industry."

Weylchem Sustainable Materials, LLC, was awarded 1st place for its proposal to produce low cost chemical compounds as a source for hydrogen generation utilized in fuel cells and other commercial applications.  Weylchem, based in Germany, but with operations around the U.S., stood out to the challenge's invited panel of industry experts because of its unique cost-effective method to produce chemical compounds at a high level of purity, its potential for multiple market opportunities, and a unique partnership with a Columbia-based startup company, Boroscience International.  

"We are so pleased to receive this honor, and believe that it's the best platform to take our ideas from lab scale to commercial scale," said Dr. Andreas Maier, Vice President for Sales & Marketing at Weylchem US.  

A second prize was awarded to a proposed new venture called Bio-Blu, a synthetic fuel and fuel cell integration joint venture between Florida-based Neutzler & Associates and researchers at the University of South Carolina, with support from Los Alamos National Labs.  Bio-Blu's proposal was focused on developing a new novel fuel source, a unique approach for hydrogen storage and fuel cell power generation.  The company will produce, distribute, and package their environmentally friendly fuel as well as develop custom fuel cells.

"It is an honor to receive this award and we look forward to joining the Greater Columbia Commerce in this new innovation", stated Jay Neutzler, one of the new venture partners for Bio-Blu.  

"Each year the Fuel Cell Challenge presents novel ideas that have the capability to have a tremendous effect on Columbia's growing clean energy industry and also advances on a worldwide scale," said Neil McLean, executive director of EngenuitySC. "The competition is successful because we harness the power of innovative ideas and give them the support to develop into significant energy solutions."

About the USC Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative
The University of South Carolina – City of Columbia Fuel Cell Collaborative was formed by the University of South Carolina, the City of Columbia, EngenuitySC and the SCRA to position Columbia, SC as a leader in hydrogen fuel cell innovation and technology. Its mission is to attract private sector partners, top fuel cell scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators to the Columbia region to help grow an innovation pipeline from discovery to development to deployment of fuel cell technology. For more information, visit www.fuelcellcollaborative.com.

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October 20, 2010
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First Commercial Hydrogen Filling Station Opens

SunHydro opens solar-powered hydrogen station in suburban Connecticut with an eye toward an East Coast chain

Photo: SunHydro

20 October 2010—A "hydrogen highway" stretching from Florida to Maine came a little closer to reality last week. Last Friday, start-up firm SunHydro opened the first privately funded hydrogen filling station for fuel-cell-powered cars and buses in the United States.

The filling station, which is located in Wallingford, Conn., sells hydrogen that is generated on-site using electricity from solar cells. The electricity is used to split water using hydrolysis technology developed by SunHydro’s 14-year-old parent company, Proton Energy Systems. It is only one of about 70 such stations peppered around the country, most of which are in California. However, many of these stations are not in operation or are limited to use by people in government or academia. SunHydro’s station is open to the public.

"Not only are there zero emissions with this method," says Rob Friedland, president and CEO of Proton, "but this offers a retail-transaction feel for refueling."

Fuel will be sold by the kilogram instead of the gallon. "Beyond that metric difference, the experience [of fueling] will be the same," says Larry Moulthrop, Proton’s cofounder. With today’s hydrogen cars, it would take 4 to 5 kilograms to fill an SUV-size vehicle, such as the Toyota Highlander, at a cost of about US $60, according to SunHydro’s founder, Tom Sullivan. That much hydrogen should give the car a range of about 640 kilometers per fill-up. "Similar to a regular car," he says.

The station’s solar panels provide 75 kilowatts of electricity to a device that splits deionized water using what’s called a proton exchange membrane. This is a semipermeable membrane that conducts protons while being impermeable to hydrogen. From there, the hydrogen is compressed and stored in six 4-meter-long tanks. At the nozzle, the hydrogen has a pressure of about 10 000 psi (69 000 kilopascals).

SunHydro has bigger plans than just a station in Wallingford. Sullivan—who made his fortune from hardwood flooring company Lumber Liquidators—says he is planning nine stations along the East Coast of the United States. And from there, who knows? "Eventually there will be a product that people could sell, a containerized [version of the SunHydro station]…that we could ship anywhere in the world." The portable station would be 2.4 meters wide by 12 meters long and could fuel about 10 hydrogen cars per day, says Sullivan. He estimates the cost of the station will be between $100 000 and $200 000.

These stations don’t need to rely on solar energy. "If the station is in a place that could have a wind turbine, we’d use that as well. But initially it’s sun-powered," Sullivan says.

Bjorn Simonsen, chairman of Norway’s hydrogen highway, HyNor, says Sullivan’s vision is "bold" and admires his "fire." But he thinks it’s important to have more than one refueling station in a city, or people won’t buy the cars. "It would be better to have two stations in four cities rather than one in nine cities all up along the East Coast," because if one is closed, the driver has an option to go elsewhere, he says.

Sullivan and his team now plan to travel west with their hydrogen highway concept. And Toyota is along for the ride. It announced a deal with SunHydro back in August to have 10 fuel-cell-hybrid vehicles (FCHV) test driven by Proton staff and members of the Wallingford community. A handful of those cars were at SunHydro’s ribbon cutting. IEEE Spectrum took a test drive, and the experience was completely noiseless—just the rub of wheels on pavement.

Craig Scott, manager for Toyota Motor Sales advanced technology vehicles, says that although its FCHVs are not yet for sale, "we’ve increased the number of units from 2 in 2001 to about 105 units now."

Auto companies such as GM, Daimler, and Honda have pilot lease programs going on in the United States as well. While other manufacturers, such as Hyundai, report that they are nearly ready to go, the target for commercialization for most auto manufacturers is some time in 2015.

GM spokesperson Scott Fosgard says its fuel-cell car program, Project Driveway, has given the company valuable information about how close customers want to be to a refueling station, among other things.

Even with car companies promising to deliver hydrogen vehicles, SunHydro will have a difficult time finding enough customers. The company might be helped by Sullivan’s almost missionary zeal; he is adamant that a lack of reliance on foreign and dirty fuel is not only noble but necessary—even though the current state of hydrogen filling stations is not perfect.

"There’s a lot of delivered hydrogen [in the United States] that is not produced on-site, but…it’s better than buying fuel from the Middle East, and it’s better than gasoline," Sullivan says.

Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership, agrees. "Even when you make hydrogen from natural gas, it’s still green [because] it reduces CO2 emissions by at least half, and the hydrogen fuel cell is two to three times more efficient than burning fuel in an engine."

It’s clear that some of Sullivan’s zeal is rubbing off. Speaking at the ribbon cutting, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who represents Wallingford and its surrounding areas, called this "nothing less than a Kitty Hawk moment."

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October 21, 2010
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Japan Planning a Really Smart Grid Worth Envying and Following

An article, written by Technology Review, shows how the Japanese want to amaze us, the rest of the world, over and over again. Not only they’re stuffed with the latest gadgets not yet found anywhere else, but now they want to set an example for the US and Europe to follow.

Four Japanese cities (Toyota City, Yokohama, Kitakyushu and Kansai Science City) want to make an experiment that should regulate all the aspects of using power, from electricity to heat and storage. While the US humbly dreams of a smart grid that would play the role of a buffer between the times when the harvested renewable resources aren’t available (at night or when wind doesn’t blow), the Japanese go beyond that and plan to invest in a $1 billion system through projects sustained and implemented by corporate parties such as Nissan, Toyota, Nippon Steel and Panasonic.

Hironori Nakanishi, a director at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, presented the plan at a recent smart grid conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He said the government will have to build some 28 GW solar power plants, which would be more or less equivalent to 28 nuclear power plants, and that companies should build the home and office appliances to be smart and adapt their power usage to the grid’s current state, when the grid instructs them to, through special commands.

Providing heat to the communities is as important as providing power, since heat represents almost half of the total energy usage. Panasonic already got that message and has a kind of CHP system that harvests solar power during the day (when it’s sunny) and stores it into a battery for latter use. Moreover, their CHP system contains a natural gas-powered fuel cell that provides both heat and electricity. The fuel cells’ redundant (and normal) operating heat is not lost, but rather warming the home. An electric car could fit perfectly in this scenario, with the implementation of a smart grid system, just like the American V2G. This part of the project will be operated by Nissan and Toyota, using their future electric cars.

To further improve the efficiency, both AC and DC outlets would be implemented, to fit various needs without having to convert the electricity with losses from DC to AC and viceversa in the appliance. Hydrogen fuel cells will also play an important role, but at Kitakyushu, where Nippon Steel will manage the project, because they already deal with large amounts of hydrogen as their fuel.

Every aspect of this huge project has to be sustainable and for this the Kansai Science City will create special software allowing the final users manage their energy consumption and the impact their electric car and solar panels have on the grid.

Source: Green Optimistic

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October 28, 2010
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Federal Grant to USC Will Fund Fuel-Cell Research

Project will focus on power packs for troops

USC has landed a $3.6 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to research fuel cells for portable power packs for U.S. troops.

The research will be conducted by three USC endowed chairs — Brian Benicewicz, Kenneth Reifsnider and Jochen Lauterbach — at the new Future Fuels facilities in the Horizon I building in the university’s research district, Innovista. It is the first time all three researchers, considered world leaders in their fields, have collaborated on a major project.

The research would focus on developing lightweight fuel cells that work on a variety of fuels, such as hydrogen or solid oxides.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn made the announcement in the atrium of the building at Blossom and Main streets, along with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and officials of the S.C. Research Authority and EngenuitySC, a partnership of the city and USC aimed at boosting Columbia’s knowledge-based economy.

The grant “will go a long way to continue to make this university a tremendous job generator in the future,” Clyburn said.

The concept of Innovista was launched in 2005 to match private industry with USC discoveries made through its endowed chairs program to create high-paying, high-tech jobs in downtown Columbia.

Two publicly-funded buildings, Horizon I and Discovery I, were built to house USC researchers, but two private buildings intended to attract high-tech companies never got off the ground.

USC has since changed the focus of Innovista to cultivating home-grown companies through such efforts as the new Columbia Innovation Center, a large SCRA business incubator located across Assembly Street from the Swearingen Engineering Center.

The grant is a boost to both Innovista and the city’s and state’s push to attract hydrogen and fuel cell jobs.

While USC and the region are becoming known nationally for its hydrogen and fuel cell research, the private, permanent jobs have been slow to come.

The area’s fledgling fuel cell firms, like Tru-lite in Northeast Richland, “aren’t hiring a lot of people, but they are creating (high-paying) individual jobs,” said SCRA chief executive Bill Mahoney.

The research funded by the grant, awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, would focus on making fuel cell battery packs lighter for individual troops, who often have to balance the weights of ammunition, food and water and a power supply for their high-tech gear, such as night vision and surveillance equipment.

Benjamin said the grant and research will continue to build the area’s reputation as a fuel cell center.

“Bright minds are attracted to creative places,” he said. “Today, we’re taking a big step forward in the discovery phase of this process.”

USC President Harris Pastides reiterated the support for the Innovista concept, noting that the board of trustees recently approved $7 million in federal grant funds to outfit all five floors of Horizon I.

He said the university needs to continue to press forward with its efforts to land grants and create a high-tech district that will attract private jobs.

“It’s time for us all to step on the gas,” he said.

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