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Newsletter 07, Winter 2015

50th Executive Committee Meeting – Zürich, Switzerland - April 2015

National updates from Switzerland and Croatia


50th Executive Committee Meeting – Zürich, Switzerland, April 2015

ExCo attendees at PH Zurich

The 50th Executive Committee (ExCo) Meeting of the Implementing Agreement for a Programme of Research, Development and Demonstration on Advanced Fuel Cells (AFC IA) was held at the Pädagogische Hochschlule campus in Zürich (PH Zürich), Switzerland, on the 23 and 24 April 2015. The event was well attended with members and representatives from Austria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the US and VTT from Finland.

Our Chairman, Detlef Stolten, welcomed all ExCo delegates and the meeting host, Stefan Oberholzer, warmly welcomed all to Zürich.

Croatia joined us for the first time, represented by Dr Ankica Đukić, and provided a wide-reaching presentation on Croatia’s fuel cell activities. During the meeting, Croatia was unanimously invited to join the AFC IA as a full member. We look forward to welcoming Croatia to future ExCo and Annex meetings, and to involving them in group projects.

A successful outreach event was held at Zürich University of Teacher Education (PH Zürich) following the ExCo meeting. This was attended by 20 ExCo members, and over 30 people from the commercial and research sectors in Switzerland. The event, 'Technological Status and Economic Potential of Fuel Cell Technology', included guest speakers David Hart (E4Tech), who described the latest Industry Review for Fuel Cells 2014, and Andreas Mai, who shared details of the latest products from HEXIS. Additionally, presentations by Nancy Garland (DOE, US), Michio Hashimoto (NEDO, Japan) and Laurent Antoni (CEA, France) gave the international status of fuel cells.

Michio Hashimoto, NEDO, Japan

IHPoS fuel cell catering trolley being demonstrated

IHPoS fuel cell catering trolley being demonstrated

Alongside the speakers, Swiss company CEKAtec demonstrated one of its catering trolleys, which is powered by an Independent Hydrogen Power Systems (IHPoS) fuel cell. The trolleys are used on many of the Swiss train services.

Michio Hashimoto, NEDO, Japan

Below are the presentations that were shared during the outreach event.

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National update: Switzerland

Presented by Dr Stefan Oberholzer of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy

Switzerland intends to phase out nuclear power by 2025, so there is a focus on power-to-gas and power-to-hydrogen technologies. The Institute for Energy Technology at the University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil (IET-HSR) has built a 25kW pilot plant to demonstrate power-to-methane technology, which synthesises methane using ambient CO2 and water. Regio Energie Solothurn has also demonstrated a power-to-gas concept that injects hydrogen into the natural gas grid and can provide local storage of surplus renewable energy.

In parallel with these developments, there have been some improvements to electrolysis technologies, including:

  • Industrie Haute Technologie (IHT) has developed a high-pressure alkaline electrolyser, which is capable of producing hydrogen at 3.2Mpa (32 bar). The system can produce 760 normal cubic metre (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, at an efficiency of 4.3kWh/Nm3 which includes energy for compression.
  • EXEN Sarl has created a highly efficient prototype of a 20kW alkaline electrolyser. The system produces hydrogen at pressures in excess of 3Mpa (30 bar). The system takes advantage of new catalyst materials and operates at 120°C.
  • The demonstration of a new method for efficiently producing hydrogen through water photolysis. The process uses perovskite, photovoltaics and earth-abundant catalysts. The process has achieved an efficiency of 12%. However, the instability of perovskite limits the lifetime of this electrolysis cell.

Switzerland is keen to use power-to-gas technologies for transport applications, with energy utility provider Axpo Holding and retailer Coop having committed to the development of a hydrogen infrastructure and the use of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). Coop is planning to use fuel cell vehicles in its fleet and is planning to construct a network of hydrogen filling stations. At the same time, Axpo Holding will supply the network with hydrogen that is generated using hydropower. There have been a number of other pilot schemes and projects including:

  • A hydrogen filling station for buses based in Brugg. The station employs a Hydrogenics alkaline electrolyser that can produce 60Nm3 hydrogen per hour, or 500,000Nm3 of hydrogen annually at 10 bar. The system has an installed capacity of 312kW, an efficiency of 5.2kWh/Nm3 and can store up to 5,000 Nm3 of hydrogen at 410 bar.
  • A mobility demonstrator at Empa, which produces hydrogen on-site and is capable of dispensing Hydrogen, CNG and HCNG, a combination of hydrogen and CNG.
  • The development of a high-efficiency PEFC by Belenos Clean Power Holding and the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI).

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National update: Croatia

Presented by Dr Ankica Đukić of the Laboratory of Power Engineering, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Zagreb

Croatia has been invited to join the AFC IA following the spring meeting. The generation of hydrogen from renewable resources and the development of a hydrogen infrastructure for transport are key themes in Croatian fuel cell research and development. A diverse range of fuel cell projects are underway encompassing:

  • Improvement of the performance of electrolyser systems.
  • A study on the integration of hydrogen into city transportation networks.
  • The coupling of electrolysers with solar PV cells.
  • A solar hydrogen refuelling station.

The Croatian national electricity company (HEP) is funding the development of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) powered bicycle. Together with Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Professor Hrvoje Jasak has been working on the Multi-Scale Integrated FC Model (MUSIC) to develop multi-scale software for the simulation of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC).

The Laboratory for New Energy Technologies at the University of Split is focused on the mechanical engineering aspects of PEMFC design and operation. More specifically, research is being conducted into the testing and characterising of PEMFC, as well as looking at their applications in vehicles, boats and as back-up power sources. The Končar Electrical Engineering Institute is operating a stationary facility for the cogeneration of electricity and heat using a NedStack PEMFC system and a HyGear natural gas reformer.

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Molten carbonate fuel cells report published

Annex 23, in conjunction with the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), has published a report entitled 'The International Status of Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells Technology'. The report summarises the current status of MCFC technology and describes present deployments of these fuel cells around the world.

The report was authored by Stephen J. McPhail, Luigi Leto, Massimiliano Della Pietra, Viviana Cigolotti and Angelo Moreno. It is available online at the following location: http://www.ieafuelcell.com/documents/MCFC_international_status_2015_web.pdf (PDF)

MCFC International Status 2015 pdf

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Annex 31: Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells update

Presented by Dr Nancy Garland of the US DOE

There have been a series of improvement to stack materials for polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC) recently:

  • Forschungszentrum Jülich has improved the corrosion resistance of bipolar plates using a boron-doped diamond (BDD) coating, applied with a hot filament chemical vapour deposition (CVD) method. The new BDD coating is 65 times more corrosion resistant than niobium (Nb) alone.
  • The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) is developing a low-platinum catalyst, using a palladium/copper core and a platinum skin. It shows excellent activity and durability.
  • The Korean Institute of Energy Research (KIER) is using Magnéli phases titanium oxides (MPTOs) as an alternative catalyst support to platinum. Compared to platinum/carbon catalysts, the new catalyst generates similar voltage-current polarisation, but shows significant improvements in durability.
  • Argonne National Laboratory has developed nano-frame catalysts that demonstrate extremely high activity. It has also created a ‘one-pot’ method for the design and synthesis of non-platinum group metals (PGM) catalysts using metal-organic frameworks as a precursor.
  • Fraunhofer ICT is working on a catalyst for an alkaline anion exchange membrane for direct alcohol fuels. From a systems perspective, Graz University is developing an advanced, 3D fuel cell stack on-line monitoring system named FALCON. The new sensor is capable of simultaneously detecting polarisation current and temperature. Fraunhofer ICT is also looking into pinhole detection methods using a variety of in-situ techniques.
  • NEDO in Japan is evaluating membrane electrode assembly (MEA) materials using a common test protocol. The project is steered by Toyota, Honda, Nissan and the Fuel Cell Commercialisation Conference of Japan.

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Annex 33: Fuel Cells fo Stationary Applications update

Presented by Mr Bengt Ridell of Grontmij AB

Stationary fuel cells continue to be a strong area of development and growth for the fuel cell market. Annex 33 focuses on the latest stationary fuel cell developments. There is a new Subtask in Annex 33, led by the Austrian Energy Agency, to investigate the consequences and opportunities for fuel cells arising from the new European Union’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). It is expected that the EPBD will have different impacts in different countries and regions in Europe. The work will also consider the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives.

The latest achievements for fuel cells in stationary applications include

  • By September 2014, over 100,000 stationary fuel cells had been sold in Japan. The manufacturing and operating experience acquired by Japanese firms makes it possible for stationary fuel cells to be exported worldwide.
  • In April 2014, Panasonic and VIESSMAN launched the first European proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system, which was in the form of a micro combined heat and power (CHP) boiler. It has an output of 750W (electrical) and 1kW (heat). The system achieves an overall efficiency of 90% (at lower heating value) and has a 10-year lifetime.
  • There is growing interest in large fuel cells that use biogas as a fuel and there are substantial subsidies in this area in countries such as the USA, Japan, Germany and Korea.
  • There is a significant increase in the use of fuel cells as a replacement for batteries as back-up or remote power generators. Dantherm Power claims to be cost-competitive against battery systems in this area and has sold 800 units to telecommunication and fibre optic stations.
  • There are now 7,000 fuel-cell-powered forklifts in North America. The forklifts have lower operating costs, refuel faster and occupy less space. There are tax credits of USD3,000/kWe available in the USA.

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Fuel cell news

Mantra Energy Alternatives demonstrates mixed-reactant fuel cell

The company has released a video demonstrating the operation of the so-called Mantra Spark, an electric scooter powered solely by a mixed-reactant fuel cell (MRFC). This is the first time a vehicle has been powered by such as system.

The MRFC is unconventional in that it does not use a membrane. Therefore, it avoids many of the pitfalls that are associated with the use of membranes in ‘conventional’ fuel cells and there are associated reductions in size, cost and weight. Mantra Energy Alternatives claims that, as a consequence of volume reductions, the system has a higher volumetric power density than alternatives, despite having a lower efficiency than some other fuel cell systems. The cell accepts a mixture of fuel and oxidant. The Spark was powered using formate salts, although the MRFC can accept a range of fuels.

Fuel Cell Funding from NYSERDA

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has announced USD250,000 in funding for each of seven US-based fuel cell technology firms. The funding is intended to aid the chosen firms in scaling up or demonstrating new fuel-cell-based approaches to energy storage.

Hydrogen-powered drone unveiled by Horizon Energy Systems

In May, Singapore-based Horizon Energy Systems (HES) unveiled the world’s first hydrogen-powered drone. The firm is preparing the drone, called HYCOPTER, to set a record for flight endurance – expected to be four hours. This is eight to ten times longer than the duration of conventional drone systems.

The HYCOPTER is unique in that it uses its frame to store hydrogen. This dramatically reduces the weight of the craft relative to other systems, which require storage for batteries. It is expected that the versatility of the new craft will allow it to 'open new mission possibilities' and perform a much wider range of functions than existing technologies.

The drone uses a fuel cell designed by HES that achieves an energy density of 700Wh/kg. The firm has also announced that a new form of solid chemical hydrogen storage will be available in the future.

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Join our work

We welcome new participants to our work at expert, company and country levels. Participants from IEA member countries (ieafuelcell.com/contact) may join the work of our Annexes. For further information, please contact the following people:

Annex 30: Electrolysis, Jürgen Mergel: j.mergel@fz-juelich.de
Annex 31: Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells, Dr Di-Jia (DJ) Liu: djliu@anl.gov
Annex 32: Solid Oxide Fuel Cells, Dr Jari Kiviaho: jari.kiviaho@vtt.fi
Annex 33: Fuel Cells for Stationary Applications, Bengt Ridell: bengt.ridell@grontmij.com
Annex 34: Fuel Cells for Transportation, Dr Rajesh Ahluwalia: walia@anl.gov
Annex 35: Fuel Cells for Portable Applications, Dr Fabio Matera: fabio.matera@itae.cnr.it
Annex 36: Systems Analysis, Dr Can Samsun: r.c.samsun@fz-juelich.de
Annex 37: Modelling of Fuel Cells Systems, Professor Dr Steven Beale: s.beale@fz-juelich.de

If you are from a non-member country, please contact Secretariat-AFCIA@ricardo-aea.com who would be delighted to discuss membership with you, either on a country basis or on a sponsorship basis. Please visit ieafuelcell.com/joining to see the benefits of joining our work.

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