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Ballard fuel cell forklift – Click above for a high-res image gallery

Ballard Material Products has received the bulk of $6.2 million in Department of Energy funding for research work into fuel cell materials aimed at cutting the cost and improving durability of the electro-chemical energy generators. Ballard Material Products is the U.S.-based subsidiary of Ballard Power Systems. Ballard will be looking at the causes of material degradation in fuel cells and ways to reduce or eliminate it.

While a fuel cell stack itself has no moving parts (aside from the pumps and compressors feeding and scavenging it) the coatings on the plates do get damaged during use by reactions with impurities in the hydrogen. Water collecting and freezing within the stack can also cause damage. Computer modeling of the gas and water flows may lead to new designs that help to improve the efficiency and durability of stacks. Ballard's work will be targeted at non-automotive applications such as stationary power generation and material handling systems.



[Source: Ballard Power Systems]

PRESS RELEASE

Ballard to Receive DOE Funding to Advance Non-Automotive Fuel Cell Commercialization

VANCOUVER, March 8, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Ballard Power Systems (TSX: BLD; NASDAQ: BLDP) announced today that it has $6.2 million in project funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under contract over a four year period. Ballard Material Products, a U.S. subsidiary of Ballard Power Systems, was awarded $4.1 million as prime for a contract that will focus on improvements in fuel cell durability and cost. Additionally, Ballard will be sub-contractor to leading U.S. technology organizations for several other fuel cell research and development projects funded by the DOE.

"We are excited to be working with a technology leader such as Ballard Power Systems," said Dr. Rod Borup, Fuel Cell Program Manager, Institute for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research at Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of Ballard's project partners. "This is important work in support of the DOE goal to move fuel cell technology closer to large scale commercialization. Our collaborations with Ballard are in the areas of understanding and improving fuel cell durability and reducing technology cost, which are the primary enablers to rapid market adoption of fuel cell systems."

Over eighty percent of the announced DOE funding has been allocated to projects aimed at increased durability and cost reduction, with the remaining funds focused on water management modeling. The project for which Ballard Material Products will be prime is meant to improve the understanding of fuel cell materials and components degradation, leading to recommended mitigation strategies to facilitate further commercialization. Resulting advancements will facilitate commercialization of fuel cells for a range of applications, including stationary power generation.

In addition to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ballard will be partnering with other leading U.S. technology organizations, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan Technical University, University of Hawaii at Manoa and University of New Mexico.

"The receipt of significant funding from the DOE clearly demonstrates the Department of Energy's interest in fuel cell market adoption," said Dr. Christopher Guzy, Chief Technology Officer at Ballard Power Systems. "This funding is completely aligned with Ballard's plans to continue investing in strategic enhancements of non-automotive fuel cell products."

About Ballard Power Systems

Ballard Power Systems (TSX: BLD; NASDAQ: BLDP) provides clean energy fuel cell products enabling optimized power systems for a range of applications. To learn more about Ballard, please visit www.ballard.com.


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  • 21 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Maybe this will lead to an even better version of the Bloom Box.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Bloom Box is a fuel cell, certainly, and this research funding is specifically geared towards bringing down the cost of fuel cells, as well as improving their durability. Ballard makes stationary fuel cell power units that compete commercially with the Bloom Box, as do dozens of other companies world-wide.

        The DoE want the US to maintain a leadership role in fuel cell research and production, which is why these research funds are being disbursed.

        Stephen Chu on stationary fuel cells:

        “The investments we’re making today will help us build a robust fuel cell manufacturing industry in the United States,” said Secretary Chu. “Developing and deploying the next generation of fuel cells will not only create jobs – it will help our businesses become more energy efficient and productive. We are laying the foundation for a green energy economy.”
        • 5 Years Ago
        The bloom box runs on straight natural gas or methane which is relatively cheap.

        Cheap hydrogen is made from stripping natural gas and is a conversion process that wastes energy. Because of that extra conversion step you will never be able to make a hydrogen fuel cell that is as cheap to operate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just as advances in non-automotive batteries brought forth batteries to power BEVs, so will advances in non-automotive fuel cells bring forth improvements in automotive FCs.

      The DoE should be commended for their continued support of fuel cell research.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Follow-up:

        The projects were approved.


        "DANBURY, Conn.– FuelCell Energy, Inc. (Nasdaq:FCEL) a leading manufacturer of high efficiency ultra-clean power plants using renewable and other fuels for commercial, industrial, government, and utility customers today announced that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has authorized Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison Company to undertake Fuel Cell Projects to install utility-owned fuel cells on several University of California and California State University campuses. FuelCell Energy, Inc. (FCE) will work with the utilities to finalize contracts. ”The CPUC has clearly demonstrated a leadership role in advancing environmentally friendly power generating sources with this decision,” commented Jeff Cox, Director Business Development, FuelCell Energy, Inc. ”This ruling is another milestone for FuelCell Energy as we work with prospective customers and regulatory bodies in the State of California to encourage the use of our highly efficient and environmentally friendly fuel cells.”

        The CPUC approval includes the installation of four FCE 1.4 megawatts (MW) fuel cell power plants at four state universities in California. PG&E’s Fuel Cell Project will include the installation and operation of two FCE 1.4 MW facilities at California State University-East Bay and San Francisco State. The fuel cells plan to utilize the byproducts of the energy conversion process, including waste heat and water to meet the campus needs including thermal demand for heating the swimming pool at CSU-East Bay and using excess water for landscape irrigation. Southern California Edison’s Fuel Cell Project will include two FCE 1.4 MW units located at CSU-San Bernardino and CSU-Long Beach. The fuel cells will interconnect and operate in parallel with Edison’s distribution system and utilize the byproduct heat.

        This approval is part of a program to support ultra clean distributed power generation. Distributed generation can provide increased reliability, power quality and energy security. The fuel cell power plants are expected to be configured to generate base load electricity for the facilities in addition to recovering the surplus heat byproduct for heating needs. This configuration can achieve up to 80% efficiency. Additionally, because fuel cells produce power electro-chemically, without combustion, they produce near-zero harmful emissions."

        http://fuelcellsworks.com/news/2010/04/12/california-public-utilities-commission-approves-5-6-mw-fuel-cell/
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hydrogen is not a fuel source, it does not occur abundantly in its natural state on earth. To create hydrogen you must convert some other energy source(usually natural gas, or water at lower efficiency)

        Its only use is as a lightweight energy carrier. In industrial energy applications of storing energy weight is not important. We already have other more promising more efficient methods of storing energy.

        The government should look at the science and efficiency of a project and competing methods before spending taxpayer dollars to fund research.

        Note: I don't think Ballard's fuel cells are completely worthless, they may have applications for fleet trucks and buses that are cleaner and more efficient than current large diesel engines.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Bloom Box is a high temperature Solid oxide Fuel cell that uses ceramic plates derived from beach sand, and inexpensive alloys. Similar to the Molten Carbonate Fuel cells that power about 20% percent of my University's energy needs, they can extract hydrogen from hydrocarbons directly.

        Ballard makes Proton Exchange Membrane fuel cells, which are far more costly since they use platinum cathodes. Since PEM FCs cannot produce electricity from hydrocarbons directly, they require a separate steam reformer to produce hydrogen so the PEM FCs can operate. The hydrogen needs to be pure to avoid short life-spans, but steam-reforming produces CO2, CO, along with the H2 in the reaction.
        PEMS are prone to "poisoning" by CO2, CO.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Geronimo

        http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/new-technology-generates-hydrogen-efficiently-from-water-using-sunlight/

        --I actually like this one. And the only thing I can say is that the overall efficiency to usable power would still be lower.
        This "solar to H2" is 60% efficient but the best H2 Fuel Cell is 55% efficient for a total of 33%.
        But the best Photo-voltaic is 38% efficient and then take its transmission and conversion losses at 90% for a total of 34.2%
        Close but when you also count the compression and transport of H2 you lose every time.

        Electricity is the most usable source of energy... why waste it with conversion losses.


        http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/mit-researchers-produce-electricity-from-carbon-nanotubes/
        "In the new experiments, each of these electrically and thermally conductive nanotubes was coated with a layer of a reactive fuel that can produce heat by decomposing. This fuel was then ignited at one end of the nanotube using either a laser beam or a high-voltage spark"

        --Still experimental and Still uses fuel... FAIL

        Sorry for the crude analogy but comparing kW/kg (power density) of various energy storage systems for cars is like comparing penis size. Sure the capacitors or flywheels may have a "longer" penis but it becomes worthless if you can only do a few strokes. A girl would much rather have a small to moderate size that can go all night.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Joeviocoe:
        My thought of line differs completely from yours; perhaps I should have gone into more detail.
        But also using your own figures I'll attempt to explain what I was deliberating on.
        First of all I'm a dedicated fan for sustainable and regenerative sources of energy. You probably noticed that the production of hydrogen took place with sunlight. The "same" sunlight that a PV cell converts to electrical power. The efficiency of PV cells range anywhere between 6 and 20 %. Some exotic examples, that are outrageous expensive may do a little better. Now taking the 60 % efficiency for H2 production and multiplying it by the 55 % you quoted, yields electric power at 33 % compared to 20 % PV.

        I've got a 15kWp PV system mounted on my roof and approx. 18,000 kWh / annum. If I had a hydrogen generating system instead, I'd harvest 13 % / 2,340 kWh more / annum. In addition, I could use the thermal energie for hot water and heating my home. The overall efficiency would beat PV by miles.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Electricity is not a fuel source, it does not occur abundantly in its natural state on earth. To create electricity you must convert some other energy source(usually coal or natural gas)

        Its only use is as a convenient energy carrier in stationary applications. In transportation applications, weight is important, rendering battery storage ridiculously expensive and heavy.

        The government should continue to look at the absurd weight and cost of storing electricity in batteries before spending taxpayer dollars to fund research.

        Note: I don't think batteries are completely worthless; they may have applications for small short range cars, replacing only the most fuel efficient vehicles currently produced.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Let's stay on topic, Joe Viocoe.

        Ballard produces PEM fuel cells. The same kind of FCs that are being developed for automotive applications.

        Any improvements Ballard makes on stationary PEM cells will likely transfer over to automotive fuel cells.

        As far as fuel cells replacing battery applications - it's already happening. Notice the fork lift in the photos - that's one application where batteries are being phased out in favor of fuel cells. I do agree that BEVs will have a niche, but so will FCVs. Many automakers are on the path that indicates ER-EVs using batteries and FCs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Paulwesterberg

        In the link you posted, it is clear that a judge made a preliminary ruling, based on issues with the application related to costs passed onto the consumer. The issue is who should own the fuel cells, and how they should be funded. The problem results from an application for funding under the scope of "renewable" power; I agree, solid-oxide and molten carbonate fuel cells that use natural gas should not be considered "renewable" no matter how clean and efficient they may be. The Utilities should alter their application accordingly under a different program. Bureaucrats, LOL!

        The decision states:

        "Rather than utility ownership of the proposed fuel cells, the Commission
        concludes that ratepayer funds should support fuel cells through the Commission’s current Self-Generation Incentive Program and Combined Heat and Power Feed-in tariffs."

        The utilities themselves, as well as the President of the commission, are in support of fuel cells for the obvious environmental benefits.

        "An alternative decision issued by the president of the California Public Utilities Commission, Michael R. Peevey, would approve the applications but lower how much of the program’s cost the utilities could recover from their ratepayers."

        "P.G&.E and Southern California Edison, on the other hand, are interested in how well fuel cells can provide power to the grid.

        “The objective of P.G.&E.’s Fuel Cell Project is to advance the installation of fuel cell technologies in California,” the utility said in a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission. “Fuel cells can play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing fuels with low or neutral carbon content at high electrical efficiencies.”

        Of course, this is all a different kettle of fish from what Ballard produces. The PEM FCs Ballard produces use hydrogen, not natural gas, meaning that they could potentially be powered via 100% renewable-produced H2. Nice misdirection, Paulwesterberg!
        • 5 Years Ago
        paulwesterberg:
        You should familiarize yourself with the contents of the following links:

        http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/new-technology-generates-hydrogen-efficiently-from-water-using-sunlight/

        And maybe this could be the basis for a new FC technology using the effciiently generated hydrogen.
        http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/mit-researchers-produce-electricity-from-carbon-nanotubes/

        Apart from the info. contained in the a. m links, once the implications in the following link reach production level, it'll make Li-ion technology look sick.
        "The new devices can produce a power density of 30 kilowatts per kilogram (kW/kg), compared with 4 kW/kg for the most advanced devices currently commercially available , Pan said. Other researchers have described laboratory supercapacitors capable of up to 20 kW/kg, he said."
        http://www.innovations-report.de/html/berichte/energie_elektrotechnik/bericht-40441.html
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just to clarify...

        I am all for stationary applications of fuel cells such as bloom... they have many benefits over a wind turbine/battery combo or a solar/battery combo

        It is just don't get all wet thinking advancements in fuel cells will overtake battery technology.

        Battery technology is in the lead as far as cost
        And both are racing forward becoming cheaper. Both are trying to scale up production and drive costs down.

        For the automotive market (this is AUTOblog after all) battery tech is the chosen tech of most automakers (except for Honda of course) for good reason. It is currently closest to the market being nearly cheap enough to penetrate the market. They can ramp up production and make it soon.

        Fuel cells will take a LOT longer to be cheap enough to put in a car... and by that time, battery tech will be well established. And being more efficient, it will not give up its place as #1.

        When fuel cells become really cheap, however, it may displace the few markets that BEVs could not penetrate... the heavy duty (long haul trucking) market segment.

        But 70% of the automotive fuel consumption comes from the light duty fleet. And fuel cells have no place there.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The current cost of each hand-made 100kw Bloom Energy Server is $700,000–800,000. In the next stage, which will likely be mass production of home-sized units, Sridhar hopes to more than halve the cost of each of home sized Bloom servers to under $3000.[6] Bloom estimates the size of a home sized server as 1 kilowatt, although cNet News reports critical estimates recommend 5 kW capacity for a residence.[18]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom_Energy_Server#Costs

        So the Bloom company currently has boxes for about $7500 per KW and hopes to get it down to $3000 per KW with mass production. Very reasonable.

        So a 25 KW range extender would now cost $187,000 and they hope to get that price down to $75,000

        And a 100 KW Bloom Box capable of delivering 136 HP costs about $700,000 now and they "hope" to get that price down to $300,000

        -----------------------------------------------------------

        Apparently those materials aren't near cheap enough.

        I will grant you that Fuel Cells (whether Hydrogen PEM or solid oxide) can and will improve over the coming years both reducing costs and improving performance.

        But you are fooling yourself if you think they will somehow become cheaper than a battery pack of similar performance.

        ***Only when range is so damn critical that the vehicle is worth $250,000 USD will a fuel cell power it.*** (such as long-haul trucking)

        And at that point, the potential buyer will say, "screw the environment, I'm keeping my diesel burner"
        • 5 Years Ago
        Fuel cells don't make sense for stationary applications because the cost per kw is much higher than the cost of existing renewable energy.

        California regulators recently stopped utilities from installing experimental fuel cells because they wanted to spend $43 million to install fuel cells that would generate six megawatts.
        http://greeninc.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/california-utility-regulators-not-quite-ready-for-fuel-cells/
        • 5 Years Ago
        But your links of experimental new technology that produce hydrogen from direct sunlight is exactly an "exotic example, that is outrageous expensive".

        It is a logical fallacy to compare the current technology of PV to the future of Sun-H2...
        *That is why I took your "latest breakthrough" and compared it to the "latest" in photo-voltaic.

        By the time your 60% efficient Sun-H2 device becomes cheap and ready to be introduced to the commercial market, it will not be competing with today's 20% efficient PV cells... but with the 40% efficient cells that are ALREADY on the market (albeit the high end).

        And when they do hit the market, it will be nice to have them... but if you're going to use an electric motor in your car and power it from the sun, why use hydrogen?

        Even if all the "conversion" losses become equal... Hydrogen must be stored, compressed and transported which will require more and more energy. While electricity does NOT (transmission losses already accounted for above).
      • 5 Years Ago
      The key phrase being "Non automotive". Nice to see that boondoggle not supported.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Cool. I remember when I worked in a warehouse loading and unloading plumbing fixtures. We had five electric forklifts and two propane lifts. Everyone always fought over the electrics. As low man on the totem pole, I often ended up with a propane one.

      Forklifts are ahead of the curve. Twenty years later we are starting to see electric cars. Hope we don't have to wait that long for this technology to reach passenger vehicles.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ballard use to make electric motors, the conversion company I used, use to put Ballard electric motors in their Minni Cooper electric conversion and probably the Chrysler Cross Fire conversion . I though that part of Ballard was purchased by Siemens Corp. Ballard has discontinued that electric motor when Siemens purchased them. So now the conversion company I used must find a nother comparable motor to the Ballard electric motor they use to use in their Minni conversion.

      Ahhh more cash from the government, the only major employer hiring right now. NASA has been getting funded for FC and hydrogen research ever since the first moon mission. For all the money funded hydrogen and related consumption devices such as FC they realy haven't made the breakthroughs in hydrogen and FC technologies. It seems battery technology has come further with less money coming from the government since 1968. Battery research has come from NASA but much of it has come from the cell phone and small electric tool, manufacturing corporations. Then their was that Oshinsky fella that invented the nickle metal hydride or was it nickle metal cadmium, oh I don't know, the ones they put in the Rave 4 EV and the later EV1 EV's, that went a 120 miles on one charge.
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