Hydrogen Fuel Cell Developed That’s as Durable as a Conventional Diesel Engine

July 02, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

ACAL Energy Ltd. announced that its FlowCath® chemistry and engineering has enabled a PEM hydrogen fuel cell to reach 10,000 hours runtime on a third party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation. ACAL Energy’s breakthrough approach is also significantly cheaper than conventional fuel cell technology. 10,000 hours, the equivalent of 300,000 driven miles, is the point at which hydrogen fuel cell endurance is comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines under such test conditions. This endurance far exceeds the current 2017 US Department of Energy (DoE) industry target for fuel cell powered vehicles to last 5,000 hours, equivalent to 150,000 road miles, with an expected degradation threshold of approximately 10%.

Over the last 16 months, ACAL Energy has put its proprietary design fuel cell through an industry standard automotive stress test protocol that simulates a 40-minute car journey with a start-stop at the end of each cycle. The cycle, which was repeated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, mimics a vehicle journey with frequent stops, starts and a highway cruise. This particular test is employed to accelerate aging and to stress wear on car engines and fuel cell systems over time.

Unlike a conventional PEM hydrogen fuel cell design, ACAL Energy’s technology does not rely on platinum as the catalyst for the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. The platinum and gas have been replaced with a patented liquid catalyst, which ACAL Energy calls FlowCath®. This revolutionary approach dramatically improves a PEM fuel cell’s durability and at the same time reduces the cost of a system. The liquid acts as both a coolant and catalyst for the cell’s, ensuring that they last longer by removing most of the known decay mechanisms.

Importantly, ACAL Energy’s technology reduces significantly the total cost and weight of a fuel cell and enables a competitive fuel cell drive-train with a power output of 100kW. This is equivalent to that of a 2 litre diesel engine. Many of the world’s largest auto makers including Hyundai, Honda and Toyota have announced plans to launch fuel cell vehicles by 2015.

Greg McCray, CEO of ACAL Energy, said: “Degradation has long held back the potential for the widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells in the automotive sector. Breaking the 10,000 hour threshold during rigorous automotive testing is a key reason our hydrogen fuel cell design and chemistry has been selected for trial by a number of the 6 top automotive OEMs.”

He continued: “With our technology, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can drive over 500 miles per tank of fuel, and can be refuelled in less than five minutes, emitting only water. For a driver, the only difference from driving an internal combustion engine car is what’s going in the tank but for the environment the significance of zero carbon emissions is enormous”.

Kevin Treco of The Carbon Trust said: “ACAL Energy continues to make impressive progress towards developing a novel, robust hydrogen fuel cell system that has the potential to reduce costs to be competitive with conventional engines. The Carbon Trust invested in ACAL Energy under the Polymer Fuel Cell Challenge, recognizing that ACAL Energy’s technology was one of a few that could potentially achieve such cost reductions and accelerate the introduction of fuel cell vehicles and their associated carbon emission savings. We are excited by the current world leading 10,000 hour durability demonstrated and the partnerships it is helping to secure”.