January 6, 2005

IT'S NOT IN HERTFORD? (via Jim Yates):

Major Milestone Met in Government-Industry Drive to Develop Affordable Fuel Cell: Achievement Brightens Prospects for Environmentally Clean Technology to Move into Mainstream Energy Markets (DOE - Fossil Energy Techline, January 3, 2005)

Squeezing more watts of electric power from smaller and smaller volumes of fuel cell materials is one of the "holy grails" of fuel cell developers. Combined with advances in mass production, such improvements in a fuel cell’s "power density" could provide one of the much needed technological leaps that could make this environmentally attractive technology economically competitive with today’s traditional ways of generating electricity.

Now Delphi Corp., a partner in the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced fuel cell development program, has reported that it has exceeded the power density level required to meet the government’s $400 per kilowatt cost goal for fuel cells. Meeting the cost target is essential if fuel cells are to expand beyond their current niche markets into widespread commercial use.

At $400 per kilowatt – nearly one-tenth the cost of power-generating fuel cells currently sold on the market – fuel cells would compete with traditional gas turbine and diesel electricity generators and become viable power suppliers for the transportation sector. The Energy Department has set 2010 as the timeframe for these low-cost fuel cells to be sufficiently developed for commercial markets.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 6, 2005 11:25 PM

Looks to me like the need to get it down to $40/kw.

1 KW= 1,000 Watts = 1.34 horsepower

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Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 6, 2005 11:54 PM

Worse yet, the fuel, hydrogen, is coming from natural gas. Still, two steps forward, one step...

Posted by: Ptah at January 7, 2005 5:22 AM

I admit to being ignorant of fuel science, but can't natural gas be produced pretty easily from animal excrement and plant biomass?

Posted by: Bart at January 7, 2005 7:48 AM

Bart : Not in anything like the quantities required. Again, Steven Den Beste has written great posts on energy policy -- see here for example, and follow the links. Lynne Kiesling's series for RPPI on the hydrogen economy is also well worth reading.

Posted by: joe shropshire at January 7, 2005 8:57 AM

Nooooooo! How can this article get such a basic fact wrong? Fuel cells aren't electricial generators, they are electrical batteries. The failure to grasp this fact is behind 90% of the overhype of fuel cells.

As one example, the correct comparison for fuel cells is lead-acid batteries, not diesel turbines. Comparing fuel cells to the latter completely ignores the refueling issue, which is not a small one.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 7, 2005 2:41 PM