FUEL CELLS: THE RACE TO AN ENERGY SECURE FUTURE
Fuel cells are a highly efficient, combustion-less, and virtually pollution free energy source that provides electricity to power a wide array of applications including buildings, automobiles, emergency back-up systems, laptop computers, and numerous other consumer devices. In principle, a fuel cell is an electrochemical device that operates like a battery. However, unlike a battery, a fuel cell requires re-fueling, and not recharging. A fuel cell uses fuel – usually hydrogen extracted from natural gas, propane, or other carbon based fuels, and oxygen extracted from air – to produce electricity. Fuel cells will continue to produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as there is a constant fuel source. Hydrogen fuel cells work simply, have no moving parts, and operate silently with water and excess heat as the only by-products.
Specific industries that employ fuel cell power systems are:
- Auxiliary Power
o Commercial Trucking
o Recreation Vehicles and Motor Homes
o DOD Military
- Portable Power
o Disaster Relief Emergency
• Back-up Stationary Power
o Defense and Homeland Security
o Data Security
Fuel Cell Commercialization Barriers
Although significant financial resources have been invested in fuel cell technology over the last few years, the following are typically agreed to as primary barriers to mass market commercialization. They are:
1. Lack of a hydrogen infrastructure for fuel storage and distribution.
2. Cost of ownership due to use of precious metals for fuel cell membranes.
3. Lack of large volume applications to minimize both membrane and component cost, and overall manufacturing cost, and;
4. Lack of robust fuel cell power system design that is flexible and adaptable to the varying needs of the user and minimizes engineering cost for use with multiple applications with different power requirements.
GEI’s Commercialization Strategy
Global Energy Innovations (GEI) is part of the Fuel Cell and Sustainable/Alternative Energy industry and has a target market that includes portable and on-board fuel cell power generation applications requiring efficient, clean, near-zero emissions, and silent operations in the 2kW to 10kW nominal power range.
GEI’s competitive strategy is the economicalprocessing of hydrogen from locally available logistics fuels combined with flexible, adaptable, and reconfigurable power electronics. This strategy provides a pathway to large volume commercialization of fuel cell power systems. Our innovative technology is customer centric and is driven by a commercialization reality that provides opportunities for the rapid integration of fuel cell power systems for markets typically restricted by the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure and allows for a common fuel cell architecture accross multiple application areas. This “Blue Ocean” strategy is fundamental to GEI’s success.
Their initial product offering is the GEI proprietary X5 Smart Adaptable Fuel Cell Auxiliary Power Unit, i.e. “GEI X5”. The GEI X5 has the competitive advantage of providing multiple user programmable power output channels over a wide voltage and current range that operate concurrently and independently. The GEI X5 innovation provides customers significant flexibility relative to the use of fuel cell APU’s for multiple applications with varying currents and voltages with a single fuel cell stack input.
Currently, fuel cell auxiliary units (APU’s) are designed for a single voltage output which limits the widespread commercialization of the technology, requires increased engineering and design cost for fuel cell system providers for different applications. Of most importantly the current architecture keeps the APU system cost high which limits user acceptability. Additionally, the GEI X5 smart APU provides for multiple input voltage sources, as well as multiple output power sources, to accommodate other renewable sources such as wind and solar power in addition to fuel cells.
In a nutshell, the GEI X5 de-couples the fuel cell input from the application output and allows the customer to customize the GEI X5 to individual current and voltage needs for multiple applications operating independently and concurrently. We feel our power electronics innovation is a “game changer”and will help to rapidly accelerate the adoption of fuel cell APU’s for multiple and concurrent everyday applications.
Practical Application Advantages
The advantages for commercial trucking, military, recreation vehicles, and marine applications are:
- Provides multiple reprogrammable output power channels supporting devices that operate at different voltages to maximize efficiency. For example, often for marine applications it is not uncommon to require 12V DC, 24VDC and 110VAC buss voltages.
- Allow OEM’s to provide a single platform for both US, South American, Asia and European markets that often require a different voltage bus.
- Allows for emergency DC/AC export power for emergency disaster relief that often require varying and uncertain power requirements.