The 10th Fuel Cell 2014 focused on material and technology innovation. When it comes to fuel cells, cost-reducing is always the most important issue. Therefore, economic solutions such as catalyst producing, humidifiers and fuel reformers were provided at the show. Regarding electric vehicles (EVs), Honda, Toyota and Nissan seemed to be fully prepared before their products officially on sale. Besides, Taiwanese manufacturers were offering components and modules that are both advanced and economic for foreign clients to choose.
|▲ Venue of Smart Grid EXPO|
Fuel cells can perfection the cogeneration of heat and power (CHP). The conversion efficiency of a normal home-use fuel cell, which pocesses an efficiency of 0.75kWh, can safe 37% of energy consumption and reduce 374g of CO2 emission compared to traditional fossil fuel (representing a 49% reduction). In Japan, users can even sell extra electricity back to the power plant. However, the cost of fuel cells remains high because of limited supply of noble metal materials like platinum; short lifecycles caused by heat is another influential factor. At this show, many new items were equipped with uninterruptible power supply system so the new fuel cells can be used as an emergency power supply and prevent the interruption of gas supply.
The development of Japanese automotive manufacturers attracted most visitors. According to EnergyTrend’s interviews conducted with the exhibitors, both Honda and Toyota will launch commercialized fuel cell electric vehicles in 2015, and Nissan plans to reveal some in 2017. Most of Honda’s to-be-launched vehicles have been completely equipped while Toyota still kept some key secrets. Yet, it was confirmed that both of the auto makers will adopt in-house fuel cells for their fuel cell vehicles. Besides, Honda has built three hydrogen stations combined with CIGS solar panels and supply mains, each can refill hydrogen pressure up to 35MPa, creating a daily volume of hydrogen up to 1.5kg. The price of these fuel cell vehicles is estimated to be as high as high-class Li-ion EVs made by U.S. auto makers.
|▲Honda showcases the fuel cell cars to be commercialized|
Cooperating with IKTS from Europe, Plansee provided Europe-made Interconnectors for battery polar plates. In three of the most common SOFC types (ASC, ESC and MSC), the ESC type requires most for well heat-resistance due to the high operating temperature of 800~900C. Plansee’s Interconnector can overcome the degradation of components cause by severe heat and thus extend the battery’s lifecycle up to 40 thousands hours (around 10 years). Also, it exhibited an 800W battery stack with a 30-layer plate.
|▲Plansee showcases the Interconnectors and related applications|
Kolon revealed a humidifier for high-performing membrane fuel cells that introduces membrane spinning technology to reduce costs and increase duration. Kolon also presented mobile battery modules that integrate humidifiers, MBOP, DC charger circuit and cooling system. Now, the battery module can be combined with small robots.
|▲Kolon showcases the humidifier and the integrated applications|
China-made Fuel Cells have also developed rapidly in recent years. Comparing with other green energy resources, it requires more technological and scientific knowledge to develop fuel cells. Foresight Energy and Sunrise Power are some of the experienced Chinese companies. As a result, most fuel cells made in China are for military or educational use. However, incomplete supply chains also make the Chinese fuel cell market a blue ocean.
Whole win, a Beijing-based fuel cell company, presented items include high-pressure hydrogen tanks, sized as about 300kg/m^3 and storages liquid hydrogen. Another product being displayed was a 10kg/m^3 sized metal absorber with rare-earth elements. The latter storage system is a product that requires higher technology as it has to overcome the heat-resistance problem.
|▲Whole win showcases several types of hydrogen storage systems|
Taiwan Fuel Cell Information displayed its Synthetic Graphite Sheet, an innovation produced by graphitizing technology, with thermal conductivity of 1.5W/mk and thickness of 25μm. This new product gains wide favor from thin devices because it can radiate heat through the whole plate instead of a single point. Smartphones using this component can create a quadruple heat emission efficiency compared with devices using copper cooling modules.
|▲Taiwan Fuel Cell Information showcases Synthetic Graphite Sheet|
Kaori, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of brazed plate heat exchanger, showcased a newer version of fuel reformer that can be combined with PEMFC and SOFC. By upgrading catalysis, this new reformers can increase its output power from 1.5kW to 2kW, and the size has been cut down by one third from the previous version as well. The new processor on display introduces a stack structure (with patent) that can help massively produce and reduce the cost, and thus cut fuel cells’ price. At this exhibition, Kaori also presented a heat exchanger developed in-house. The product, which possesses heat-recycling function, can fulfill every customer’s requirement through customization.
|▲Kaori showcases its fuel processor and heat exchanger|