ACAL Energy's liquid catalyst hydrogen fuel cell system has reached 10,000 hours' runtime

Fuel cell matches durability of conventional engine

A hydrogen fuel cell system has reached 10,000 hours’ runtime making it comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines.

ACAL Energy announced today that its FlowCath chemistry and engineering has enabled a proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel run for the equivalent of 300,000 driven miles on a third party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation.

Durability has been a longstanding problem for fuel cell technology with PEM fuel cells degrading by approximately 28mV per 1,000 hours – a key barrier to their widespread adoption.

But the British firm’s system overcomes these durability issues by replacing the conventional fixed platinum catalysts used for the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen on the cathode of PEM fuel cells with a liquid regenerating catalyst system.

CEO Greg McCray says: “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.”

The endurance of the system far exceeds the current 2017 US Department of Energy 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 per cent.

The liquid system acts as both a coolant and catalyst for the cells, removing most of the known decay mechanisms, as well as significantly reducing the total cost and weight enabling a competitively priced fuel cell drive-train with a power output of 100kW –equivalent to that of a 2L diesel engine.

McCray adds: “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”.

The testing process over the last 16 months saw ACAL’s cell put 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 and is employed to accelerate aging and to stress wear on car engines and fuel cell systems over time.

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, recognising 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.”

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