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Lower cost fuel cells from ACAL reduce platinum use

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 11:04 -- Ruth Williams
Reducing the platinum used in a fuel cell hugely reduces the cost

UK-based fuel cell developer ACAL Energy is close to completing a £15m ($25m) funding round to commercialise its low-platinum fuel cell for automotive and stationary use.

When closed, the funding round will enable ACAL to bring the redox liquid-based catalyst system to production-level ready for licencing to automotive OEMs. ACAL has a number of OEMs interested in the product because of the lower costs and longer lifetime than competitors.

Brendan Bilton, ACAL’s chief commercial officer, said: “Automotive companies want fuel cells to cost $40kW but none of the normal fuel cells can achieve this. We could get to 20% lower than that.”

Major automotive companies that have announced fuel cell electric vehicle designs require a lifecycle of more than 5,000 hours with less than 10% degradation to match an ICE vehicle. The catalyst of ACAL’s fuel cell is based on polyoxometalates rather than platinum which allows it to run for 10,000 hours with no degradation. The platinum is the point of degradation in regular fuel cells so removing 80% of it makes ACAL's cells more durable.

Bilton said the technology will be licenced to OEMs who could potentially have them in cars four years after licencing: “Many companies are looking at having first generation fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2020. We are aiming for second generation,” he explained.

The fuel cells have the potential to be used as a source of power generation as well as for automotive use, which could turn a person’s car into their generator also. This idea is attracting interest in regions that suffer frequent power outages such as Japan.

The commercialisation funding round is being finalised to allow the licensing of the technology in the next two months.