Fuel Cell Engine Matches Diesel Longevity

by | Jun 27, 2013

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ACALBritish chemical engineering company ACAL Energy today announced that its FlowCath technology has enabled a proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell to match the endurance levels of lightweight diesel engines, undercutting the costs of traditional fuel cell technology in the process.

The cell reached 10,000 hours’ run-time in a third-party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation, ACAL says. Ten thousand hours, the equivalent of about 300,000 miles, is the point at which hydrogen fuel cell endurance is comparable to the best lightweight diesel engines under such test conditions, according to the company.

This endurance 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 percent.

Over the last 16 months, ACAL Energy has put its fuel cell design 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. This particular test is employed to accelerate aging and to stress wear on car engines and fuel cell systems over time.

Unlike a conventional PEM hydrogen fuel cell design, ACAL Energy’s technology does not rely on platinum as the catalyst for the reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. The platinum and gas have been replaced with a patented liquid catalyst, which ACAL Energy calls FlowCath. This approach improves a fuel cell’s durability and reduces the cost of a system. The liquid acts as both a coolant and catalyst for the cells, ensuring that they last longer by removing most of the known decay mechanisms, ACAL says.

Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan are members of H2USA, the Energy Department’s public-private partnership focused on advancing hydrogen infrastructure to support transportation energy options including fuel cell vehicles. The partnership launched in May, and Honda joined H2USA in June.

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