Companies receive funding to develop fuel-cell technologies

The Carbon Trust has awarded fuel-cell companies £2m as part of plans to bring down the cost of zero-emission technologies.

Sheffield-based ITM Power and Runcorn-based ACAL Energy were confirmed as the winning bidders for the Carbon Trust’s Polymer Fuel Cells Challenge (PFCC), which aims to take new fuel-cell technologies to market.

Earlier this year, the two companies were awarded a £500,000 grant from the Carbon Trust to work on integrating their technologies.

Ben Graziano, the Carbon Trust’s technology commercialisation manager, said the funding announced this week is being awarded to develop the two technologies independently. He explained further that the funding was being allocated through the Department of Energy and Climate Change. 

Leading fuel cells currently on the market can only deliver energy at a cost of around $50 (£32) per kilowatt.

The Carbon Trust has invested £1.1m in ITM Power’s membrane technology, which has the potential to bring costs down to $35/kW.

The funding will be used over 18 months to further develop and scale up ITM Power’s membrane technology for use in automotive applications.

‘One of the key things that we’ll be doing with this money is a lot of durability testing,’ said Simon Bourne, technology director at ITM Power. ‘This is the sort of thing that takes a lot of equipment and a lot of time.’

Bourne explained that he believes ITM Power’s technology is cheaper and easier to manufacture than conventional technologies but said it is still unknown whether it has the durability to survive the arduous automotive cycles. 

The Carbon Trust has also invested £850,000 in ACAL Energy’s FlowCath technology, which aims to cut the cost of polymer fuel cells by virtually eliminating the use of platinum in the cell through the use of a circulating liquid polymer cathode. The funding will also be used to further develop and scale up the FlowCath system.

The Carbon Trust hopes that fuel cells could be powering a third of all road cars by 2050.