Fuel-cell generator operates using commercial fuels

Nordic Power Systems (NPS) has developed what it claims to be the first fuel-cell generator that can operate on commercial fuels such as diesel and bio oils.

Based on technology created at RWTH Aachen University in the late 1990s, the system uses an on-board cool flame reformer that converts diesel into reformate hydrogen, which reacts with air in a high-temperature fuel cell to create electricity and heat.

Tor-Geir Engebretsen, managing director of NPS, claims that using reformate hydrogen will result in lighter and cheaper diesel fuel-cell systems in the future. ‘Our system can use regular fuels and it is virtually emission free. There are no sulphur or carbon monoxide emissions and there is a significant drop in CO2.’

In August, NPS worked with Californian firm SAFCell to deliver a 250W stack to its testing facility in Porsgrunn, Norway. The stack was tested with both dilute hydrogen and hydrogen produced by an NPS reformer. The results showed similar performances between the two fuel streams.

Engebretsen said that because the technology is scalable, it can also be used as a range extender. ‘You could use the technology as a range extender in an electric vehicle,’ he explained. ‘As the battery levels drop, the clean fuel-cell range extender starts to automatically recharge it. So there is no need for external grid and no need for a regular combustion generator that you find on board hybrid cars.’

The group now hopes to market its technology for the defence industry and has signed development agreements with the Royal Norwegian Armed Forces and the UK’s Marshall Land Systems. A fuel-cell unit being developed in collaboration with Marshall is expected to be ready for market launch by mid-2011.