Liquid catalyst aids fuel cell endurance

A patented liquid catalyst developed by ACAL Energy has enabled a PEM hydrogen fuel cell to reach 10,000 hours runtime on an automotive industry durability test without significant signs of degradation.

10,000 hours, the equivalent of 300,000 driven miles, is the point at which hydrogen fuel cell endurance is comparable to the best light-weight diesel engines under such test conditions.

This endurance 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. 

ACAL Energy said that over the last 16 months it has put its proprietary design fuel cell 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 ageing and to test wear on car engines and fuel cell systems over time.

Unlike a conventional PEM (proton exchange membrane) 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 dubbed FlowCath.

According to ACAL, this approach improves a PEM fuel cell’s durability and simultaneously reduces the cost of a system. The liquid acts as a coolant and catalyst for the cells, ensuring that they last longer by removing most of the known decay mechanisms.

Importantly, ACAL Energy’s technology reduces the total cost and weight of a fuel cell and enables a competitive fuel cell drive-train with a power output of 100kW, which is equivalent to that of a 2-litre diesel engine. Many of the world’s largest automakers including Hyundai, Honda and Toyota have announced plans to launch fuel cell vehicles by 2015. 

In a statement ACAL Energy’s CEO Greg McCray said, ‘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 six  top automotive OEMs.

‘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.’