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Fuel cell system proves as long-lived as conventional engine

A British company has developed a fuel cell system that’s been proven to be as durable as a diesel engine.

Acal Energy's FlowCath fuel cell system

Aside from cost and the use of precious metals, one other issue that has been holding back fuel cell cars, has been concerned about their longevity. But now Cheshire-based Acal Energy  has proven that its FlowCath chemistry engineering will enable hydrogen fuel cells to reach 10,000 hours’ runtime (that’s equivalent to 300,000 miles) on a third party automotive industry durability test without any significant signs of degradation. That’s double the US Department of Energy’s 2017 target for 5,000 hours (or 150,000 miles), and puts fuel cells on par with conventional diesel cars for the first time.

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.

Durable, cheaper, greener

Not only does Acal’s technology stand up to the stress and wear of daily, it’s also free of platinum, so it’s a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution too. Instead of platinum, there is a patented liquid catalyst, which ACAL Energy calls FlowCath. 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.

Importantly, the firm’s technology reduces significantly the total cost and weight of a fuel cell to enable carmakers to fit vehicles with a power output of 100kW- equivalent to that of a 2-litre diesel engine.

For the automotive sector, this means that cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells could be far more feasible for the mass-market, using a fuel cell system that is substantially cheaper, smaller, more sustainable and more durable.

Greg McCray, CEO of Acal Energy, 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”.

ACAL Energy is now planning to license its technology to companies in both the automotive and power sectors.

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Faye Sunderland

Filed under: Hydrogen fuel, Fuel Cells

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