At a meeting organized by the Institution for Energy and Technology (IET), representatives from the industry examined the role for hydrogen and fuel cells in rapidly growing world markets.

Dr Graham Cooley of ITM Power asked the question ‘Why use hydrogen vehicles?’ According to the McKinsey report entitled Portfolio of Power Trains for Europe, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are best used in urban areas and Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs) will be more suitable for longer distance driving, with long range, high speed and fast refuelling. Data from Toyota indicated that, based upon hydrogen produced from natural gas, the well to wheel efficiency of FCEVs is double that of the i.c.e. vehicle.  Another advantage of the FCEV is that the hydrogen fuel can be stored when demand for electricity is low, while PHEVs often require electricity at times of peak demand.

A major UK renewable energy project, called EcoIsland, is taking place on the Isle of Wight. A total of twenty FCEVs will be operating on EcoIsland, which will include four from the UK based company Riversimple and four from Hyundai.  Hyundai started limited production of 1,000 FCEVs this year and they plan to increase this to 10,000 per annum from 2013.

European hydrogen infrastructure progresses

The Hydrogen Mobility programme (H2Mobility) started in Germany, where 1,000 hydrogen refuelling stations are planned.  This is being followed by UKH2Mobility, which is making its first report at the end of 2012.  Other countries like Denmark, which is aiming for 100% green energy, are becoming involved.  The UK Technology Strategy Board is investing £9 million and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) has a map on their website illustrating the position of existing and planned filling stations.

Low demand electricity creates low cost hydrogen

ITM is focussing on the use of renewable hydrogen.  In September, wind comprised 8% of UK energy generation, the equivalent of 20% electricity capacity.  Sometimes when demand was low, it had to be turned off, which cost 21p per kilowatt hour (kWh) for 85 megawatt hours (MWh) of unwanted capacity.

UK peak winter demand for electricity is 60GW, of which about half is provided by continuously operating base load generators shown in blue. Variable demand is met mainly by ‘mid-merit’ generators which function inefficiently, rather like traffic stopping and starting in a jam.   The peak generators shown in red are hardly ever used.

ITM mid merit plant

In any one day only about 40% of UK power plant is utilised.   The storage of electricity turns mid merit plant into base load: when there is no demand for electricity, the electrolyser is turned on and the plant can operate continuously producing hydrogen.   The cost of the hydrogen is 3.5p/kWh, which is lower than the cost of diesel.   Sufficient can be stored to provide power for several days, or longer if required by adding another tank. If more than two hours storage is required, hydrogen can be more cost effective than batteries.   Excess hydrogen can also be sent to the gas board for injection into the gas grid.  ITM’s 80 bar electrolyser has a response time of one second, which makes it easy to plan the use of energy.

Government backing for hydrogen and fuel cells

Richard Kemp-Harper of the UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) said that they have announced a schedule for manufacturing, including scaling up and cost reduction. There is funding up to £1m for feasibility studies to reduce the investment risks. There are also funds for setting up European partnerships.  TSB is funding an increasing number of UK companies developing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, including Intelligent Energy, Johnson Matthey, Acal Energy, Rolls Royce, Microcab, Riversimple, Logan Energy, AFC Energy, Arcola Energy and UPS Systems.    They are also backing major projects in Aberdeen, London and the Isle of Wight.   So far, six refuelling stations are planned in the UK and there are further options to extend the hydrogen infrastructure on a national level.

Rapidly expanding global markets

Marge Ryan of Fuel Cell Today outlined the rapid developments taking place in global markets for hydrogen and fuel cells.  They are meeting the need for better back-up power to replace diesels, which are dirty and batteries, which have limited storage capacity. Smaller stationary fuel cell systems are being widely deployed in Japan and Germany and markets are growing for highly efficient larger fuel cells.  Thousands of portable fuel cells have been sold by EFOY to commercial markets.  Air Liquide and BOC are providing hydrogen for trucks and planes. Fuel cells for 4,000 forklift trucks have been supplied by GenDrive and applications for road transport have started with scooters, buses and cars. For all types, stationary, portable and transport, there was 39% growth in 2011 to 24,600 and 220% growth to 78,000 is expected in 2012.    Europe is focussing on fuel cells for transport and Asia and America on stationary fuel cells. South Korea’s Renewable Portfolio Standard gives fuel cells the highest rating.  The number of fuel cell systems shipped worldwide every year is expected to continue increasing. There is a large potential for fuel cells in telecommunications.  Influencing factors will be the market penetration of portable chargers, return to growth for auxiliary power units (APU) and the price of natural gas and feed-in tariffs, which will affect micro-CHP.   John Lidderdale of Logan Energy suggested that places that don’t have an existing infrastructure might proceed faster.

Displacing conventional power generation

Ian Williamson of AFC Energy said that fuel cells are a disruptive technology which will displace conventional power generation They are more efficient at all levels of utilisation as there is no combustion or intermediary mechanical steps. They are quiet and clean at point of generation and produce water rather than consume it. Water, heat and exhaust air have considerable local value.

Wholesale prices for electricity range from £54 to £55 per megawatt hour (MWh).  For the Grid it is £65 – £75 and the UK domestic price is £130 to £145/MWh.  AFC is aiming for niche markets, starting with the industrial sector. Stationary fuel cells have no size or weight limitations unlike applications in transport.    AFC is working with AkzoNobel, Air Products and Linc Energy.

Municipal and industrial waste

In the UK there is 60million tonnes of carbon based waste per year, the equivalent of 15,000MW of electricity operating.  The use of fuel cells can increase the output of waste-to-energy plants by 50%.   The Chlor Alkali industry produces the equivalent of £300m electricity as hydrogen per year.  AFC distributed power systems range from 160 – 200 kW, with a pilot production plant costing £180,000.  AFC will own and operate the small scale plants, selling energy not fuel cells.   The Industrial Chemicals Group (ICL) produces a tonne of waste hydrogen per day and is planning to use AFC fuel cells to install up to 1 MW of electricity generation to provide power at below grid prices.

Global markets for consumer electronics, transport and portable power

Dennis Hayter of Intelligent Energy explained that their markets are for consumer electronics, transport and portable power.  They are working with other companies which have an established route to commercialization.  In conjunction with Suzuki they have set up Smile FC System Corporation to develop and manufacture fuel cell systems for a range of industry sectors.    New markets are opening up as Japan aims for two million fuel cell vehicles and Korea prepares to supply 20% of the world’s fuel cells.  This hydrogen fuelling station in China is used by fuel cell buses and cars.

refuelling china

China and North America are leading in this field. California’s roadmap is for sixty-eight hydrogen fuelling stations in key locations supplying 20,000 vehicles by 2015.  Germany leads in the EU, with fifty refuelling stations announced, around two hundred retail stations planned for 2015 and over seven hundred for 2020.

UK hydrogen infrastructure built in three phases

Intelligent Energy’s London taxi is seen here in operation during the 2012 Olympic Games.

intelligent energy

UK H2Mobility involves the major automotive companies, Daimler, Hyundai, Vauxhall, Tata, Toyota and Nissan.  Refuelling stations will be built in clusters.  The first will be built in major population centres, which will be linked by 2020.  The next stage will be to extend close-to- home refuelling for 70% of the population and coverage of all major roads.

The aim is to cover the whole of the UK by 2030, by which time it is expected to have 6 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the UK roads.   In reply to a question, Dennis Hayter said that the cost of hydrogen is projected to be equivalent to that of gasoline by 2018, as the hydrogen is increasingly obtained from waste and also by load levelling for renewables.

Bridging the energy gap

John Jostins of Microcab said that the world is in the process of changing from fossil fuels to hydrogen from renewable sources.  The energy gap is leading to rising prices, insecure energy supplies and economic instability.    The C02 produced by fossil fuels is also having an impact on the environment. Microcab’s latest hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is the H2EV, which is based on 12 years of hydrogen fuel cell vehicle development. The H2EV can be manufactured in units of 5,000 or more. The Lotus built aluminium chassis weighs only 65 kgs.  It is a hybrid design with a 3kW Horizon fuel cell and a new DC/DC convertor from Arcola Energy.  It has a 4.3 kWh lithium battery and two 13kW motors. Microcab’s on road trials start with ten vehicles in October 2013, when a total of ninety hydrogen fuel cell vehicles take part in a European demonstration. There are limitless supplies of hydrogen in the UK – Scotland is the Saudi Arabia of renewables! Microcab Scotland was formed earlier this year.

Hydrogen replacing liquid fuels

Transport is changing, with problems of congestion, resource depletion and the need to reduce emissions. We are starting the electrification of drive trains, with new models of ownership and new ways of planning for the journey. The changing transport system will include alternative business models, non-motorized transport, more cycling and walking, autonomous vehicles, smaller cars and car clubs.   Nigel Holmes of the Scottish Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association said that hydrogen will improve air quality in London – the Marylebone Road is one of the worst polluted in Europe.   In reply to a question about using an i.c. engine with hydrogen, John Jostins said that the efficiency of the engine is too low.

Meeting the requirements of global customers

John Lidderdale said that Logan Energy has been installing fuel cells around the world since 1995. They are not manufacturers but are technology neutral and have installed Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFC), Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells (MCFC), PEM units from various manufacturers, a single SOFC and they have a new project with Ballard to install their 1MWe Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells.

logan cologne

In Cologne this 200kW PAFC powered by anaerobic digester gas has operated for eight years with availability of 93%.   Logan Energy has current contracts to install two 300kW MCFC in London, one in Regent Street and the other in Fenchurch Street. Electrical efficiency is over 47%, plus extremely good heat and air conditioning.   The annual savings under the carbon reduction commitment (CRC) for 600 tonnes C02 saved will be £18,000 at £30/tonne up to £42,000 at £70/tonne. Annual energy cost savings are projected to be £210,000. There has been no subsidy since 2008. A 1.4MWe system will be installed in London in 2014.

The UK is not doing enough about air quality.  The non-domestic use of electricity is rising by 11% per year, which could be generated with extremely low emissions by fuel cells. Four of Logan’s recent large scale projects and two at the design stage are not dependent on subsidy. In the USA, a 900kW MCFC at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is powered by digester gas.


In South Korea a 5.6 and an 11.2 megawatt electricity plus heat MCFC have been installed.   Logan Energy supplies fuel cells from 1kW up to megawatts. They not only generate electricity and heat, but quad generation can also provide cooling and hydrogen production.

Cutting fuel use and carbon emissions


Fuel cells have the highest efficiency of any technology and Logan Energy has the experience to achieve the best results for their customers. They cut energy use and reduce carbon emissions by between 40% and 100%, depending on the fuel.

Fuel cells for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Kevin Kendall of Adelan outlined the various programmes for fuel cells for aerospace. It started with Pratt & Whitney who utilised Francis Bacon’s alkaline fuel cell. Recently Boeing and Intelligent Energy used compressed hydrogen to power a UAV.  EADS Cryoplane is powered by liquid hydrogen, while the Boeing Phantom uses liquid hydrogen with an engine.  The Aerovironment UAV is powered by photovoltaics and hydrogen.   Adelan has developed a prototype powered by propane fuelled SOFC and lithium batteries. The 250W fuel cell has a stack weight of 2 kgs. UAV applications are for surveying, border patrol and security.  In the UAV industry, combustion is being replaced by electrics but at present flight is limited to one hour. Liquid hydrogen is suitable for large planes, but for UAVs propane with SOFC provides the best performance, with a lithium battery to give peak power for take-off.  Adelan will fly their UAV in the UK in 2013, with the support of the Technology Strategy Board.


Fuel Cell micro combined heat and power (mCHP)

Jeremy Harrison of EON explained the alternatives for power generation. Central power plant generates 45% of useful energy, combined heat and power systems 80% and micro CHP up to 90%. The central distribution of electricity has losses of at least 55%.   Even if there is district heating there are losses.  The losses for micro CHP are only 10%.

EON alt efficiency


Fuel cell micro CHP (mCHP)  is the most efficient way of generating electricity.  In a home the CHP unit is powered by the same gas supply as a boiler.  Homes can utilise the gas network to generate their own electricity and heat.  The gas network will evolve with ‘green’ gases which will require low investment.


The Stirling engine only generates 10% electricity, the rest is heat and losses.  The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) can generate 60% electricity, with 30% heat and 10% losses.  Householders will have the benefit of electricity worth 12p per unit (kilowatt hour) rather than gas worth 3p. There will equally be reductions in C02 emissions.   Japan has a different fuel cell system which generates more heat.  The UK potential for micro fuel cell CHP is up to 24 Gigawatts (GWe). It can make use of the existing gas infrastructure and route to market, as 1.5 million gas boilers are sold annually.   EON is working with CFCL which will provide the SOFC. In the UK, Ceres Power has a 1kW SOFC.  Electricity will be used more for electric vehicles and to power heat pumps.

How micro CHP (mCHP) supports heat pumps

The peak winter demand for heat is up to three times greater than that for electricity, requiring nearly 120 gigawatts.  The unmitigated cost of heat pumps to replace gas boilers would therefore be prohibitive.

EON gas and electricity demandannual

Energy efficiency measures and the deployment of micro CHP will be essential.

heat pumps EON

caption re heat pumps

For the electricity generators, the wide deployment of mCHP adds value to the energy system. It contributes to the Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) enables carbon displacement, improves frequency response and avoids network costs.

PEM fuel cells 40,000 hours operation

David Wardle of Ballard Power Systems said that they have four markets for their Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells:  back up; distributed generation; mechanical handling; and transport.   Costs are reducing dramatically and performance is no longer an issue. There has been a 60% cost reduction since 2008 and lifetime operation has increased to 40,000 hours. To date, Ballard has shipped 150 MW of fuel cells

ballard cleargen

Ballard’s larger scale system, over 1000 kW, is the ClearGen, which is now operational. For transport,     they have 40 buses and 300 cars in operation with lower total costs and lower environmental impact. It is planned to have 100 buses operational in 2013.  The fuel cells operate in all conditions, unlike batteries and diesel engines which don’t like low temperatures.  Ballard is aiming to halve the costs for telecom by improvements to the balance of plant.   During the past two years, they have bought Dantherm Power and Idatech.

Arcola involving the public in fuel cell launch

Ben Todd outlined the role of Arcola Energy, which supplies fuel cells from 1W up to 10kW, as well as hydrogen. Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies supplies 12Wh hydrosticks, which can store hydrogen from onsite renewable energy sources, from wind or solar power. In the UK Arcola supplies the fuel cells for Riversimple and Microcab’s vehicles.   The UK could take the lead with mass customization of hydrogen and fuel cells.  Ben Todd aims to get people involved, with top quality design and marketing.

To know more about the IET’s future Fuel cell events please contact Veena Gupta at The IET.











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