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Old 08-19-2017, 09:04 AM   #1
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The Fuel Cell

After shaking out the solar- / battery capacity thing, I conclude that extended off the grid RV use such as the AI, requires a mix of solar production and storage as well as some sort of power generation for times the sun does not shine.

No matter how you go about it, power generation via combustion engines will always be noisy and smelly to some degree.

However, there is the FUEL CELL: (as common literature explains it) 2H2+O2 to 2H2O + energy (electricity + Heat) Anode: H2 → 2H + + 2e-****** Cathode: O2 + 4H + + 4e-→ 2H2O

It’s quiet, no oil changes, little or no maintenance, keeps on going forever and so on, literature states. Sounds pretty simple, does it work? How much does it cost? Is this the wave of the future for auxiliary power sources or indeed for small power sources?

When we google up fuel for fuel cells we will find many fuel sources where hydrogen can be extracted.

The most obvious source is Hydrogen by itself, one of the more abundant elements in the earth surface. Though perhaps not ideally suited for RV use, we must stick with the simplest and obvious ones; propane, methanol, diesel and other organic matter that can produce gases.

There are systems presently available or close to, specifically directed to the RV market. These units all supplement solar charging and are self-contained with integrated voltage regulation, they typically produce 80 – 250 Watts, so that is 1.7KW up to 5.5KW in a 24 hour day. So a large system with appropriate battery storage could power an AC at least during the hot parts of the day though perhaps not suited for a sprinter van.

Units I came across (some not yet available and only one has a listed price tag) are:

EFOY made I Germany and using proprietary and rather expensive methanol for fuel.

WATT “Worry-Free Power Supply & Management” Propane powered and not yet on the market.

Protonex P200i propane powered (not sure whether this is available and at what price)

The P250i a propane powered unit from USSI Fuel Cell Products, mostly used for military purposes and remote power needs for institutions where money is no object (read very expensive)

And lastly, here is an interesting one that is on the market in Europe, mostly used in the Marine industry but also RV’s

Hydromax 150 fuel cell system, the fuel; two water based solutions, salt (hydrofuel) and malic acid (aka apple acid). These fuels are purchased in power form and are proprietary. However you mix the solution with water yourself. This is a 180W fuel cell power supply which would be ideal for an AI RV. The box weighs 20lbs and is 15.7x7.5x10.5”. How is that for a “generator”
They claim it runs for 10 days @ 2.5hr/day with 30Amp/day output.

Cost is definitely what would keep one away from this type technology.

It would be great to hear from the experts out there who have looked into the fuel cell subject and perhaps have experience with this, the PRO’s and CON’s.
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Old 08-19-2017, 10:49 AM   #2
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Fuel Cells have been the holy grail of power generation for several decades. Hardly a year goes by without some company announcing a "breakthrough" in technology, yet so far nobody has come up with a viable system for the average person. Only the government has been able to afford these systems (think International Space Station).
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Old 08-19-2017, 11:03 AM   #3
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As mentioned in another thread- I used what is now the EFOY direct menthonal fuel cells for a number of years.
They work very well, quiet, reliable and just a bit of CO2 for exhaust.

Not cheap, and this application was at mountaintops where winter access is impossible, and solar panels will get covered in snow and rime ice. Plus months of poor weather and northern latitudes.

Initial expense is high, methonal is a bit expensive, but not outrageous for the output.

I would say still too expensive unless other alternatives will not work.
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Old 08-19-2017, 11:11 AM   #4
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I was working on LNG vehicle fuel systems a few years ago, and we wanted to deal with the boiled off NG from our cryogenic LNG tanks. A key market was heavy truck. Those vehicles could often take advantage of auxiliary power units for the sleepers. One proposal was to use the Delphi fuel cell APU, running on natural gas vented from the cryogenic tank.

http://pdf.directindustry.com/pdf/de...88-279083.html

Ballard is a local company (Vancouver) with products for OEMs, including backup power modules alongside their vehicle energy storage systems. I haven't worked with Ballard myself, but being in a related alternate fuel product development business in the same city, we hired a lot of engineers from each other, so there was some cross pollination.

http://ballard.com/fuel-cell-solutio...-power-systems

Hyundai has announced their next fuel cell electric vehicle for 2018 production. That news crosses over to the recent EV threads as this is an electric vehicle with extended range. Important to consider the hydrogen as a component of a type of battery, not an energy source, IMO.

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/...ming-next-year
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Old 08-19-2017, 12:02 PM   #5
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I dug out the info on the Delphi development project from 2012 for those interested.

This was a solid oxide fuel cell, able to run on diesel, natural gas, etc. Better fuel consumption than a similar diesel generator. The original test unit was 800 watts, then 3 kw. The proposed commercial product was 5 kw. Designed as an auxiliary power source for over the road trucking, to avoid extended idling.

Issues in the early tests related to sulphur in the diesel fuel used.

This type of product is representative of what an APU for an RV could look like. Fuel choice could be same as the tow vehicle. Quiet and clean. Expensive, especially until mass production starts up.

http://articles.sae.org/8222/

https://www.trucknews.com/products/p...pu-technology/

https://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs...ssy_2013_o.pdf
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Old 08-19-2017, 12:51 PM   #6
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GM and Honda combined their solo efforts several years ago. Its actually not too far off, but still expensive. Deliveries of viable GM product to the military is in progress.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money...cks/463896001/
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Old 08-19-2017, 02:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus54 View Post
I used what is now the EFOY direct menthonal fuel cells for a number of years.

I would say still too expensive unless other alternatives will not work.
Not necessarily too expensive.

At this web page:
https://www.efoy-comfort.com/which-model
their "calculator" recommends an EFOY-Comfort 140 for my Airstream Interstate. Price about $4300 at Fisheries Supply in Seattle. One 10-liter methanol canister provides about 925 amp-hours of charging and costs about $80. Round figures, a little less than $1 per 10 amp-hours produced, or maybe $7 per day of boondocking in my mostly-electric Interstate. That's cheaper than the propane my on-board Onan generator will burn to produce the same number of amp-hours of battery recharge.

The real problem for me is, there is one dealer one the east coast, all the rest are on the west coast. It might be great for folks in NorCal, Oregon, or Washington, or the Carolinas. But here on the Gulf Coast shipping from a dealer would greatly increase the unit cost of fuel canisters and tip the cost comparison back in favor of available-anywhere propane.
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Old 08-19-2017, 05:27 PM   #8
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We bought ours from the distributor- I was thinking it was in the south someplace...
I'll see if I can dig up the contact info and see what he may have.

I guess with your latest info, maybe not so bad at all. I like it a LOT better than a generator, no way you could hear it run if you had it mounted away from living quarters. Even when running it is very quite.
Note they should not be frozen, so had an auto start system to keep them warm in freezing weather.

Ok- I found it. It used to be called 'SFC'.
They used to have a couple of our sites on their website.

1. Warranty

SFC Energy, INC. provides this Limited 12 Month Warranty for up to 4,500 hours
of operation for EFOY Pro fuel cells. The original purchaser may at the time of original purchase only purchase an extension of this Limited Warranty for an additional 12 months, for a total of 24 months
up to 4,500 hours of operation. Any such extension of this Limited Warranty will be evidenced by a
separate document.

2. Service and Warranty Contact Information

During normal business hours (East Coast time), please contact:

SFC Energy, Inc
1787 Willa Circle
Winter Park, FL 32792
Telepone: 1-240-328-6688
Fax: 1-240-328-6694
EMail: Service-USA@sfc.com

Web Site: www.sfc.com
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Old 08-19-2017, 05:42 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus54 View Post
Ok- I found it. It used to be called 'SFC'.
They used to have a couple of our sites on their website.

During normal business hours (East Coast time), please contact:
SFC Energy, Inc
1787 Willa Circle
Winter Park, FL 32792
Telepone: 1-240-328-6688
Fax: 1-240-328-6694
EMail: Service-USA@sfc.com

Web Site: www.sfc.com
EFOY has three product lines, Pro, GO! and Comfort. Comfort is for boats and RVs and residential. Go! is portable. Pro is for large buildings. SFC apparently doesn't handle the Comfort line of products, only the Pro and GO! lines. That must be why the EFOY website's dealer locator didn't flag them when I was looking for dealers that handle the Comfort 140.
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Old 08-20-2017, 07:31 AM   #10
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Ah- I see.
We had the 'Pro' line and I've never really looked at the others.
I'll have to look back into them.

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Old 08-21-2017, 10:26 AM   #11
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You can find methanol sales near every drag strip in the country. It's typically 99.95% pure. I don't know what makes up the .05% but it would be nice to know if it would foul the catalyst.
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Old 08-21-2017, 01:14 PM   #12
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You can find methanol sales near every drag strip in the country. It's typically 99.95% pure. I don't know what makes up the .05% but it would be nice to know if it would foul the catalyst.
The problem isn't the methanol itself. It's the special canisters you need, that have moving parts on the inside, and that, to my knowledge so far, are not user-refillable.

More research is needed. If the EFOY canisters are user-refillable with methanol, then I'd only need two canisters, one to use and one to fill, and the benefit-cost ratio tips toward the fuel cell again.
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Old 08-21-2017, 04:05 PM   #13
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The problem isn't the methanol itself. It's the special canisters you need, that have moving parts on the inside, and that, to my knowledge so far, are not user-refillable.

More research is needed. If the EFOY canisters are user-refillable with methanol, then I'd only need two canisters, one to use and one to fill, and the benefit-cost ratio tips toward the fuel cell again.
The Hydromax 150 fuel cell has about the same price point as the EFoy C, though delivers 3600 Watt per 24hr day, use is 1.25 ltrs of fuel per KW.

So the mix for 10 ltrs of fuel is around $93.00 without shipping (powder form and you mix it with water) so that is around $11.60 per KW, that's some 100 times what the average household pays for electricity.

It may be a long time until the fuel cell replaces combustion engine power generation. So we can handle a little more noise for the time being. But it's an interesting development to follow, keep the knowledge coming.
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Old 08-21-2017, 06:06 PM   #14
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Something to consider with fuel cells is net energy. Since ethanol is net energy positive, it makes sense as a fuel (although there is a counter argument that says we should be eating our corn, not converting it to fuel, but that's another topic for another time.... ). Nissan is pursuing ethanol fuel cell development (vs. Toyota's direct-hydrogen approach) and plans to have it available in the market in 2020. In theory ethanol will be significantly less expensive to produce, and will be much safer to transport (vs. pressurized hydrogen). Many countries already produce significant amounts of ethanol for blending with fossil fuels, so availability should be much less of a problem vs. hydrogen.

Anyway, I agree, this is definitely an interesting technology to keep an eye on, and given recent advancements, may replace "dyno burners" sooner than you think....
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