Cummins says fuel cell mobile power available in 2 to 3 years

24 August 2009

Xin Li, fuel cell specialist at Cummins Power Generation.

Xin Li, fuel cell specialist at Cummins Power Generation.

Cummins Power Generation said mobile power products using fuel cell technology could be commercially available within two to three years, with larger 100 kW stationary units available in seven to 10 years.

Cummins is focusing on solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) products. These operate on a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide and can be used with existing fuels such as natural gas, with by-products being water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide. They offer advantages over fuel cells that require hydrogen gas, which is not widely available as a fuel.

Xin Li, a senior researcher in the fuel cell field who works as a technical specialist with Cummins Power Generation, said; "These units offered the potential to be manufactured at costs approaching conventional stationary power-generation technology."

Cummins said its SOFC power system - which has been co-developed with US fuel cell manufacturer Versa Power - has the potential to replace diesel powered generator sets in many applications and can provide virtually silent power with significantly lower fuel consumption and exhaust emissions than existing generator sets.

A prototype Cummins unit has produced 3 kW of electrical power and ran for over 2000 hours at Cummins Power Generation's test facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It operated at an efficiency of over 37%, compared to comparably sized small engine based generator sets where efficiency is generally well below 30%, said Cummins.

Xin Li said the SOFC solution offers numerous benefits; "The technology represents a highly efficient, clean emission (no exhaust treatment required) source of high quality AC power, which is compatible with other energy resources such as diesel generator sets, solar and wind.

"The power output is quiet making it more environmentally attractive than traditional engine driven generators, with low vibration levels, and the whole system boasts the added appeal of low maintenance".

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