With low cost and low emissions, these planned 5kW fuel cell modules (left) can be stacked like bricks (right) for heavy use in industry and transportation.
Pittsburgh, PA —Fuel cells are expensive and weigh too much for everyday use, right?
The U.S. Department of Energy is challenging that assumption through a government/private industry project called the Solid state Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA), a government-funded consortium led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) here.
The group plans to create a low-cost solid oxide fuel cell that will produce 5kW power when it hits the market by 2010. Early specs call for the cell to run on fossil fuels. And it will be designed as a stackable, modular cell, so users with larger power requirements can join several together.
"The problem with fuel cells is that people develop systems and they build a couple hundred of them, but never enough to bring the cost down," says Wayne Surdoval, a project manager at NETL. Existing technologies have plateaued at $1,000 to $1,500/ kW, but the SECA goal is $400/kW, he says.
SECA envisions applications in automotive auxiliary power, and in complex electronics on military equipment.