Hydrogen Fuel Cell

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News: Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and KPIT successfully ran trails of India’s first Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) prototype car. It is running on an indigenously developed fuel cell stack at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. The fuel cell is a low-temperature PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) type Fuel Cell that operates at 65-75 degree centigrade, which is suitable for vehicular applications.

The PEM fuel cell technology includes the membrane electrode assembly. KPIT brought in their expertise in stack engineering, which included light-weight metal bipolar and gasket design, development of the balance of plant (BoP), system integration, control software and electric powertrain that enabled running the fuel cell vehicle. The fuel cell stack uses fragile metal bipolar plates, thus reducing the stack weight by about two-third.

In 2016, CSIR-NCL and CSIR-CECRI as part of the Industry Originated Project (IOP) category of the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) scheme partnered with KPIT for the development of an automotive-grade PEM Fuel Cell technology. Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) technology uses chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen to generate electrical energy, eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Further, the fuel cell technology emits only water, thus cutting down the emission of harmful greenhouse gases along with other air pollutants.

This technology is more suited for commercial vehicles (CV) such as buses and trucks. Battery electric buses/trucks require a large battery to achieve the desired operating range. In comparison, HFC technology requires a much smaller battery for a vast operating range. Hence, HFC technology offers more promise for the CV segment.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell :

A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. Both convert the energy produced by a chemical reaction into usable electric power. However, the fuel cell will produce electricity as long as fuel is supplied, never losing its charge.

It is an electrical power source for electric motors propelling vehicles. Fuel cells operate best on pure hydrogen. However, fuels like natural gas, methanol, or even gasoline can be reformed to produce the hydrogen required for fuel cells. Some fuel cells even can be fueled directly with methanol, without using a reformer.

In the future, hydrogen could also join electricity as an essential energy carrier. Renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind, cannot produce energy all the time. However, they could, for example, produce electric energy and hydrogen, which can be stored until it is needed. Hydrogen can also be transported (like electricity) to locations where it is needed.

Hydrogen Resources:

1. Solar: Sunlight directly or indirectly generates the energy to produce hydrogen.

2. Biomass: Biomass can be converted to hydrogen and other byproducts through several methods.

3. Wind: It generated electricity can power water electrolysis to produce hydrogen, which could be used to fuel vehicles, or stored and then used in fuel cells to generate electricity during times of the day when wind resources is low.

Source: PIB, https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/types-of-renewable-energy/hydrogen/#gref, https://www.energy.gov/eere/fuelcells/hydrogen-resources

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