Cost still biggest fuel cell hurdle

Manufacturers and governments have to make fuel cell technology more affordable, according to environment and industry experts.

Delegates at the opening of the tenth international Grove Fuel Cell Symposium in London on Tuesday heard that cost was the greatest challenge facing the industry.

However, speakers highlighted a growing need for the technology as an alternative to fossil fuels to help slow climate change and ensure secure energy supplies in the future.

Jan van Dokkum, president of United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Power, told delegates that manufacturers had to provide a more cost-effective alternative to the internal combustion engine and develop mass production techniques.

He said: “We have been working for the last five years to cost-reduce our fuel cells so that we can bring these units commercially to the marketplace.

“I think that is one area that we as an industry have not concentrated hard on.”

Mr van Dokkum added that he believed it was possible to reduce the cost of fuel cells from an average of $5,000 per kilowatt to just $50.

He argued that one way to help the general public to see the benefits of fuel cells as an alternative energy source in transportation was to use them in public transport.

UTC Power is currently piloting a number of hybrid electric fuel cell buses in the US and Europe.

Jim Skea, research director for the UK Energy Research Centre, called for greater support from governments during the development and introduction of new technology such as fuel cells.

Mr Skea added: “The challenge of environment and energy is huge, the needs are pressing, but the means to meet them are available.

“Many different communities are going to play their role and I think the fuel cell community has an especially important role to play.”

Kate Martin

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