Advent Technology allows automotive companies to combine methanol fuel cell and standard EV Li-ion technology in order to achieve the best of both worlds. Trucks, buses, utility, taxis, and SUVs are ideal candidates for this technology.
Heavy-use vehicles have been a focus for fuel cell companies as they require to be on the road continuously. Time to recharge (many hours), range, problems with batteries in very cold or very hot weather, and the weight of the batteries required make these a much tougher challenge for the Li-ion BEV market.
The hybrid Methanol Fuel Cell-Li-ion solution means that the vehicle is equipped with:
- A methanol tank (a mixture of 60% methanol and 40% water).
- A simplified onboard methanol-to-hydrogen reformer and an HT-PEM fuel cell that works as a range-extender.
- A Li-ion battery, significantly smaller in size.
The hydrogen is converted to electricity by the fuel cell, and that electricity is used to recharge the Li-ion batteries continuously.
- Range: A bus can go twice as far as before.
- Refill time and flexibility: The vehicle can refill in three minutes (methanol tank) vs. three to eight hours required for recharging. It has both options to recharge or refill based on economics, time-constraints.
- Weight: The weight is reduced significantly as half the Li-ion batteries are used (and still double the range). For trucks or any large vehicle, the power to weight ratio is one of the most important factors.
- Cost: The additional cost of the range-extender required is offset by the drop of Li-ion battery requirement (about half the battery size).
- Extreme weather operation: Li-ion batteries do not charge or discharge effectively during winter time (very cold temperatures) and have shortened life in hot weather.
Battery charge management: being able to maintain the battery in the optimum charge/discharge state dramatically increases the lifetime of the battery. Deep discharge typically shortens life. Overcharge shortens life. The range extender can charge for optimum battery life on the fly.
This is one of many potential industry applications that combine methanol, high-temperature fuel cells, and Li-ion batteries to achieve the best of all three approaches.
The solutions work in synergy, not antagonistically, and also support a path to inexhaustible green fuel use. The market of small marine vessels is the next to be considered.
Many vehicles with HT-PEM/battery are already on the road in China and Western Europe. It is a matter of awareness, supply chain development and expansion, and strategic decisions by the manufacturers. While the initial focus is on trucks and buses, the same model would make sense for SUVs, taxis and most large vehicles.
Marine vessels, security and military applications, drones, marine and airplane APUs, portable battery chargers, telecom tower backup systems, combined heat and power (CHP) systems are other applications of the methanol fuel cell technology. The opportunities for using liquid fuels like methanol to provide clean and cheap energy are endless. Each one of these markets addresses an immediate opportunity to cut GHG emissions significantly.
One of the major cost drivers of fuel cells is the use of platinum at the catalyst. Advent is in the process of bringing to market patented technology which aims to significantly reduce (cut by 90%) the amount of platinum needed.