Using fuel cells in recreational applications means no more smoky emissions and loud operating noises from standard generators, as well as longer lasting power and easier refueling than today's batteries. That should make everyone breathe a little easier.

Fuel Cells Breathe Easy in Great Outdoors

Jennifer Gangi | Fuel Cells 2000

Fuel Cells Breathe Easy in Great
Using fuel cells in recreational applications means no more smoky emissions and loud operating noises from standard generators, as well as longer lasting power and easier refueling than todayís batteries. That should make everyone breathe a little easier.
Fuel Cells Breathe Easy in Great Outdoors
By Jennifer Gangi, Fuel Cells 2000

On weekends and vacations, city dwellers flock to the country in droves, ready to escape the smog and the noise caused by the hustle and bustle of daily life. Replacing loud and polluting generators with fuel cells can help keep people breathing easy at campgrounds, lakes and other recreation spots while providing long-lasting power no matter what time of year.

The great thing about fuel cells is that they are being developed for every size and power load, have low-to-zero emissions (depending on the fuel source), and they donít have to be attached to the electric grid which makes them ideal for the weekend warriors as well as environmentalists who want to leave as small a footprint as possible while having their outdoor fun. Fuel cells are also rugged, able to withstand harsh weather and cold temperatures. Another bonus for campers is that fuel cells are quiet, so besides eliminating the smoky emissions, they also greatly reduce noise pollution. Fuel cells are suited for auxiliary power to power electronics onboard recreational vehicles (RVs) or boats, or to provide power at a stationary location such as a campsite or ranger station. Since they are extremely reliable and provide a longer runtime than batteries, fuel cells are also ideal for emergency backup power.

Fuel cells for portable applications usually range in size from less than 1 kW to 3-5 kW, depending on its purpose. Portable fuel cells can run on various fuels, such as compressed hydrogen gas, low temperature metal hydrides, and methanol, making them extremely versatile for campers and travelers.

A few overseas companies are really making strides targeting the recreational market - in fact; you can now select an SFC Smart Fuel Cell (SFC) as an option in Concorde, Dethleffs Corporation and Niesmann+Bischoff motor homes. SFC offers three different models of their Energy for You (EFOY) line Ė EFOY 1600, EFOY 1200 and EFOY 600, each named for the power output they produce. The fuel cells run on methanol and fuel cartridges can be bought at over 500 sales points in Europe - one EFOY M10 cartridge can supply a motor home with independent power for up to four weeks.

The EFOY fuel cells can be placed anywhere in the motor home, underneath the floor, or in a side or rear storage compartment. They weigh around 16 pounds and provide more power than solar systems, especially since they donít need the sun to produce energy. The fuel cells can also be used to recharge batteries for lanterns, cell phones and other equipment if needed.

Fuel cells as a whole are known to be rugged and durable and SFC has ensured that the EFOY fuel cell can operate under a wide range of temperatures and contains an antifreeze mode that automatically prevents the fuel cell from freezing.

Smooth Sailing Shipboard power is extremely important, whether you are aboard a luxury yacht with top of the line appliances, or a small sailboat using radios, GPS and other equipment to navigate. SFC also manufactures the MFC 100, a fuel cell designed for boats and marine applications. It provides 100 ampere-hours (Ah) per day and can be mounted below the deck, or above the deck outside, since it has a seawater-resistant outer shell. Using a fuel cell eliminates the need for the cooling fixtures or exhaust pipes generators use, not to mention the engine noise and vibrations.

Another company focusing on boating market is Voller Energy, based in the United Kingdom. Voller is currently developing a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell system that can run on a variety of fuels, including liquid petroleum gas (LPG), propane or butane. This product is designed for powering the 12V or 24V circuits onboard yachts, as well as in motor homes, and can even run on the cooking gas the stove uses. The system operates within a specified voltage range, switching itself on and off as the boatís power needs change.

Voller already sells the Fuel Cell ABC portable fuel cell system which can be used to recharge the batteries in portable electronic that some campers might not want to leave behind.

At the Campground

For those late night trips to the bathroom, Angstrom Power released its A2 micro hydrogen fuel cell flashlight in 2006. The 1 watt LED flashlight runs on hydrogen stored in the handle and can run for over 24 hours on a single charge. You can buy the fuel cell-powered flashlight now and if needed, a larger version of the system could be integrated into other portable devices such as a two-way radio. For mountain bikers, Angstrom also has the micro hydrogenô bike light. It can be affixed to a helmet or the handlebars and runs on a 21cc cartridge of hydrogen, equal to about 10 AA alkaline batteries. The light can last 20 hours between refueling, which can be done quickly, and you donít have to worry about recycling or disposing of numerous batteries on the trail.

There are several companies working on smaller units for portable or backup power. Millennium Cell Inc. has just entered into a joint development and licensing agreement with Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies to commercialize fuel cell products that provide over 20 watts of power. The first joint unit will be a 50W emergency power unit designed to provide recreational power in remote environments. Since they are extremely reliable and donít have to be connected to the electrical grid, the fuel cell could also support disaster relief professionals and park rangers, enabling communication during black-outs and out in the field.

So when leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind, why surround yourself with more of the same when you finally get outdoors? Using fuel cells in recreational applications means no more smoky emissions and loud operating noises from standard generators, as well as longer lasting power and easier refueling than todayís batteries. That should make everyone breathe a little easier.

 

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