f-cell: Good prospects for fuel cells

The market launch of fuel cells for stationary, mobile, and portable applications in houses, vehicles, and for self-contained power supply: This joint mission dominated the mood at the tenth international fuel cell specialist forum f-cell at the end of September in Stuttgart, Germany.

Stuttgart (eos) - 82 international speakers from 14 countries, more than 400 congress participants - 80 of them from abroad, 17 from Japan alone - more than 400 trade fair guests, participants in courses and business brunches, around 50 exhibitors: This year's tenth fuel cell specialist forum f-cell on September 27 and 28 in Stuttgart produced top figures in every area. They prove that the fuel cell industry sector is gaining in appeal on the way to the market. A major driving force for the positive development in Germany is the National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP), which will run until 2016. "In total, a sum of 1.4 billion euros is available from federal and corporate funds for the program that was started in 2008," reports Tilman Wilhelm of NOW GmbH National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology, which was represented at the f-cell with a large trade fair booth. "So far, 45% of the subsidies from the Federal Ministry for Transport, Construction and Urban Development have been approved and used for demonstration projects as well as research and development activities in all application fields of the fuel cell, for example in vehicles, household energy supplies, emergency power supplies, or recreational applications." Alongside the NIP, NOW also coordinates the so-called "electromobility model regions": "By January 2011, we want to have 2,800 battery-driven electric vehicle - pedelecs, electric scooters, passenger cars, small commercial vehicles, trucks, and hybrid buses - on the roads in the eight regions across Germany and to have established a corresponding charging infrastructure," says Wilhelm.

f-cell 2010 with extended range of topics
For the first time, the f-cell specialist forum 2010 also offered lectures and booths on the topic of battery-driven mobility under the motto "Fuel cells and batteries move the future". "These two areas, which the public often incorrectly regard as competing areas, are coming together to an increasing degree," says Peter Sauber, managing director of the "Peter Sauber Agentur Messen und Kongresse GmbH", which has been organizing the "f-cell" jointly with the "Wirtschaftsfrderung Region Stuttgart GmbH (WRS - regional economic promotion) for ten years now. The Managing Director of the economic promotion agency, Dr. Walter Rogg, also emphasizes the close connection: "The regional economic promotion agency is not only event organizer of the f-cell but also the regional control center of the "electromobility model region". Batteries and fuel cells have their specific strengths and complement one another." Sabine Sadjak, branch office manager of the Fuel Cell + Battery Alliance in Baden-Wrttemberg, which has also been focusing on battery technology since January 2010 and represents a total of 70 members from business, science, and politics, confirms this: "The combination of fuel cells and batteries offers the greatest potential for future drive concepts, as it combines an environmentally compatible drive concept with high ranges."

EnBW: 222 fuel cell heaters for Callux
With numerous private and municipal test participants, EnBW Energie Baden-Wrttemberg AG is also investigating both fields: The company has 500 eBikes on Stuttgart's roads, currently the largest electric fleet in Germany. In the research project MeRegioMobil (Minimum Emission Region), EnBW is leading a consortium that aims to develop an intelligent charging and billing infrastructure with its partners. The company is also testing fuel cell heaters within the framework of the large-scale fuel cell practical test, Callux, which is promoted by NIP. "One of the systems was put into operation a few weeks ago in our newly opened company-sponsored day care center in Stuttgart, supplementing the photovoltaic system on its roof," explains Markus Edel, EnBW project manager for fuel cells. It was possible to view this system on site in Stuttgart in EnBW City within the framework of the f-cell. In total, the energy supplier is planning the installation of 222 systems in the next few years. In Japan, the manufacturers of fuel cell heaters have already sold thousands of devices to final customers. "However, this is only possible due to high subsidies from the state," reports industry consultant Takehiko Kato, president of Interlink Corporation. "How long these will continue to be paid, however, is an open issue following the change of government."

Baden-Wrttemberg is getting three new H2 filling stations
The Ministry for Environment, Protection of Nature and Transport will promote further hydrogen filling stations with funds from the state infrastructure program. Three specific cooperations are under way in this area, reports Stefan Gloger, head of the research, environmental technology, and ecology department: An additional hydrogen filling station and a generation and storage concept are planned with EnBW at the large gas container in Talstrae in Stuttgart. At the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) on the North Campus in Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, a hydrogen filling station with supplies from regenerative sources is to be created to supply fuel-cell-driven buses traveling to the South Campus. A hydrogen energy chain consisting of an electrolyzer, hydrogen tank, and also a discharge point is being prepared at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg. A letter of intent is about to be signed for these three infrastructure projects.

Vehicle manufacturers see potential in batteries and fuel cells
Representatives of Daimler AG as well as other manufacturers - Renault Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota were also represented at the f-cell - stressed that they see potential in both batteries and fuel cells. "The production of 500 battery-electrical-driven A-Class E-CELLs is just starting up in Rastatt," said Dr. Christian Mohrdieck, head of development for fuel cell drives at Daimler in Kirchheim-Teck/Nabern. Customers will be able to purchase the smart fortwo electric drive as early as 2012. "Our latest generation of the fuel cell car - the B-Class F-CELL - has also been produced under series production conditions since the end of last year. The first of 200 vehicles will be delivered to customers in the near future. For the fuel cell drive, we are now working above all on reducing the costs. The aim: From 2015 onwards, a worldwide total of several hundred thousand electric cars with fuel cell drives are to come onto the market step by step." The battery car is primarily a compact vehicle in urban traffic, whereas the fuel cell vehicle appeals to customers that frequently also drive long distances and also larger vehicles. The drive technology is also suitable for city buses.

Fuel cell power stations for companies & and local authorities
The industry still stands together - in all application fields: "Every acquired customer and every new fuel cell installation is a plus for the technology on the whole," said Thiam Hong Tay, Sales Manager at MTU Onsite Energy in Ottobrunn during a discussion at the trade fair booth. The company is the only German provider of fuel cell power stations (power outputs between 208 and 346 Kilowatts). The systems are particularly suitable for companies and local authorities, which operate them with natural gas or methane but also with biogas or effluent gas, enabling them to generate not only power but also hot steam and heat. "The systems are not yet competitive with regard to price, but subsidies within the framework of NIP make the "hot module" from MTU financially viable in many cases," reports Tay. A visitor to the congress, Simon Wittlinger from Geislingen, was interested in the technology, for example. The agricultural biologist is considering exploiting the bio energy potential in his farming operation for energy generation in future.

Business brunch for those - still - outside of the sector
Appealing to medium-sized companies that have so far had little to do with fuel cell technology or battery-electric mobility was the aim of the business brunch organized by the Wirtschaftsfrderung Region Stuttgart GmbH (WRS) (economic promotion agency) within the framework of the f-cell with a lecture, expert interviews, and a joint tour of the trade fair. "We had expected 30 to 50 participants, but instead approximately 90 people expressed an interest," said Johannes Pallasch, project manager of investor service at WRS. "The offer hit the spot. Many companies want to discuss their future possibilities in the hydrogen and fuel cell or electromobility sector. We provide the necessary support."

f-cell 2011: Note down this date
Anyone who wants to use the industry forum again next year to gather and pass on information as well as to make and refresh contacts is already invited: The f-cell 2011 will take place on September 26 and 27, as usual in Stuttgart.

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