Last Updated: February 2020 by Narasimhan Santhanam
This post is a part of EV Next’s EV Perspectives.
EV Next, a division of EAI, is a leading market intelligence & strategic consulting firm for the Indian e-mobility sector.
Fuel cells present a highly efficient and environmentally friendly alternative technology for decentralized energy production. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device which converts oxygen and a hydrogen-rich fuel to electricity with heat and water as the principal bi-products. The electricity produced can be used to power any electrical device, ranging from a few Watts to several MegaWatts in output. Fuel cells have the advantages of being highly efficient, low to zero emissions, near-silent, and able to run on a variety of fuel sources (particularly when used in conjunction with a reformer).
In addition, fuel cells are reliable and capable of providing uninterruptible power provided they have sufficient fuel. Indian fuel cell market is still in its nice stage, but there are major R & D activities happening in different research centres.
The following image, provided by the Centre for Fuel Cell Technology, ARCI, gives a birds-eye-view of the current research efforts taking place in the Indian fuel cell sector.
Hydrogen in Transportation Technology Development – Indian Scenario
|Organizations||Nature of Work|
|H2-ICE||BHU||Transportation Application- Demo-2,3,4 wheelers|
|Universities, IITs||Transportation Application- Studies|
|Bajaj, Birla, M&M, AL, Kinetic, Tvs||Transportation Application- Demo-2,3 wheelers|
|Alkaline Fuel Cells||Bajaj, Brilla||Transportation applications|
|PEM FC||TATA & ISRO||System integration using bought out stack, Simulation for application|
|REVA||System integration using bought out stack, Simulation for application, 4 Wheelers|
|Bajaj, Birla, M&M, Reva, Tvs||System integration using bought out stack, Simulation for application|
|SSF, ARCI & Reva||4 Wheelers Demo, Range extender|
|M&M & ARCI||3 Wheelers Demo, Range extender|
|PAFC||Defense lab and Reva||4 Wheelers Demo,|
Comparison between Battery Technology and Fuel Cell Technology for EVs
|Battery EV||Fuel Cell EV|
|Uses Energy stored in batteries||The sored fuel reacts to produce energy|
|Limited by range on a single battery charge||Less range limitations as they can store more fuel. The main disadvantage will be lack of sufficient infrastructure for hydrogen fueling.|
|Takes time to charge because of the system limitation in accepting the charge||Hydrogen fuel cell fueling is similar to that of gasoline counterparts. Centralised stations will be needed to dispense high pressure hydrogen.|
|Batteries have a limited cycle life . They will start degrading as they perform charging and discharging cycle.||Hydrogen fuel cells don’t have this problem. The membrane used in fuel cells also needs replacement but their life time is longer than batteries.|
Potential Applications of Fuel Cells
- Can be used in CHP mode
- Industrial applications
- Surface transportation
- Residential applications
- Power supplies for personal computers, hospitals, health clinics, etc.
- Electrification of remote locations/villages
Thrust Areas in Fuel cells
- Development of low temperature, medium temperature and high temperature fuel cells for decentralized power generation, automotive and other applications.
- Research in materials, technology development and up-gradation of the performance of fuel cells.
- Production of cost competitive fuel cells in India.
- Applications of fuel cell technology.
- Creation/expansion of infrastructure to support production and applications of fuel cells.
Ongoing Projects in Fuel Cells
- Development of Direct Alcohol Fuel Cell and Test Protocols (IIT Delhi).
- Solid Oxide Fuel Cells that operate directly on hydrocarbon feedstock (IIT Delhi).
- Development of High performance intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells (IT-SOFC) by low cost ceramic processing techniques (IMMT, Bhubaneshwar).
- Design and development of Alkaline fuel cell : Scaling up from bench scale i.e. 185 W to 500W (SICES Degree College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Ambernath (W), Mumbai).
- Development of high performance direct Methanol Fuel Cell (University of Calcutta).
- Development of PEM For fuel cell by plasma process (Institute of Advanced Study in Science Technology, Guwahati).
- Development of Non-fluorinated Polymeric Membrane for Direct Methanol Fuel Cell (Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi).
Achievements – Ongoing Projects
- Indigenous base for research & industrial production being established.
- R&D projects are leading to technology/process/material development.
- Prototypes of PEMFCs and PAFCs developed.
- The application of fuel cells demonstrated for decentralised power generation.
- A Fuel Cell (PEMFC)-battery hybrid van has been developed in the country and has undergone field performance evaluation.
- 3 kW capacity UPS based on PEMFC developed.
- Reformer for a 10 kW PEMFC system developed and tested.
Organisations working in fuel cells
- Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, New Delhi
- Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT), Bhubaneshwar
- Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL), Hyderabad
- Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CECRI), Karaikudi
- Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute (CGCRI), Kolkata
- Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (Goa Campus)
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi
- Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur.
- Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai
- National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune
- Naval Material Research Laboratory, Ambernath
- University of Calcutta, Kolkata
- SICES Degree College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Ambernath (W), Mumbai
- Institute of Advanced Study in Science Technology, Guwahati
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- Innovative EV Companies in India – Pioneering Indian Startups in Electric Vehicles – Batteries, Scooters, BMS…
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