Panasonic touts 'world's most efficient' domestic fuel cell
Every home should have one?
Panasonic has begun pitching fuel-cell technology as a new way to provide homes with electricity and cut their consumption of mains-sourced power.
The company also known as Matsushita said today it will put a home-use polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) system into production in June. It claimed the power pack can run for 40,000 hours and 4,000 start-stop cycles - enough for a ten-year operational lifespan.
The PEFC works in the usual way: hydrogen from the fuel and oxygen from the air combine across a pair of electrodes separated by an electrolyte. The electrolyte forces electrons produced by the reacting hydrogen and oxygen to travel around a circuit as a current. The process also generates heat and water.
Panasonic said its PEFC system has, running flat out, a power generation efficiency of 39 per cent - the world's highest for this technology, it claimed. The cell has a heat recovery efficiency of 55 per cent.
Panasonic's PEFC: coming to homes in 2010
It envisages its PEFC units being used alongside traditional electricity supplies, cutting a typical (Japanese) household's externally sourced power demand by 22 per cent, yielding a carbon emission reduction of 12 per cent.
Homes using the technology by participating in Panasonic's test programme used the units to generate between 500W and 1kW, the company said. The unit generates an alternating current at 50-60Hz, producing 100-200V.
The 86 x 78 x 40cm units weigh 125kg and have a fuel capacity of 200l.
PEFCs you can buy are still some years away. Panasonic has been testing its PEFC system since 2005, but it now wants to put the fuel cells into production in time for further field tests due to take place later this year.
However, even Panasonic doesn't expect to begin full-scale commercialisation of the technology until the 2009-2010 timeframe.
Micro-generation is good because:
- the electricity is produced near the point where it is consumed, reducing transmission losses and ultimately the amount of transmission infrastructure needed;
- the waste heat from the generator (and it's a lot) can be used for space and water heating, rather than being dumped in the sea, rivers or air.
However, micro-generation in the UK centres around using natural gas from the mains (see "Whispergen"), rather than carting around hydrogen in lorries, which seems like a daft idea.
I like the idea, I really do. But I don't really like the idea of dragging a 200 amp capable cable behind a high-ish power vacuum cleaner. There is no reason to generate at 12v instead of 100-200v. It just makes no sense.
Everything you own already has the step down transformer in it, or in the power adaptor if it needs one. There's lots of problems with transferring low voltage / high current power, even over the comparatively short distance of a house. For one: voltage drop from one side of the house to another would probably be enough to make TTL based electronics become a little unpredictable. Not to mention the fact that having main cables in your walls carrying anything up to about 500 amps is hardly safe, and would be incredibly expensive and impractical to implement on any sort of scale.
There’s a reason leccy is carried across the country at 40Kv. Low voltage / high current is just plain inefficient.
@Matt and @Coward
They're not claiming to be the *first*, just the most efficient to date...
>being used alongside traditional electricity supplies
Take a look at http://www.cfcl.com.au/, they're providing combined heat and power from the natural gas lines. They've just got a real production order from a european energy provider for 50,000 units.