SOFC auxiliary power systems can save 85 percent of the billion gallons of fuel consumed annually in the U.S. during extended idling of heavy trucks
A Delphi-led team working jointly with DOE's Office of Fossil Energy has achieved all Phase 1 goals of the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA), according to Wayne Surdoval, DOE's SECA program manager.
The Phase 1 test, completed by Delphi in April and validated by the DOE in May, included four key performance and cost goals. The DOE determined that Delphi's SOFC unit met them all:
* Peak Power Performance -- Delphi's SECA demonstration system produced peak power of 4.24 kW on methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, achieving the goal of 3-10 kW.
* Peak Efficiency -- Delphi's system demonstrated a peak efficiency of 37 percent, exceeding the Phase 1 goal of 35 percent.
* Power Degradation -- Delphi's demonstration system matched the durability goal with power degradation of just 7 percent over 1,500 hours of operation.
* Factory Cost -- For factory cost, Delphi also met the Phase 1 goal of $800 per kW for the total power unit, assuming volume production, by achieving an estimated $770 per kW.
"The Delphi team has passed an important test," said Surdoval. "In meeting SECA's Phase 1 goals, Delphi has delivered to DOE's National Energy Technologies Laboratory a fully operational, highly compact demonstration system, capable of meeting the space constraints of many potential mobile and stationary power applications. Their leadership at the systems level has greatly advanced this team's progress toward a modular, broadly applicable SOFC power system by 2011."
Under SECA, Delphi has teamed with science and technology developer Battelle, its Pacific Northwest Division, and the DOE to aggressively reduce the SOFC system's cost, as well as its mass and volume, while increasing its efficiency and durability.
The DOE identified the SOFC as one of the more promising ways to generate electrical power more cleanly and efficiently for a wide variety of stationary and mobile power applications. Coordinated by the DOE, SECA is currently undergoing a 3-phase, 10-year program that began in 2001 to develop the SOFC technology to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, while mitigating environmental concerns. SECA's Phase 1 goals called for industry-led development teams to make meaningful progress in achieving cost, performance and durability improvements.
A major challenge is that the technology is difficult to develop, as it is based upon a whole new class of multi-layered ceramic materials. Additionally, the SOFC unit must be powerful and small enough for practical applications -- yet durable enough for years of trouble-free operation, as well as cost-effective to manufacture and for customers to buy.
"We're proud of the progress we've made during the past seven years developing this technology and we remain committed to maintaining our leadership in bringing this innovative SOFC technology to the global marketplace," said Guy Hachey, president, Delphi Powertrain Systems. "We have a fantastic opportunity to make cleaner and more energy-efficient electrical power systems, not only for vehicles and other mobile equipment, but also for stationary power generation."
Next Step: Delphi, DOE move into Phase 2 of the SECA program
Delphi and the DOE will continue its partnership under SECA, said Mary Gustanski, director of engineering, Delphi Powertrain Systems.
"Working with the DOE, we will proceed to Phase 2 of the program," Gustanski said. "Phase 2 will be a 3-year, cost-shared contract between Delphi and the DOE, valued at more than $45 million. Phase 2 goals will be to reduce the SOFC system factory cost to less than $600 per kW, to increase efficiency to 40 percent or more, and to further increase power density. The Delphi team will also work to increase durability, particularly to withstand more thermal cycles."
Ultimately, SECA's final goal in Phase 3 is to deliver an SOFC power system capable of 40 percent or greater efficiency at a factory cost of $400 per kilowatt. This performance will open up a wide range of mobile and stationary applications for this ultra-clean power generation technology, from small-scale multi-kilowatt auxiliary power systems for vehicles and homes to larger-scale multi-megawatt industrial and utility fuel cell power plants.
"Achieving the goals of the SECA partnership is important for U.S. economic, environmental and energy security concerns," said DOE's Surdoval. "Not only will Delphi's fuel-flexible SOFC system provide clean, efficient electrical power for vehicles of all sizes, but its modularity will enable economies of scale in manufacturing SOFCs for near-zero emission, larger-scale stationary power plants as well, a key objective for the FutureGen initiative."
Delphi's history in developing SOFC technology
Delphi has been developing SOFC systems since 1999. After demonstrating its first generation SOFC power system in 2001, Delphi teamed with Battelle under the SECA program to improve the basic cell and stack technology, while Delphi developed the system integration, system packaging and assembly, heat exchanger, fuel reformer, and power conditioning and control electronics, along with other component technologies.
Compared to its first-generation system in 2001, the Delphi-led team has reduced system volume and mass by 75 percent. By January 2005, the Delphi team was able to demonstrate test cells to DOE with power density more than required to meet the SECA 2011 goals.
"The latest testing demonstrates superior power density again, but this time in the form of complete fuel cell stacks, packaged and operating in highly compact, complete power units, about the size of a medium suitcase (2.3 cubic feet / 65 liters)," said Gustanski.
In addition to its compactness, another key advantage of the SOFC is its high system fuel-efficiency, particularly when its high temperature co-product heat can be used in combination with its high electrical output. For example, SOFCs can be teamed with gas turbines driven by the SOFC's co-product heat to potentially generate power at 55 percent to 80 percent thermal efficiency (depending on scale and fuel used). This is significantly more efficient than today's typical coal-fueled power plant thermal efficiency of 35 percent to 40 percent. By co-generating power on-site at industrial facilities, commercial businesses, or even residences, the SOFC's high-grade co-product heat will enable up to 90 percent efficiency in distributed, combined heat and electrical power (CHP) generation. Similarly, heavy-duty trucks will be able to utilize SOFC auxiliary power systems for both heat and electrical power when parked, to save 85 percent of the fuel that today they consume when idling their main engine, and likewise reduce idling emissions.
For the United States in total, extended idling of truck engines today consumes around a billion gallons of fuel annually, so the national potential for saving fuel and reducing emissions is significant.
While size and efficiency advantages are important for many potential applications, perhaps the SOFC's most significant advantage overall is its very broad applicability due to its inherent fuel-flexibility. With relatively small changes, SOFC systems can potentially operate on a full range of conventional and alternative fuels. This includes natural gas and conventional petroleum-based fuels like low-sulfur gasoline, diesel and propane; high-sulfur military fuels like JP-8 and jet fuel; low-CO2 renewable fuels from biomass like ethanol, methanol and bio-diesel; synthetic liquid fuels from coal and natural gas; and non-hydrocarbon fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia.
FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENT
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