Plug Power breaks new ground in automotive fuel cells

provided by PRNewswire


n a significant achievement that brings highly efficient, zero-emission vehicles closer to commercialization, Plug Power announced today that it has demonstrated to Ford Motor Company an advanced automotive fuel cell system responsive to actual vehicle power requirements. Plug Power will be providing the system to the U.S. Department of Energy for further testing.

The development of this advanced proton exchange membrane (PEM) system is part of a $2.8 million joint program between Plug Power and Ford. Major funding for this program was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

This achievement represents an important move toward the creation of fuel cell systems capable of following the diverse power loads presented by a typical driving cycle. The Plug Power system performed exceptionally, closely replicating acceleration and deceleration conditions with sub-second responsiveness.

Plug Power's system comprised of auxiliaries needed to simulate operating an automobile exceeded its design specifications for power output during its test period, and provided maximum efficiency by adjusting its rate of fuel flow to required output levels.

In addition, the system attained 75 percent of its power in less than one-tenth of one second of operation, simulating the "cold start" capacity of a combustion engine.

"Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, GM and Toyota have, in total, committed more than $1 billion for development programs aimed at replacing the internal combustion engine with this clean and efficient technology," said Gary Mittleman, Plug Power's President and CEO. "Although fuel cells for automotive applications are a number of years away from commercial reality, they will clearly constitute a huge market. Our recent demonstration to Ford sing Plug Power's innovative technologies positions us as an industry leader in developing the automobile of the next millennium."

The U.S. Department of Energy funded the Ford/Plug Power program through its participation in the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV). PNGV is a public/private collaboration with the primary goal of developing an environmentally friendly automobile that is also more fuel efficient than today's midsize cars without sacrificing affordability, performance or safety. Ford Motor Company is also a member of PNGV.

Fuel cells have long been heralded as a solution to the environmental and fuel conservation challenges faced by the automotive industry. Fuel cells efficiently generate safe, reliable electricity through an electrochemical, rather than combustion, process. The commercialization of automotive fuel cell power generation systems will lead to zero emission vehicles that achieve at least double the fuel efficiency of today's cars. Major developments by companies such as Plug Power are bringing this technology to the forefront.

In parallel with its automotive fuel cell program, Plug Power is developing highly innovative PEM fuel cell systems for residential applications. Since June of 1998, the company has operated the world's first PEM fuel cell system to power a complete home. The residential system meets the energy demands of a 3,000 square-foot house even during peak energy-use hours without connection to a utility electrical distribution system.

Based in Latham, N.Y., Plug Power ( is a joint venture between DTE Energy Company, a diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services and parent company of Detroit Edison, Michigan's largest electrical utility, and Mechanical Technology Inc., an early developer of fuel cell technologies. Plug Power was formed to develop and manufacture fuel cells for electric power generation in residential and automotive applications. Formed in June 1997, Plug Power has grown from 22 to more than 150 employees, making it the largest PEM fuel cell company in the U.S. The National Energy Resources Organization awarded Plug Power the 1998 Research and Development Award for its fuel cell breakthroughs.