Alternative Energy & Fuels

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US Fuel Cell Council: The Voice of the Fuel Cell Industry

30 Apr, 2009

By: Robert Rose

The US Fuel Cell Council (USFCC) is a membership association dedicated to commercializing fuel cells in all markets. Since its formation in 1998, the USFCC has established itself as the voice of our industry on technical, commercial and policy matters. We pride ourselves on being member-led and strive to be a full-service trade association.

Our members include fuel cell stack and system producers, major suppliers, automakers and their suppliers, universities, fuel cell customers, hydrogen and other energy providers, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and allied trade associations. About one-third of our membership has corporate headquarters outside the United States.

USFCC has formal or informal standing in technical venues, and working relationships with other associations around the world that have similar missions. We are a visible and effective advocate for fuel cell-friendly policies in the United States and around the globe.

The fuel cell industry is emerging from the laboratory at a rapid pace. More than 50 products are listed on our Fuel Cell Products List. Significant sales are being booked in combined heat and power markets, goods movement, telecommunications backup power, recreational and specialty markets, to name just a few. These are stimulating sales and new interest in the supply chain.

Government support remains strong for research, development and deployment, often linked to fuel cells’ ability to utilize biofuels and other renewable fuels. New markets are in sight in consumer power, residential combined heat and power, and specialty vehicles. Interest has spread from the U.S. and Europe worldwide, notably to Korea, China, Japan, India and the Middle East.

The US Fuel Cell Council’s activities have kept pace with this commercial momentum. In 2008, the USFCC:

  • Continued their successful multi-year effort to obtain standardized international regulatory approval for cargo shipment of fuel cells and fuel cell vehicles, and approval to carry fuel cells and their fuels on passenger aircraft as carry-on baggage. The ICAO and the UN recognize the USFCC as the voice of the industry. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s approval as of January 1, 2009, effectively opens the door worldwide to fuel cell consumer products aboard aircraft.

  • Won a long term extension and an increase in the U.S. government tax credit for fuel cell installations, working with a coalition of advanced and renewable technology interests. Industrial fuel cell purchasers will receive a 30 percent tax credit, up to $3,000 per kilowatt; residential purchasers will receive up to $1,000 per kilowatt. The U.S. Congress made other significant changes and extended the credit through 2016. The Congress also expanded the credit for investment in hydrogen infrastructure. It also approved a 30 percent tax credit for investment in fuel cell manufacturing facilities.

  • Established a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to encourage federal purchases, and held workshops linking our members with potential federal agency purchasers.

  • Advised the General Services Administration on fuel cell purchase policies.

  • Advised California officials on details of their hydrogen infrastructure program.

  • Added to our list of technical publications designed to help standardize comparisons and develop the fuel cell supply chain for PEM fuel cell systems.

  • Led collaborations on a wide range of forward-looking issues, from hydrogen infrastructure and fuel quality to manufacturing, from safety to education and training.

  • Led or joined every significant dialogue on product standards and safety regulations.

 

 In 2009 our agenda includes:

  • Working with the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress to refine the role of fuel cells and hydrogen in the nation’s energy strategy.

  • Advocacy for an expanded public-private partnership to commercialize fuel cells and their fuels in federal energy policy, transportation policy and climate change policy, including R&D, purchases and market entry support.

  • Additional improvements in federal tax support programs for fuel cells and their fuels.

  • Robust funding for federal RD&D and purchase programs.

  • Work with state and regional governments on fuel cell policies and programs.

  • Outreach to potential customers and other audiences about fuel cells and their fuels.

  • Continuing technical, regulatory and product standardization activities to assure an industry voice. USFCC members and staff are involved in every significant code activity including leadership of standards-writing working groups and chairmanship of technical committees for national and international efforts.

Other Highlights
The USFCC has consultative status at the United Nations UNSCETDG and participatory status at the International Civil Aviation Organization. ICAO Technical Instructions provide for fuel cells and five fuels to be allowed as carry-on baggage. USFCC provides guidance to security personnel, screeners and airline professionals regarding fuel cell products approved for airline carry-on use by passengers. The USFCC is now working on clarifying the shipping regulations for fuel cell vehicles, including industrial vehicles.

The USFCC Joint Hydrogen Quality Task Force (JH2QTF) is a recognized leader on issues regarding hydrogen contaminants, stack poisoning and testing/protocol development. Under leadership of the Materials and Components Working Group, a second series of blind round robin MEA tests were conducted and new protocols and technical papers have been published.

Work is under way in Single Cell Testing, Durability Issues, Gas Diffusion Layer Testing, Conductivity Testing, Contaminants, Gaskets and Solid Oxide Fuel Cells.

Publications
The USFCC publishes several periodicals, fact sheets and brochures, including a free monthly Fuel Cell Connection, a survey of fuel cell and hydrogen R&D and sales opportunities. Our Weekly Currents and Legislative Update, for members only, provide up-to-the-minute information. Our Media Guide reaches hundreds of media outlets with member information and contacts.

Application-specific brochures and fact sheets showcase the technology and provide member visibility. A new Power Generation brochure features members’ activity in full range of power sector applications.

Structure
The US Fuel Cell Council is member-driven. A Board of Directors, made up of the executive members, sets budgets, policies and direction. Topic-based Working Groups and various Focus Groups, open to all USFCC members, execute the Council’s programs and achieve its goals. Within these groups, members have the opportunity to interact with colleagues and with opinion leaders important to the industry. A Strategy Committee provides oversight and coordination of the Working Groups, and an Executive Committee provides financial supervision and policy guidance.

About Fuel Cells
Fuel cells use a chemical reaction, rather than combustion (burning a fuel), to produce useful energy. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are combined in a controlled reaction to produce electricity, water and useful heat. Fuel cells are a family of technologies; there are many family members. Common types of fuel cells are phosphoric acid, molten carbonate, solid polymer (or proton exchange membrane) and solid oxide, all named after the type of electrolyte they use. Because of their different materials and operating temperatures, they have unique characteristics, but all share the potential for high electrical efficiency, unmatched environmental characteristics and high reliability.

For more information about fuel cells or the USFCC, please visit www.usfcc.com.

About the Author

Robert Rose

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