Fuel Cells in Use

Stationary Power Potential Applications

In 2016, combined retail sales of electricity in Connecticut amounted to approximately 29 million megawatt-hours (MWh) for the residential, industrial, transportation and commercial sectors.  Connecticut’s load growth is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 1.19 percent over the next ten years. In addition, retirements of older, less efficient generation facilities, which may total approximately 740 megawatts (MW) of capacity, between June 2016 and June 2018, may put additional pressure on the electric grid.  To meet this current and projected demand, Connecticut’s residents rely on both in-state resources and imports of power. (see Connecticut Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Development Plan)

Fuel cell technology has high value and opportunity to help meet the projected increase in demand and need for new generation capacity with clean and high efficiency distributed generation (DG) located directly at the customer’s site.  DG and energy storage will increase efficiency, improve end user reliability, and reduce emissions.  This technology can also provide opportunities to maximize the efficiency and cost effectiveness of fuel cells with combined heat and power (CHP) applications. The use of CHP helps increase the efficiency of on-site energy use by recycling waste thermal energy  for many end use applications, including hot or chilled water, space conditioning, and process heat. Targets for CHP distributed generation (DG) include schools, hospitals and other mission critical facilities. There is also an opportunity for tri-generation to simultaneously produce heat, power, and hydrogen for storage and/or transportation. (see Fuel Cell Distributed Generation: Cost, Value, and Market Potential)

Map of existing and approved fuel cell projects in Connecticut

 Transportation Applications

Government and industry are now investigating the use of hydrogen and renewable energy as a replacement of hydrocarbon fuels in the transportation sector, which accounts for 30.3 percent of Connecticut’s total energy consumption. FCEVs have several advantages over conventional vehicles (see Table 4) and can reduce price volatility, decrease dependence on oil, improve environmental performance, and provide greater efficiencies.  Targets for FCEV deployment and hydrogen infrastructure development include public/private fleets, bus transit, and specialty vehicles. Zero emission FCEVs could replace existing conventional fleet vehicles in Connecticut. FCEVs have advantages over conventional technology and can reduce price volatility, decrease dependence on oil, improve environmental performance, and provide greater efficiencies, as follows:

  • Zero emission FCEVs could replace existing conventional fleet vehicles in Connecticut, starting with 548 passenger vehicles, providing annual CO2 emission reductions of approximately 2,600 metric tons and NOx emission reductions of approximately 1.3 metric tons.
  • The introduction of 43 zero emission fuel cell electric buses (FCEBs) in Connecticut could reduce annual CO2 emissions by approximately 3,800 metric tons and NOx emissions by approximately 0.9 metric tons.

Automakers are now making plans to comply with a ZEV program, which is modeled after the California ZEV Action Plan. Originally, eight (8) states committed and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) requiring large-volume automakers to sell approximately 3.3 million ZEVs between 2018 and 2025, 1.24 million of which are defined as “ZEVs (Electric and/or Hydrogen Fuel Cells)”. Additionally, a 2012 Preliminary Study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) projects deployment of approximately 117,000 to 205,000 FCEVs in the Northeast region by 2025. Automakers have indicated that they plan to introduce hydrogen FCEVs by 2015. As one of the eight states that has signed this MOU, Connecticut has the potential of deploying approximately 80,000 FCEVs by 2025. The expected result of this deployment will be high efficiency vehicles that require less fuel and produce very low or zero tailpipe emissions.


Light/Medium Duty Vehicle Fleets

There are over 11,725 passenger fleet vehicles classified as non-leasing or company owned vehicles in Connecticut. Passenger vehicles at transportation hubs for fleets are good candidates for hydrogen fueling and the use of FCEVs because they mostly operate on fixed routes or within fixed districts and are fueled from a centralized station.  As illustrated in the “Connecticut Market Potential for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Transportation Applications 2017,” clusters of fleet vehicles in Connecticut are located primarily in the Hartford, New Haven, Wallingford, and Stamford areas. (see Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles: A Business Case for Clean Transportation in Connecticut)


Bus Transit

There are approximately 921 transit buses that provide public transportation services in Connecticut.  Although the efficiency of conventional diesel buses has increased, these vehicles have the greatest potential for energy savings by using high efficiency fuel cells.  FCEBs have an average fuel economy of approximately 7.9 miles per kilogram of hydrogen, which equates to approximately 7 miles per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE). The average fuel efficiency of conventional diesel transit buses is approximately 3.87 miles per gallon. The use of hydrogen has the potential to reduce diesel fuel use by approximately 8,800 gallons of diesel fuel per vehicle, per year.  (see Fuel Cell Electric Buses: A Business Case for Clean Transportation in Connecticut)

Specialty Vehicles

Specialty vehicles, such as material handling equipment, airport tugs, street sweepers, and wheel loaders are used by a variety of industries, including manufacturing, construction, mining, agriculture, food sales, retailers, and wholesalers.  Batteries that currently power some equipment for indoor use are heavy and take up significant storage space while only providing up to six hours of run time.  Fuel cell powered equipment has zero emissions, a lower annual cost of ownership, and almost twice the estimated product life than battery powered equipment.  Fuel cell powered lift trucks can be operated indoors, can operate up to eight hours before refueling, can be refueled quickly (2-3 minutes), and eliminate the need for battery storage and charging rooms.


Hydrogen Infrastructure

Hydrogen refueling infrastructure, consisting of production or delivery, storage, and dispensing equipment, is required to support FCEVs, including light duty passenger vehicles, buses and material handling equipment. While costs for hydrogen refueling infrastructure typically range from $1,000,000 – $3,260,000 per station, it is possible that construction of these stations could be backed by private sector financing or developed publicly in conjunction with deployment of high efficiency ZEV fleets. (see Hydrogen Fueling Stations: A Business Case for Clean Transportation in Connecticut) For example, Proton OnSite/Nel has developed a hydrogen fueling station in Wallingford, CT and Air Liquide is currently constructing hydrogen fueling stations in the Northeast, including Hartford, CT, and nearby Braintree and Mansfield, MA to support the initial deployment of FCEVs in high population density areas.

Map of hydrogen fueling stations in the Northeast US


Portable Power

Fuel cells can be used to power a variety of portable devices, from handheld electronics such as cell phones and radios to larger equipment such as portable generators. Other potential applications include laptop computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and handheld video cameras-almost any application that has traditionally used batteries. These fuel cells have the potential to last more than three times as long as batteries between refueling. In addition to these smaller applications, fuel cells can be used in portable generators, such as those used to provide electricity for portable equipment.

Source: U.S. Dept of Energy