Intelligent Energy Wins Most Successful Company at UKSPA Anniversary Awards

The UK Science Park Association (UKSPA) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Over that period, the UKSPA has encouraged the growth of Science Parks, Innovation Centres and Incubators up and down the country, fostering an ecosystem to encourage innovation and the growth of businesses like Intelligent Energy.

As part of the celebrations the Association held the UKSPA 30th Anniversary Summit over two days in the International Conference Centre in Birmingham. This included a gala Awards Dinner on 10th July to recognise the achievements of all those who have been involved with Science Parks and contributed to the innovation movement in the UK over the past 30 years.

At Intelligent Energy we’re delighted not just to have been nominated for, but to win the most coveted award of the night: ‘Most Successful Company’. The companies shortlisted were judged on a number of criteria including: innovative thinking, creation of new employment opportunities, development of new technology, application of funding and exploitation of new markets.

From left, Lesley Evans, Chief Executive of award sponsor, Haseltine Lake; Andy Spooner (Intelligent Energy); host for the evening, the BBC’s Michael Mosley; Anna Leather (Loughborough University Enterprise Office) and Dr Jon Moore (Intelligent Energy).

Intelligent Energy Brings Hydrogen Fuel Cells to the International Festival of Business 2014

On Monday 9th June, we joined some of the brightest lights from UK industry in Liverpool’s St George’s Hall as Prime Minister David Cameron took centre stage at the UKTI’s British Business Embassy (BBE). Described by Cameron in his opening address as “the biggest showcase of British industry since 1951,” the invitation-only event marked the launch of the International Festival of Business 2014. The event allowed British movers and shakers from across British industry – including the advanced engineering, automotive, aerospace and manufacturing industry sectors – to come together and show why the UK continues to be a hotbed of innovation.

DC at BBE

Intelligent Energy was invited to exhibit at the event where we took the opportunity to introduce delegates to a range of our advanced hydrogen fuel cell systems.

The first of our three showcases was the Upp™: a personal energy device incorporating Intelligent Energy’s innovative fuel cell technology in to a portable device which charges compatible handheld devices via USB. Upp allows users to power a range of portable electronic equipment such as smartphones, portable speakers, eReaders and digital cameras quickly, in fact as fast as the mains, –independently from the grid!

Upp

The automotive industry was one area of focus at the BBE, with some of the most impressive feats of British automotive engineering on display including the Mono single seater supercar, a Formula E racing car, and a McClaren racing car. We exhibited our own Intelligent Energy fuel cell taxi, a zero-emission vehicle which was used as a VIP carrier at the 2012 Olympic Games, as well as the world’s first purpose-built hydrogen fuel-cell motorbike, the Intelligent Energy ENV. These two very different vehicles, and indeed the Upp device, all serve to demonstrate the wide range of applications that Intelligent Energy’s scalable fuel cell technologies are now ready to address.

In addition to high level representatives from both Government and industry, a wide range of national and regional news also attended, with Steph McGovern interviewing Dennis Hayter, our Vice President of Business Development, live on BBC Breakfast News.

IE And BBC

One thing that was inescapable throughout the event was the importance of science and engineering to industry. David Cameron highlighted the need to balance the economy across multiple industries, not just financial services, with multiple speakers through the day reiterating the need to foster engineering talent from as young an age as possible.

The International Festival for Business 2014 continues apace and will run for 50 days across June and July with over 250 business events covering almost every industry sector. It is expected to generate £1.7bn worth of business with over 250,000 delegates arriving from over 125 countries.

Hydrogen safety – a matter of design

For anyone who visited Hall 27 at Hannover Messe this year it was clear that hydrogen is becoming widely accepted as a viable, sustainable energy carrier. Over 150 exhibitors from 25 countries displayed  hydrogen related products 8  ranging from automotive fuel cell power applications, residential generation (micro-CHP), distributed power generation to a wide array of grid scale ‘power-to-gas’ energy storage solutions.

Making hydrogen fuel safe for consumer use has ultimately been achieved through manufacturers’ rigorous product safety testing and third party design validation programs   to provide the same safety standards in hydrogen fuel delivery, storage and use that are achieved with fossil fuels today  23

The result of these efforts can be seen in the automotive sector by the release of the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell CUV in 2013 13   and both Toyota14  and Honda 15 announcing series production of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in the 2015 – 2020 timeframe which will  have undergone rigorous crash test and hydrogen storage tank safety testing to ensure vehicle and passenger safety 12.


Fig 1: Toyota at CES 2014 – Source: Toyota website http://www.toyota.com/fuelcell/

Toyota executive Bob Carter was widely reported at the Automotive News World Congress in January 2014 as saying that bullets from a small-calibre gun bounced off their carbon-fibre hydrogen fuel tank, and that a 0.50-caliber bullet barely made dents.2

Directive 2007/46/EC 24 establishes a framework for the approval of motor vehicles as laid down by the European Parliament and the Council. In January 2009 type-approval of hydrogen-powered motor vehicles was included in the directive with the addition of regulation EC No 79/200916. Hydrogen vehicle tank testing described in EC 79/2009 includes the requirements for impact damage testing, to provide evidence the tank can withstand specified mechanical impacts, and penetration testing to provide evidence that the container does not rupture when penetrated by a bullet. 7

The following excerpt from the Honda Clarity FCX website1 also provides a reassuring overview of other FCEV hydrogen safety features:

Hydrogen Safety 1

Sensors are located throughout the vehicle to provide a warning in the unlikely event of a hydrogen leak. Should such a leak occur, the ventilation system is activated and an automatic system closes the main cut-off valves on the hydrogen tank or supply lines as necessary. The high-voltage lines are electrically isolated. In the event of a collision, the system controller automatically shuts off the flow of hydrogen and electric current. Repeated flood and fire testing have confirmed a very high level of safety and reliability.

Refuelling Safety 1

Honda has taken safety precautions with regard to refuelling safety. To prevent reverse flow from the tank, the hydrogen filler inlet has an integrated check valve. The fuel intake mechanism is also designed to prevent contamination by other gases or the connection of nozzles designed for hydrogen stored at incompatible pressure levels.

Source 1 : Honda Clarity website: http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/hydrogen-safety.aspx

Hydrogen filling stations

To support FCEV introduction a growing number of hydrogen filling stations have opened globally to serve the early adopters of fuel cell technology. According to TÜV SÜD consulting services there are now 516 operational hydrogen filling stations safely operating worldwide today 6, with ramp-up plans to develop further stations in most global regions. The safety requirements for the transportation, storage and handling of compressed and liquid hydrogen for these stations is well understood and governed by established codes, standards and practices 17 18, since hydrogen has been used extensively in industrial applications and international space programs for the last forty years.

These well established and proven best practices, together with the continued development of global harmonized safety standards should ensure that consumers have confidence to switch from traditional fossil fuels to hydrogen, without concerns over refuelling or vehicle safety.

Portable hydrogen safety

In the consumer electronics sector, the successful third party safety validation of the Intelligent Energy Upp™ portable fuel cell charging system in 2014 was the culmination of considerable development to ensure that the product was safe for global shipment and sale. 22

(1)   ISO 16111: 2008 – (transportable gas storage devices), which defines the material, design, construction and testing requirements for hydrogen in metal hydride storage systems.

(2)   IEC 62282-6-100 – (Micro fuel cell power systems – Safety 2010) which covers the basic safety requirements for all micro fuel cell systems (fuel cell + cartridge).

International third party validation test houses, such as UL (www.ul.com), CSA (www.csagroup.org), TÜV (www.tuv.com) and Kiwa (www.kiwa-eup.com ), have worked with industry OEMs to provide bespoke test facilities to support the product certification of portable fuel cell systems for public use.21

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) have also issued guidelines that allow passengers to carry certified portable fuel cell devices and two spare hydrogen fuel cartridges on passenger aircraft in carry-on baggage 19   . This decision was a pivotal safety endorsement by the aviation industry for portable consumer fuel cell systems.

Fig 2: The Upp fuel cell charging system from Intelligent Energy
http://www.beupp.com

Know your fuel (H2)

Hydrogen is no more or less dangerous than any existing fossil fuels used today, it just has a different set of usage requirements based on its inherent characteristics as a gas. Compared to petroleum and natural gas fuels, hydrogen actually has two key properties that can provide safety benefits in its utilisation:

Dispersal

Hydrogen rapidly disperses into the atmosphere upon its release (up to 2.8 times faster than natural gas through the same size exit hole 11), quickly diluting to non-flammable concentrations 9.  Heavier gasses such as petroleum fumes and propane tend to concentrate at ground level posing a greater ignition risk. Hydrogen has a wide flammability range, 4% to 74% in air, but its natural dispersal tendency as the lightest element makes it difficult to contain outside of its designed containment device. Ventilation is a key design criterion in FCEV and all hydrogen systems to ensure the unrestricted dispersal of any released gas.

Low radiant flame heat

A hydrogen flame burns with low levels of radiated heat near the flame compared to a hydrocarbon flame, significantly reducing the risk of secondary fire. Tests performed on automotive hydrogen fuel tanks simulating the ignition of a hydrogen leak, burned for less than two minutes with no damage to the interior of the vehicle, due to the low radiant heat of the flame 10.

Hydrogen is non-toxic and a release does not cause atmospheric pollution. It is a highly versatile natural energy carrier which if properly handled within defined guidelines can be safely integrated into widespread consumer use under existing, well established codes and practices.

 

End

 

Sources:

Source 1 : Honda Clarity website: http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/hydrogen-safety.aspx

Source 2:Tech Investor News http://www.techinvestornews.com/Green/Latest-Green-Tech-News/official-toyota-fires-bullets-into-hydrogen-fuel-tanks-shoots-down-ev-suppo

Source 3: Roads2Hycom –compressed hydrogen storage. Doc ID 8262.March 2014

Source 4: BP website – filling stations http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/our-history/history-of-bp/special-subject-histories/service-stations.html

Source 5: Highbeam gasoline service station business report http://business.highbeam.com/industry-reports/retail/gasoline-service-stations

Source 6: TUV website: global listing of active hydrogen filling stations http://www.netinform.net/h2/H2Stations/Default.aspx

Source 7: EC79/2009 hydrogen safety directive

Source 8 – Hannover Messe website: exhibitor statistics: http://www.hannovermesse.de/search

Source 9 – The Hydrogen Association: hydrogen safety fact sheet: http://www.fchea.org/index.php?id=50

Source 10  – Fuel Leak Simulation. Dr Michael R. Swain – University of Miami. Doc Link: Ref: http://evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=482

Source 11   Safety issues of hydrogen in vehicles Frano Barbir / Energy Partners: http://courses.engr.illinois.edu/npre470/web/readings/Hydrogen%20safety%20issues.pdf

Source 12   US Department of Transport: FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS
AND REGULATIONS http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/FMVSS/

Source 13  Hyundai news room:http://www.hyundainews.com/us/en-us/FuelCell/PressReleases.aspx

Source 14  Toyota news room:http://www.toyota-global.com/innovation/environmental_technology/fuelcell_vehicle/

Source 15  Honda news room:http://world.honda.com/news/2013/4131120FCEV-Concept-Los-Angeles-Auto-Show/index.html

Source 16 : TRL Hydrogen-powered vehicles: review of type-approval legislation on vehicle safety http://www.pedz.uni-mannheim.de/daten/edz-h/gdb/10/report-hydrogen-powered-vehicles_en.pdf

Source 17 : Hydrogen Codes and Standards Technical Report prepared by the Partnership for Advancing the Transition to Hydrogen, Washington DC: http://www.hpath.org/resources/TechnicalReport.pdf

Source 18 : CALIFORNIA HYDROGEN FUELING STATION GUIDELINES: September 2004. REF:600-04-002V1 http://www.energy.ca.gov/reports/2004-10-14_600-04-002V1.PDF

Source 19   FAA hazardous materials regulations: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/hazmat_safety/

Source 20  Air Products: Hydrogen safety website statement: http://www.airproducts.co.uk/industries/Energy/Power/Power-Generation/hydrogen-fuel-safety.aspx

Source 21   KIWA: Testing and Certification of Hydrogen & Fuel Cells: http://www.kiwaenergyusingproducts.com/uploadedFiles/Expert_Center/EuP/News_and_Publications/Hydrogen2_brochure_v2.pdf

Source 22   Intelligent Energy News Room: http://www.intelligent-energy.com/about-us/media-room/news/company-news/2014/04/29/upp-portable-fuel-cell-the-clean-energy-alternative-for-powering-usb-devices-receives-industry-certification

Source 23 Hydrogen / Fuel Cell Codes and Standards Overview: http://www.fuelcellstandards.com/

Source 24European Commission Directive 2007/46/EC (Framework Directive): http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/automotive/documents/directives/directive-2007-46-ec_en.htm

Hydrogen – Fuelling the Zero Emission Drive in the Golden State

California has long been a global leader in the adoption of new zero-emission technology – the state’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) programme for example, requires vehicle manufacturers to offer specific numbers of the cleanest car technologies available for sale, specifically hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs)and has been designed to achieve long-term emission reduction goals.

 ZEV regulation was first adopted in California in 1990 and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Advanced Clean Cars Program requires that over 10% of new vehicle sales are electric drive by 2025.In March of 2012, Governor Jerry Brown, signed an executive order that established a goal of 1.5 million ZEVs on California’s roadways also by 2025.

Major automotive manufacturers such as Toyota and Hyundai have stated that they intend to make their FCEVs available to the motoring public from 2014/15. The car manufacturers are likely to first launch their fuel cell vehicles in geographies where plans to put in place hydrogen refuelling infrastructure are most advanced. These include Germany, Japan, Scandinavia, the UK, Korea and of course, California.

On the 1st of May, the California Energy Commission  announced that it will invest $46.6 million to accelerate the development of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations in California in order to promote a consumer market for zero-emission fuel cell vehicles.The funding will progress the Governor’s executive order directing the state government to support and facilitate the rapid commercialisation of ZEVs in California, with a benchmark that the state’s zero-emission vehicle infrastructure will be able to support up to one million vehicles by 2020.The funding has been made to eight applicants through the Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), and includes six 100% renewable hydrogen refueling stations. It will add a further 28 new refueling stations across the state: 13 in Northern California and 15 in Southern California, strategically situated to create a refueling network along major corridors and in regional centres. In addition, a mobile refueller will provide added reliability to the early hydrogen refueling network by providing refueling capability when stations are off-line.

These 28 new hydrogen refueling stations are in addition to the nine existing refueling locations and the 17 stations currently under development in California and will bring the total up to 54. This is a significant milestone for the initiative, which aims to establish a total 100-station network across the state to support the full commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles.

Interestingly, it also recently emerged that Toyota itself is not just involved in the manufacture and introduction of FCEVs, but is also directly contributing to the development of a hydrogen fuel infrastructure in California by injecting at least $7.2 million in First Element Fuel, a company planning to operate pumps and sell hydrogen for passenger cars.

As a further part of its drive towards increased numbers of ZEVs and to advance hydrogen transportation, the California Energy Commission and Air Resources Board announced at the end of April that the state of California itself has joined H2 USA. This is a public–private partnership led by the U.S. Department of Energy focused on  establishing a hydrogen fueling infrastructure and accelerating the commercialization of FCEVs.

As the above recent developments demonstrate, the move towards zero-emission technology for transport is gathering pace in California with refuelling infrastructure to enable the commercialisation of fuel cell electric vehicles beginning to take shape. California is once again taking a leading role in making zero-emission vehicles a practical and large scale reality.

EU makes major headway towards a hydrogen fuelled future

The hydrogen fuel cell sector has recently seen two milestone wins. Firstly, the European Council recently agreed a second wave of funding for the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 (FCH2) Joint Technology Initiative (JTI), a decision that was subsequently formally adopted by the EU Member States on the 6th May.  Following its successful first phase set up in 2008, the initiative will continue to develop a portfolio of clean, efficient and affordable fuel cells and hydrogen technologies up to the point of market introduction. Under the EU’s new funding programme – Horizon 2020 – the programme will be fitted with an increased budget of €1.33bn.

This news is confirmation that the European Commission sees a very positive future for hydrogen and fuel cells. This public private partnership will leverage private investments in the technologies up to at least the same amount as the public funds. This encourages market opportunities to be realised due to supported investment as it seeks “to develop commercially viable, clean solutions that use hydrogen as an energy carrier and fuel cells as energy converters”.

Secondly, the Clean Power for Transport Package (CPTP) adopted by the EU Parliament on April 15th proposes measures that ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use including EU wide standardisation of recharging plugs for electric vehicles. Member states will have to provide a minimum infrastructure for alternative fuels, including hydrogen.

Siim Kallas, Vice President of Transport for the European Commission commented that this was “a clear signal that Europe is putting clean fuels at the heart of its transport policy, and the drive to develop a transport system fit for the 21st century.”

These two exciting milestones make for a powerful combination. They demonstrate a high level of confidence, both from government and industry, in the prospects for hydrogen fuel cell technologies, offer a major opportunity for Europe to establish a leading position in a fast growing global market, and help to build Europe’s international competitiveness.

 

Note:

Intelligent Energy is an active member of the New Energy World Industry Grouping (NEW-IG), the leading industrial association representing a major grouping of companies, both large and SMEs, working in the fuel cell and hydrogen sector. NEW-IG partners work with the European Commission and the research community to accelerate the market introduction of these clean technologies in the energy and transport sectors.

Building momentum towards a low-emission Britain

This week saw the launch of the UK Government’s proposals for supporting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs). The report, “Investing in ultra-low emission vehicles in the UK, 2015 to 2020,” outlined the Government’s support of clean alternatives to combustion engines for the next five years.

 The Government is allocating £500m to support the take-up of ULEVs including funding grants towards the cost of buying ULEVs of up to a maximum of £5,000. This is welcome news and clearly demonstrates a commitment to low-emission vehicles. While this £500m funding was first announced during the 2013 Spending Round, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) report provides further details on plans to support the nascent market for low emission vehicles, which include providing essential new infrastructure including a wider network of charge points for electrics vehicles. The report also shows OLEV’s firm commitment to work with industry and local authorities to identify ways to improve the consumer experience and boost the uptake of these vehicles.

 Drawing upon the conclusions of last year’s UK H2 Mobility consortium report that proposed an initial network of 65 hydrogen refuelling stations across the UK, the report reiterated its support for hydrogen as an ultra-low emission technology and stated that an announcement will be made by autumn 2014 on the actions that Government and industry stakeholders will be taking to position the UK as a lead market for the introduction of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

 As a founding partner of UK H2 Mobility, Intelligent Energy welcomes the OLEV report and the Government’s continued commitment to invest in ULEVs to reduce CO2 emissions and air pollution. We are also delighted to see that the Government is providing strong support to UK industry in its efforts to become a global leader in the design, manufacture of Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles. 

 We look forward to the Government’s announcement on hydrogen infrastructure as together we work towards the aspiration of 1.6m fuel cell electric vehicles driving on the UK’s roads by 2030.

 

Fuel cells: is there enough platinum? Yes!

In late March, Bloomberg posted an article – ‘Fuel-Cell Boom Hampered by Need for Platinum, GE Says’ – debating the future of fuel cells in the context of a limited supply of platinum. While the article was of interest, some of the information presented was inaccurate. This blog post seeks to provide a more balanced and informed view of the requirement for platinum in fuel cells.

Platinum is indeed highly important in the production of fuel cells, it serves as a catalyst that facilitates the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen producing electricity with only water as a by-product.

However, unlike many other metals, platinum is almost always recycled. As a result, most of the platinum mined is still available for use and primary platinum is only part of the total resource. A report from a US Geological Survey revealed that the world platinum production capacity, an approximation of maximum supply, could increase by as much as 69,000 kg from primary capacity and 22,000 kg from recycling. Recycling rates are likely to be significant as platinum can be efficiently recycled from fuel cells.

It has been suggested in the past that with the mass commercialisation of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), the world’s annual platinum production will fail significantly to meet demand. However, a report presented to the DoE shows that the platinum industry has the potential to meet a scenario where FCEVs achieve 50% market penetration by 2050. Also, there is very little to suggest that platinum supply is dwindling. Studies have concluded that there are sufficient accessible reserves to increase supply by up to 5% per year for each of the next 50 years which will allow for the build-up of a fleet of 1.7 billion FCEVS. Thus, detailed studies of platinum availability suggest that this should not be a limiting factor in the commercialisation of fuel cells.

Companies in the fuel cell space continue to improve performance while lowering platinum loading. According to the US DoE, the amount of platinum in PEM fuel cells has decreased by around 80% during the past decade. This trend is expected to continue, albeit at a reduced rate with smaller incremental improvements.

Furthermore, Toyota recently announced that the latest iteration of its fuel cell has reduced platinum loadings to around 30 g. With a target sale price of $50,000 for its fuel cell vehicle, the metal would contribute less than 3% of the total vehicle cost. A significant component, but by no means prohibitive or a showstopper.

To conclude, while the demand for platinum will undoubtedly increase as fuel cell technology becomes mainstream, there will continue to be a ready supply of the metal to support the on-going commercialisation of this exciting technology.

India’s economic success story raises energy and environmental challenges

India is emerging as a key economic powerhouse driving global growth: according to a United Nations’ report, Brazil, China and India will account for a staggering 40 percent of global output by 2050.

India’s massive economy, coupled with a rising population, will need huge amounts of energy in the years ahead. BP, in its influential ‘Energy Outlook’ for world energy markets, recently forecast that India’s demand for energy will grow faster even than China’s over the next 20 years.

Between them, these two countries will drive global demand for energy even as greater energy efficiency, technological improvements and slowing economies result in plateauing demand in the West. And the vast bulk of their demand needs will be met by traditional, polluting fossil fuels.

An important part of India’s economic success story is a growing, affluent and technologically savvy middle class. India’s telecommunications market, the world’s second-largest after China, is forecast to be worth $100 billion by 2015, and the country is among the top five nations worldwide for Facebook users – convincing proof that India’s middle class is increasingly ‘wired’.

This impressive position, however, has been achieved despite India’s creaking infrastructure and its unenviable record for having the most blackouts in the world.

At the same time, India’s success has bypassed many of its poorest citizens living in rural areas and the country’s thirst for energy has come at a price, even for the wealthy middle classes in its cities. Air pollution in India’s cities is a significant and worsening problem, and is only now being addressed by the country’s powerful Supreme Court. Rapid growth has also put other resources under strain. According to Ernst & Young, India is already a water-stressed country and the situation is set to worsen, with demand for water forecast to rise between 40-50 per cent over the next 20 years.

In order to generate the electricity needed to power such fast-paced growth, BP and NGOs such as Greenpeace agree that India will need to import ever larger volumes of oil-related products, particularly diesel, and fork out significant state subsidies to mitigate rising fuel costs, in turn putting pressure on government finances.

At the developmental level, close to 300 million people in India live without electricity – a commodity that, according to the United Nations Development Programme, is essential to raise them out of poverty and provide them with lighting, proper cooking facilities and clean water. In addition, even as wealthy Indians are adapting to the benefits of the Information Age, around 60 per cent of rural India has no connection to telephony, either wireless or fixed-line, and thus is denied the benefits of communications.

Indian cell tower

Managing power more efficiently is reducing the cost of operating telecoms in India

Indeed, India’s telecoms infrastructure crystallises several of these issues. Phone companies have ambitious plans to build more telecom towers across India, both so they reach rural customers and in order to deliver the capacity for more advanced data services. However, because of daily power outages, the phone companies have to rely on expensive and polluting diesel – most of it imported – to run the towers when the grid is down. An estimated 3.2 billion litres of diesel was consumed by the telecoms industry last year and the figure is forecast to reach 6 billion litres by 2020.

Hydrogen is gaining popularity as a more efficient and cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. It is available from a wide range of sources, whether directly manufactured or as a by-product from industrial processes. And by means of its use in a fuel cell, hydrogen gas can be combined with oxygen from the air to generate electricity, with water the only emission.

Intelligent Energy has recently signed agreements with two Indian companies to manage the power requirements of standalone telecom towers and telecom equipment mounted on electricity towers in India. Over time, diesel generators will be replaced by our proprietary, cost effective, highly efficient and environmentally friendly fuel cells. The company is also partnering with a Welsh water purification firm, Hydro Industries, so that excess energy generated by Intelligent Energy’s power management systems in India can be deployed to run rural water purification units – helping address another of the region’s pressing problems.

My generation: new power sources for emergency services and disaster relief

When the lights go out, that’s not all we will miss. Energy keeps us warm, cooks our food and allows us to communicate; whether at work, with our friends, with our families or when the need arises, with the emergency services.

UNICEF’s official guidelines recommend households at risk assemble a “disaster kit” including essentials such as warm clothes, food and first aid supplies. However a second glance reveals that three of the eight items are directly dependent on energy – namely emergency cooking equipment, a portable radio with spare batteries, and a flashlight – reiterating how dependent on energy we are. In today’s world, many of us would rely on our mobile phone instead of the radio.

Last month, storms and flooding in the UK left tens of thousands without power as they were cut off from the national electricity grid. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms and flooding often cause damage to essential infrastructure including power and telecoms, leaving communities isolated – and the emergency services need to carefully plan every operation taking this disruption into account.

Hospitals or other critical parts of our infrastructure will often switch to a generator in the event of a power outage, but unless you live in a rural area there’s a good chance you have never considered this type of backup power necessary. Although some hospitals in the UK are becoming self-sufficient with independent primary power, the kind of emergency backup generator used by smaller sites is only allowed to operate for 200 hours every year, and only in the event of an emergency power failure or for routine testing and maintenance. These basic diesel powered generators cost an order of magnitude less than primary power solutions, but this too comes at a price with significant air pollution, poor fuel efficiency and high maintenance costs. Most importantly, they are not designed to provide continuous power.

For the emergency services today, diesel generators are essential. Scaling from the small units described above to container-sized workhorses, they provide portable power that can be transported to the affected area providing electricity to power incident room computers and communications. From such a base of operations, generators can also be deployed to power essential medical services, pumps and lighting for the communities affected by disasters. Here, distributed hydrogen fuel cell power offers a number of advantages for future relief efforts. Firstly, fuel cells are approximately two to three times more efficient than diesel engines (so use a lot less fuel), they are also quiet, require little maintenance (because there are few moving parts), and they produce only water vapour – adding no air pollution to the affected area.

Upp personal energy device

The Upp personal energy device provides long lasting portable energy

Effective communication is essential to coordinate emergency response, and this relies on responders in the field having regular communication by radios or smartphones. Today, these are battery powered, but recent developments in fuel cells such as the Upp portable energy device (pictured) offer enough stored energy in a single refill cartridge to power a smartphone for up to a week (depending on usage and charging variables). In the home, this can give peace-of-mind that power will be available when needed. In the field, this could mean more productive use of time, increased range for search and rescue operations, and improved safety for the emergency workers who risk their lives to help people in need.

We have illustrated the potential of fuel cells when natural disaster strikes, but emergency services from mountain rescue to the coastguard could also stand to benefit from these advances in technology. Whenever an emergency service worker is operating where the security of the power grid is removed, fuel cells present new and attractive possibilities.

This is only the beginning. In the future, new fuel cell technology will offer tremendous opportunities to support people in need.

Powering Africa into the Information Age

Africa is a honeypot for investment

Africa is a honeypot for investment

The African economy and infrastructure are starting to become a real honeypot for investment. Over the past 10 years, the region’s economic output has tripled to $2 trillion. Global fund management group T. Rowe Price says that, over the next five years, eight out of 10 of the fastest growing countries in the world will come from Africa and the Middle East. According to the World Bank, the African economy grew by 5.6% in 2013. This rapid growth, alongside the region’s dynamism, huge potential consumer markets and reform programmes are attracting savvy Western investors away from more sluggish economies.

Private equity players are also piling in. Over the past five years, private equity firms have invested nearly $12 billion in Africa, according to a study by Ernst & Young and the African Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (AVCA). Last October, Carlyle Group raised nearly $600 million for its first sub-Saharan Africa fund. Sovereign borrowers have also benefited; African governments have raised a record $8 billion in global bonds, up from just $1 billion a decade ago, as international investors chase yields that are unavailable elsewhere.

Mobile phone uptake is a crucial theme in Africa’s growth story. In a region beset by undeveloped infrastructure and limited access to fixed lines, it is perhaps not surprising that Africans have rushed to embrace wireless telephony. According to the GSMA, the global body for the mobile phone industry, subscriber numbers in sub-Saharan Africa have risen to 475 million from 90 million seven years ago, making it the fastest growing region in the world.

The link between mobile phone usage and economic growth is clear: an additional 10 phones per hundred people leads to a GDP per capita increase of as much as 0.6 per cent. The impact is even larger in developing countries, at between 0.8 and 1.2 percentage points.

In developing regions such as Africa, mobile phones aren’t simply used for communicating with friends and relatives. They are the main medium for accessing the Internet and fulfill the social functions that we in the West take for granted. For instance, through a system known as mobile money, many Africans rely on their mobile phone to pay for goods and services and even make savings, because of the absence of physical bank branches. In Kenya, some two-thirds of the adult population uses this system and about a quarter of the country’s GNP flows through it. Across sub-Saharan Africa, the mobile economy in its entirety generates 6 per cent of GDP, higher than in any other region worldwide.

With electricity blackouts commonplace and limited access to the local grid even when it is working, powering Africa’s access to communications is crucial if recent impressive growth rates are to be maintained. With the advent of the Cloud and smart technology, individuals are demanding ever more from their mobile devices. All this needs greater amounts of energy and the current battery technology that Africans rely on to power their devices is struggling to keep up.

Working alongside incumbent African businesses, innovative Western companies can help solve such problems and play a part in assisting the continent’s exciting growth story. In late 2013, we unveiled “UppTM”, a portable energy device which uses our hydrogen fuel cell technology and is aimed initially at the African consumer electronics market. The device will provide customers with a week’s worth of power for USB-compatible electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets and portable gaming consoles, without the requirement to recharge from an electricity grid and with the benefit of zero-emission energy. We launched Upp at AfricaCom 2013 and the reception received from press, customers, potential partners and network carriers was evidence that a device that gives customers energy freedom and power on the go is sorely needed.

For Western companies willing to grasp the continent’s infrastructure and demographic challenges, Africa can be a land of opportunity.

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