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.

Mobile users’ habits are restricted by their battery life

As Mobile World Congress 2014 draws to a close, 1700 exhibitors have been busy unveiling their latest innovations in technology and mobile services.

It’s incredible what you can achieve using today’s smartphones with social networking, mobile banking, sales and marketing, travel and retail applications, and what’s in store with growing development in mobile payments and health. These services are built on the connectivity and computing power and graphics of today’s feature packed smartphones and tablets.  However, current battery technology has failed to keep pace with the power demands of faster 3G and 4G connectivity, larger screens and faster processors; this is restricting how people use their devices.

Intelligent Energy commissioned a study of mobile users in the UK, India, South Korea and South Africa. It found that 32% users entered their phone’s “red zone” for low battery charge every day, with 22% running out of battery at least once per day. 65% respondents also said their phone use would change when their battery was running low, prioritising how they used their phone.

How often do you completely run out of power on your mobile phone?

Users are clearly frustrated that having adapted to the portability and freedom offered by mobile services and smart devices, power limitations are now dictating how we live our lives. In a separate response 83.5% South African users said they would be willing to pay to charge their phone once it has gone flat.

This “mobile use rationing” isn’t just frustrating for the user. It’s bad for business.  Studies have shown that increasing the availability of power to charge mobile handsets increases the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) for mobile network operators. Battery fail is a global issue that many readers will be able to relate to, but it is a problem compounded in regions where access to a reliable electricity grid is limited.  For example users in Kenya have pay as you go access to solar powered mobile charging equipment. Despite its merits, solar power has its limitations, most notably prolonged sunshine and an energy storage mechanism (such as a battery) to store energy and time-shift its release for when it is needed.

There has also been a proliferation in low cost external batteries in recent years, which provide portable energy wherever it is needed. However, these still require a power supply such as grid electricity to recharge the battery – and for the user to diligently recharge both the handset and the external battery pack. External battery packs can also leak stored charge over time if not replenished.

Upp personal energy device

Upp personal energy device

Intelligent Energy has taken a different approach, applying hydrogen fuel cell technology to address the needs of portable energy with the Upp fuel cell personal energy device. The different technology eliminates a number of these drawbacks, because it does not need any grid electricity. Instead, it works by releasing hydrogen from a cartridge containing a metal compound fuel to produce electricity. Each full fuel cartridge contains 25Wh stored energy, which is enough to charge a smartphone up to 5 times.

Suitable for use with a broad variety of Apple iOS and Android devices, the Upp can supply up to 5W, which is enough power to extend mobile usage or provide a full charge as fast as a mains socket. It charges via USB and intelligently charges USB 2 devices to deliver the correct charge and protect device batteries.

Intelligent Energy conducted field trials with a network operator to analyse the charging habits of African users, and the impact of introducing portable Upp energy. We wanted to know how people would behave if the limitations of battery life were removed, and what effect this would have on their network use. Over the course of a month the study found that close to 80% made more calls, with almost three-quarters of users making longer calls and nearly 70% using more data to take advantage of the longer talk time and freedom from impending battery failure. Network usage increased significantly, with calls rising by more than 30% with an increase in average call duration of almost 30% and a nearly 40% uplift in data usage by users.

Network usage increased significantly, with calls rising by more than 30% with an increase in average call duration of almost 30% and a nearly 40% uplift in data usage by users.

Daily trends showed users charging throughout the day with peaks in the morning, lunchtime and early evening. Whilst small in scale, these trials show how users take advantage of improved device availability as the battery life constraints are removed and the opportunity for network operators to increase the utilisation of their network.  These advantages also translate to business benefits for employers and service providers such as mobile payment providers and social networks.

The mobile power problem for many people is yet to be overcome, with many people experimenting with a range of solutions until they find something that works for them. For some this will mean carrying multiple handsets, for others external batteries and power cases could be the answer.  We believe the Upp personal energy device provides a distinct set of features to keep people connected all day long wherever they go.  With 508 operators currently investing in high-speed LTE in 144 countries and emerging market adoption of smartphones booming, Upp offers convenient instant power for the frustrated mobile user and a solution to the unreliable grid in emerging markets.

Hydrogen Fuelled Taxis For a Zero Emission London

Accounting for roughly 80% of London’s airborne pollution, tackling road traffic emissions is high on the agenda for the city’s leaders. Reported as having some of the worst air quality of any capital city in Europe, London has already launched a number of initiatives to address the challenge. “Boris Bikes”, the “Low Emission Zone”, and on-going upgrades to the public transport network are all geared towards reducing London’s carbon footprint and making its air more fit to breathe.

Last Thursday (16th January), London Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced a significant new measure to further cleaning up London’s act. Targeting what he called the “Achilles heel” of the iconic Black Cab, the new initiative aims to cut out the “pollution generated by chugging diesel engines”.  The mandate stated that all new taxis will be required to be zero-emission capable by 2018 – a significant ask!

boristaxi

Named “New Taxis for London”, the event was host to Intelligent Energy and its partner, The London Taxi Company, and other taxi manufacturers. Showcasing the hydrogen fuel cell powered taxi that made its debut at the 2012 Olympics, Intelligent Energy’s cab was immediately distinguishable, perfectly in keeping with the iconic “black cab” design.

taxi

There were some criticisms surrounding the future of purely battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in London from the Green Party. They questioned the limited range of EVs, and the need to plug in at one of 1,300 electric charging points. However, for our hydrogen-fuelled cabbies during the Olympics it was business as usual.

Because the fuel cell taxi is refuelled at the pump by inserting a nozzle, much like refuelling today’s diesel cabs, drivers were able to top up in minutes (not hours) and drive for eight hours or more without having to worry about filling up. The trials have employed just two hydrogen refilling stations, but as few as 25-30 would comfortably cater for London’s entire taxi fleet.

“Having driven taxis for 40 years, this is the smoothest, quietest taxi I have ever driven… it’s absolutely fabulous”           -          Phil Davis & Ashley Blackburn The cabbies’ responses really speak for themselves, highlighting just how viable and practical a replacement they present for our zero emission future.

While 2018 may be the target, the technology is here now; ready to deliver clean and efficient fuel to London’s Black Cabs. Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell taxi boasts the range, performance and practicality of today’s cabs with the quieter travel and zero harmful emissions.

Upp personal energy turns heads at CES 2014

It’s been an exciting time for Intelligent Energy. We’ve just returned from CES in Las Vegas where we were joined by 250,000 visitors as device makers put their cards on the table and showcased the best they have to offer in consumer electronics, from electric vehicles to smart watches and expanding smart devices.

While electronics continues to shrink in its size and power consumption, phablet launches from both Hisense and Samsung bucked the trend this year with much larger screens, with the former measuring 12.2-inches and the latter 6.8-inches. Meanwhile Sony’s Experia Z1 Compact won Engadget’s Best of CES Award having shrunk a very capable phone into a smaller, and well received, package with an impressive 20.7 Mega Pixel camera and a top-of-the-class quad-core processor.

No matter which new device you place your bets on in 2014, Consumer Electronics Show visitors know only too well that having enough energy to make it through a busy day is by no means guaranteed – especially as screens grow and processors get faster and more capable.  We unveiled our solution to these personal device energy challenges on Monday, announcing our partnership with high-technology electronics specialist Brookstone to make Upp fuel cell personal energy available throughout the US. The launch earned prominent US media coverage with reports in CNN and CNET and was featured in The Denver Post’s 5 things you missed at CES and Fox 2 news’ Six odd and crazy technologies at CES (We read “crazy” as something they haven’t seen before!)

Upp charging a smartphone

Upp charging a smartphone

It stands to reason that US consumers need help staying connected: North America has the highest 4G mobile network penetration in the world, accounting for 10% of all connections. But while the myriad of 4G connectivity solutions at CES provide vast opportunities to mobile device users, it also considerably reduces mobile battery life. This challenge makes Upp ideal for US consumers who want 4G’s improved connectivity, but don’t want the limitation of staying near a plug socket to recharge their device every few hours.

We’d like to thank our partners at Brookstone for putting up a great stand at CES – and all the people that came to experience our new portable fuel cell energy first hand. From now on US customers will be able use the Upp personal energy device stay connected at all times: on the subway, exploring outdoors, or wherever they venture in the world with personal energy in the palm of their hands. Brookstone’s extensive presence throughout US airports will offer consumers on-the-go easy access to this mobile power source to supply their energy needs, with the facility to exchange cartridges as required – each giving up to a week’s energy for the most power hungry smartphones.

Upp demonstration on Brookstone stand at CES

Upp demonstration on Brookstone stand at CES

The adoption of smart mobile devices such as phones, phablets and tablets is a global phenomenon, providing international business hubs with 24 hour access to emails, calls and enabling developing nations with sparse infrastructure to connect and build mobile economies. Whether you’re a busy Silicon Valley entrepreneur visiting investors or a climber exploring the Rockies, the odds are that your battery will run low when you’re off the power grid with no wall socket to plug in to. The Upp device evens the odds stacked against the mobile user with what New Scientist names the “key component seemingly left in the dust” – insufficient battery life –  recharges a vast array of USB compatible devices from camera to GPS with hydrogen fuel cell technology.

While CES may have showcased many innovations, few offer energy freedom like Upp. Intelligent Energy’s new partnership with Brookstone will provide US consumers complete independence from the grid and the freedom to achieve their goals both professionally and personally on their own terms, making their own luck with a trump card – freedom from the grid.

Fuel cells offer solution to mobile device energy challenges

There is no question; mobile devices are now integral to our daily lives. They are also an essential cog in the economic machinery of individuals and businesses throughout the world. This is especially pronounced in developing economies where mobile has transformed the way consumers and businesses operate, indeed increases in the use of mobile telephony are directly related to increased economic growth. Last month, the GSMA reported that the mobile ecosystem directly supported 3.3 million jobs and contributed US $21 billion to public funding in the sub-Saharan Africa and is set to double its economic effect by 2020.

With the exciting launch of the Mxit 7 social media app, LTE mobile Internet and m-payments topping the agenda at AfricaCom, last month it was all too easy to forget that even in South Africa the most important daily function of the mobile phone is for making calls – whether calling family, friends, or conducting the essential transactions that keep businesses growing.

But, take away the power for mobile devices and suddenly our connected world falls into disarray. The mobile world and all that it enables lasts only as long as its batteries!

There was a time, not so long ago before apps, Internet and super-resolution cameras when the deciding factor when choosing a mobile phone was their talk-time. Today, our phones and other mobile devices are getting smarter and more capable; and this means they are becoming more power hungry which further increases the demand on their batteries.

It would be fair to say that improvements in battery technology have not kept pace with the demands of today’s mobile technology and habits. How often do you have to recharge your phone in a typical working day for example? In fact, a study of South African mobile users conducted by Intelligent Energy showed that 30.4% said “every day” and 5.9% even charge several times a day.

Battery charging strategy

How often do you have to recharge your phone in a typical working day for example?

Even if you have access to mains electricity, it takes time to recharge and you may be competing with colleagues for power outlets. In South Africa, 37m people have access to power, but following a boom in device adoption, there are now 59m mobile devices. That’s a lot of competition for a socket if you’re caught short on battery. We found that an astonishing 83.5% of South African consumers are willing to pay to recharge their phone when it loses power.

Electricity vs mobile

It is not acceptable that progress, smarter working and economic growth are endangered because of battery limitations. Quite simply, ways have to be found to put more energy into people’s hands. We can’t afford to wait for a breakthrough in battery technology which may never happen, so what is to be done? Fortunately there is an answer, and it comes in the form of hydrogen fuel cells.

Fuel cells, such as those being commerclialised by Intelligent Energy and our partners, are suitable for a range of sectors. They are a highly efficient and clean way of generating electricity, combining hydrogen with air to produce power with no polluting emissions.  A highly scalable technology, they are being targeted at a wide range of applications, from cars, buses, and motorbikes to back-up and distributed power generation and for providing power to mobile devices.

At Intelligent Energy, we have been working to bring fuel cell technology and its compelling attributes into the world of consumer electronics. This came to fruition at AfricaCom when Intelligent Energy launched Upp, a personal energy device, to charge and power USB-compatible portable electronic devices, such as smartphones, feature phones, eReaders, tablets, portable gaming consoles, as well as digital cameras.

With billions of USB devices used by consumers worldwide, Upp delivers at least one week of charge even to the most demanding, power-hungry smartphones,  giving mobile consumers the energy freedom and independence to stay connected for longer. Now you can have your own personal and instant energy whenever and wherever you need it, whether you’re at home, work or on the road.

This year, we have carried out successful consumer field deployments in region and are now in the process of expanding and recruiting further mobile partners worldwide.  We believe Upp is a real game changer for Africa and we look forward to working with users and the mobile ecosystem to give Africa freedom from the grid.

For more information please visit www.beupp.com, and follow our journey as we free the world from the power grid with Upp personal energy on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This blog was originally published on the Com World Series blog.

USB charge points will soon be everywhere, but will your mobile battery last that long?

From the ubiquitous i-devices to modest budget cellular phone handset, most mobile devices today charge from a simple USB cable plugged into mains electricity or a computer. USB ports are small, durable and convenient to use, having achieved near ‘universal’ status throughout the world.  This year, total sales of consumer USB products reached 10 billion , with 3 billion now shipped every year. Mobile phones, tablets, cameras and speakers can be easily plugged into cars, hotel room sockets, aircraft passenger seats – even new buildings now come with USB sockets as a standard electrical fitting.

Currently, the USB standard provides up to 10W of Direct Current (DC) power, which is enough for the current generation of smart tablets, but in 2014 a new standard of USB Power Delivery will be introduced which will be capable of delivering 100W of power and able to supply equipment such as computers, monitors, LED office lighting and printers – further increasing the breadth of application of the technology.

Of course, like their COM port predecessors, USB cables carry both power and data. But USB progressed a step further, enabling communication between smart devices that can prioritise activities, for example to decide whether to accept charge or provide power, and enable the host to detect the nature of the device with “plug and play”. This has made USB ubiquitous in the home, the office or on the move, so why not extend its use into more places?

If you think the popularity of USB is confined to consumers, think again. The European Union (EU) has been calling for a universal mobile phone charger for years, to cut down on electronic waste and put an end to “cable chaos”, and chose the USB interface as the region’s official standard in 2010. Last month, the European Parliament committee responsible for consumer protection built on this by voting through a resolution that will create a law requiring all companies to make the same type of charger.

But while USB keeps pace with the technology it helps to power and connect, the availability of mobile power remains a consumer bugbear. As mobile devices get more capable, and we do more with them, their large graphic displays and processing power puts more strain on the batteries that power them. Despite significant advances in Lithium Ion (LiOn) battery technology, they simply have not kept pace with the power demands of smart phones and devices and battery life is insufficient for many of us:  a study of mobile users in the UK conducted by Intelligent Energy showed that more than 70 percent find themselves with a dead or nearly-dead battery on their mobile device at least once per week.

Personal energy for USB devices off the conventional power grid

Personal energy for USB devices off the conventional power grid

Having made the irrevocable shift to mobile living, the capability to power the devices that enable this lifestyle on- the-go must improve, and solutions that go beyond the capabilities of today’s batteries alone must be sought. More commonly associated with electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell technology has now been condensed to the size where they offer a bountiful portable energy source that is ideally placed to address the challenges of extended operating time and energy security, regardless of location.

This cutting edge technology came to fruition with the launch of Upp, a personal energy device, based on Intelligent Energy’s proprietary fuel cell technology, that charges portable electronic devices, such as smartphones, feature, eReaders, tablets, portable gaming consoles and well as digital cameras by USB wherever power is needed – from going off-grid for work or play, to emerging economies where the power grid is unreliable or non-existent – not to mention when the train home is delayed and your mobile runs flat!

With billions of USB devices used by consumers worldwide, Upp delivers one week of instant power  to the most demanding, power-hungry smartphones, charging as fast as the mains; then swap out the replaceable fuel cartridge and you’re ready to go again for another week!  Upp is your own personal energy, providing freedom to operate and explore beyond the constraints of established energy supply and freeing you from the tyranny of flat batteries!

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles and Hydrogen Refuelling – The End of the ‘Chicken and Egg’ Quandary

This week, the German H2 Mobility initiative, of which Intelligent Energy is proud to been an active participant for many years, set upon a 10 year action plan for the construction of a nationwide network of 400 hydrogen refuelling stations for fuel cell powered electric vehicles (FCEVs) across Germany.

The growing need for sustainable, efficient and lower carbon transport solutions means that any commercial roll out of alternative technologies must be closely supported by a practical and viable fuelling infrastructure. The automotive fuel cell technology is ready, as evidenced in the now public plans of the major automotive manufacturers to make their FCEVS widely available to the motoring consumer from 2015.  

As a first step, 100 hydrogen stations will be deployed across Germany over the next 4 years, which will ensure there is a refuelling infrastructure available for when the vehicles come to market.

The objective is to offer a hydrogen fillingstation at least every 90 kilometres of motorway between densely populated areas, which would also create a suitable supply of hydrogen for rural areas. In metropolitan areas, this will amount to at least 10 hydrogen refuelling stations for drivers of FCEVs by 2023. The initiative expects that a total investment of around €350 million will be required to complete this infrastructure project.

In addition to plans for a nationwide filling station network, the agreement includes the principles for the procurement and distribution of the necessary hydrogen and a request for support to the German Federal Government.

ImageHydrogen is a clean energy carrier. When used as fuel in fuel cell systems, it does not produce any carbon emissions (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons or particulates). Therefore, using hydrogen will contribute to the decarbonising of road transport and improvement of air quality.

Germany has led the development of hydrogen refuelling networks in Europe, having launched its H2 Mobility initiative in 2009. It currently has 15 hydrogen stations and opened Europe’s largest hydrogen refuelling station in early 2012, capable of delivering 750 kg of hydrogen per day, with half of the station’s hydrogen produced on-site via water electrolysis

Similar projects have been launched in the UK and France, amongst others, with a view to the establishment of nationwide networks of hydrogen refuelling stations and helping to make this zero emission, yet practical means of electric motoring a commercial reality and success.

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