Ascend Energy, Atrex Energy Demo Natural Gas Ceramic Fuel Cell Hybrid

Ascend Energy and Atrex Energy collaborated on a project to demonstrate the benefits of using an oxygen-based ceramic fuel cell as part of a hybrid electric vehicle. Ceramic fuel cells do not require hydrogen and can operate on conventional CNG or propane, a significant advantage in cost and simplicity. But ceramic fuel cells are thought to be too fragile to use this way.

After putting the vehicle through its paces multiple times on a rugged off-road vehicle course, this myth was shattered. The fuel cell showed no damage, primarily because the unique Atrex fuel cell design is based on inherently strong tubes rather than thin sheets of ceramics.

The demonstration also showed the vehicle could be the most economical form of a fuel cell hybrid in terms of fuel cost. A conventional vehicle with a gasoline engine would use $9 of fuel to go 100 miles. A hybrid electric-type vehicle would require $7.50 worth of fuel. A hydrogen fuel cell car at today’s prices of hydrogen would use $20 of fuel for the same trip. An equivalent ceramic fuel cell vehicle would use only $6 worth of fuel.

Finally, the demonstration vehicle when tested by an independent lab had no detectable NOx or SOx emissions, the same as for a hydrogen car.

“The project clearly provided a proof of concept that a ceramic fuel cell, integrated into an electric vehicle would be beneficial to the public,” said Ken Pearson, President of Ascend Energy Systems. “Using CNG, the SOFC more than tripled the run time of the electric vehicle and did so with 100 percent reliability.”

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