Evaluation and Cost Modeling of Membrane Electrode Assembly Manufacturing Processes
Fuel cell manufacturers have been focused on reducing costs to increase the markets for which fuel cells provide a ready source of stored energy. Altergy manufactures a new fuel cell about every 30 seconds through its automated fuel cell assembly line, the only such manufacturing facility in the world. While Altergy works with many vendors and suppliers, the company has a limited capacity for manufacturing membrane electrode assemblies, a key component of the fuel cell. The company seeks to break through further technology barriers to deliver the most cost-effective and reliable backup power solutions, which will unlock new, major markets for its fuel cell products.
Through the SBV Pilot, Altergy will leverage the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's expertise and its newly commissioned roll-to-roll manufacturing system to reduce cost and improve performance of its fuel cell products. To further this goal, an accurate cost model for the real costs of these assemblies will be developed in partnership with the lab to help the company determine whether 100% of the project goals can be achieved.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
The SBV Pilot will allow the lab to utilize its capabilities with a business partner that is already manufacturing at volume, opening up further possibilities for cost reductions. Altergy's main products are designed from the outset to be produced in high volumes using off-the-shelf materials, stamped and molded fabrication, and standard, robotic automated assembly equipment. Utilizing modular, pretested subassemblies to speed assembly time, Altergy delivers the only fuel cell systems in mass production. Further, the collaboration will allow the company to explore both fabrication of assemblies via catalyst coated membrane methods and by hot pressing gas diffusion electrodes to Nafion membranes.
As fuel cell costs drop and production ramps up, economies of scale and virtuous cycles of cost reduction can kick in, allowing the industry to grow faster, generating more revenue and employing more people in advanced manufacturing.
Energy storage with fuel cells could provide a strong complement to renewable energy production. Because renewable energy from wind and solar spikes during the day, utilities and other operators use energy storage to utilize that power later in the day and to flexibly store and shift electricity across the grid as weather changes.
Altergy's major clients include telecom providers, cable multiple system operators, railroad infrastructure, city and government agencies and emergency responders who need to ensure backup power for critical infrastructure. Lowering fuel cell costs will make backup power more accessible and affordable for all.
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