Volvo Plans Hydrogen Generators for Boats Kiss Diesel and Gas - 07/08/2009

Next month a Volvo Penta subsidiary will hire around 60 people in an entirely new plant in Gothenburg, Sweden to manufacturer an environmentally friendly electrical power generator for powerboats and over-the-road trucks. The new system will use hydrogen and it will replace diesel generating systems putting out from 5 kw to 15 kw. That means it will be applicable to powerboats from about 25’ to 45’ – the heart of the diesel and gas generator market for companies such as Onan, Westerbeke and Kohler. The new system appears to have few, if any, moving parts and will therefore eliminate the annoying noise and vibration that current diesel-powered generators produce. Volvo says the emissions are a big improvement over current diesel generation technology. The big news here is that the new Volvo system does not have to wait for hydrogen “stations” to be set up around the country, as its new unit will simply make its own hydrogen gas out of conventional fuels, including ethanol, biomass, alcohol, biodiesel.

Volvo Hydrogen Generators
Volvo Penta’s new system “reforms” hydrocarbons creating hydrogen which creates electrical current in a “fuel cell stack.” No noise, vibration, CO, or worries--

For now, we will have to be content with using this new technology as a replacement for a boat’s generator, not its primary engines. That day is still a long way off. Nevertheless, the silent creation of on-board electricity is compelling. Typically generators in the 5 kw to 15 kw range cost from about $8k to $20k depending on the mark-ups of your boat yard.

Volvo Hydrogen Generators
The new system is a technological leap forward for the marine industry.

Benefits of the New Generator

So long as the price is competitive, this new Volvo Penta product should get a warm reception from all boaters using generators in this range, particularly from yachtsmen that are used to having a second generator as a back up to the first.

Further, the difficult problem of matching the load to the generator will be eliminated by this new system obviating the need for both a large generator and a small one, the second one often called a “night” generator. Boats now carrying an artificial loading device will no longer need that.

The new system is lighter, smaller, can use the nooks and crannies in an engine room or lazarette. Moreover, since diesel fuel will not be sent through injectors the worry about filtration is eliminated. In addition the unit will have zero CO emissions and other emissions will be less than current SOTA diesel generators.

Hydrogen fuel cell stacks have been around for years.

Even though the new device can burn ecologically friendly substances, it is expected that most people will simply to use the same diesel fuel for the new hydrogen system as they do for their main engines. The company has not yet announced when products will be commercially available or even weather they will be sold to the aftermarket in the beginning.

According to the company the first fully operational APUs (auxiliary power units) will be shipped in 2012. Separate sales of fuel cells will begin in 2010.

Drawing of a reformer.

From the Press Release, Swedish Powercell Website, and other sources--

Sweden's Volvo Group has teamed up with the Swedish Energy Agency, Midroc New Technology and OCAS to invest SEK 200m ($26.2 million) in the development of Volvo's fuel cell technology. Powercell Sweden AB has two patented components: a fuel converter (reformer) and a PEM fuel cell - the type of fuel cell most often used in transport applications

Who’s Owns Who?

Midroc New Technology, a part of Midroc Europe, develops and invests in future technologies within Clean Tech and BioMed. Midroc is owned by Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi who among other companies owns Preem Petroleum, Swedish Petroleum Exploration and Västra Hamnen Funds. OCAS is an advanced market-driven material research center based in Belgium. OCAS’ part in the investment is taken up by its sister company, the investment fund Finindus.

Volvo Penta will be a minority owner of the new company.

“We are immediately going to start hiring qualified people for production, product development, marketing and sales”, says Per Wassén, CEO pf Powercell Sweden.

How it Works

The company says that its new fuel cell resembles a small battery. It is charged with hydrogen gas and converts this into electricity, water and carbon dioxide through a chemical reaction. The areas of use can be power supply units for households, trucks, boats, radio masts in remote locations and electric hybrid vehicles. Compared with normal diesel or gas-powered engines, fuel cells produce significantly less carbon dioxide and no emissions at all of particulates and nitrogen oxides. In addition, they are more efficient, smaller and lighter.

Company Intentions

Fuel cell products have an enormous potential to be a main source of electrical power, replacing several existing technologies. Powercell´s mission is to provide the market with environmentally friendly fuel cell based systems that provide electrical power (

System Offering

The core behind Powercell´s product is the system solution around an exclusively patented fuel cell technology and fuel reforming technology.

An Environmental Friendly Power Generator

In order to resolve the issue of hydrogen accessibility, the electrical power generator from Powercell operates on commercial fuels and is based on two main sub-systems; the Fuel Processor and the Fuel Cell stack.

Fuel Processor – the Hydrogen Generator

Powercell has developed a Fuel Processor, protected by patents, which converts, ethanol, biogas, DME, methanol, propane standard grade diesel or gasoline into hydrogen used to fuel the fuel cell system.

Fuel Cell Stack – Produces Electrical Power

The patented Fuel Cell stack from Powercell is a PEM -based fuel cell– which is today the most common technology used in automotive applications. The core of our technology is the unique cell design which allows for the production of highly robust fuel cell’s. The cell can work on reformate as well as clean H2.

System – The Power Generator

The generator from Powercell is superior to existing automotive and marine APU (auxiliary power unit) based generators with respect to emission, noise, cycle efficiency, size and weight. Main characteristics are: - Emission levels - generates electricity with zero emissions of CO, NOx and particulates. - High fuel efficiency and reliability, with a lighter and smaller system. - Fuel flexibility - diesel, ethanol, biogas, DME, methanol, propane, gasoline and others - Increased customer comfort level - reduced noise, smell and emission levels.

The Two Primary Markets

For the APU two main market segments in the transport industry are focused, the Marine leisure segment and the Truck market.

For the Marine leisure market segment the customer need electrical power and the existing solution, diesel engine based generators, has a lot of negative characteristics as un-healthy emissions, high sound levels, vibrations and smells. Features of a fuel cell generator handles and effecting the perception of all the negative aspects of the existing product.

The Truck APU market segment is driven by the need of environmental friendly power generators (APUs), mainly by anti-idling legislation in North America. All sleeper cab trucks need power during rest for comfort loads as air condition, TV and to the kitchen.

Product Development and Sales

Initially sales of separate fuel cell packages to other applications will take place. Substantial contracts for such applications are under negotiations.

Powercell is now focusing to meet the following main milestones;

- Separate sales of fuel cell will start 2010.
- First complete APU product to market in 2012.

Research our tests of Volvo engines

Company Information
Powercell Sweden AB
Chalmer Teknik Park
Sven Hultinsgata 9D
SE-412 88 Göteborg
CEO Per Ekdunge

mobile : +46 708 66 58 19
Chairman Per Wassén
mobile : +46 0708 960055