Automotive Electronics

WATT Fuel Cell Acquires PEEI and Tubular SOFC Technology

WATT Fuel Cell Corp. announced its purchase of tubular SOFC developer Pittsburgh Electric Engines, Inc. (PEEI). The acquisition makes PEEI a wholly-owned subsidiary of WATT and facilitates combining both companies’ fuel cell technologies and personnel into a single entity. WATT is a developer of SOFC systems that will operate on many readily available hydrocarbon fuels such as natural gas, propane, JP-8, diesel, and various renewable fuels. WATT’s product platforms will provide quiet, light, efficient, affordable, and environmentally responsible energy solutions for a range of applications in the portable power and distributed-generation energy markets. Applications range from commercial distributed generation systems to military UAVs, UGVs, battery chargers and primary power to forward deployed forces.

"PEEI has a longstanding reputation in the industry, most notably for its 15 plus years of testing and technology development of tubular fuel cell solutions for the transportation and mobile power markets," said Dr. Caine Finnerty, president and CEO of WATT Fuel Cell Corp. "With more than 37,000 hours of run time on its technology, PEEI has clearly established the legitimacy of tubular fuel cells in commercial applications. When combined with the technology already available at WATT, the larger tubular cell format developed by PEEI will substantially widen the scope of addressable markets."

"With the merging of PEEI and WATT, we are excited to see our technology able to be scaled to commercial deployment in the marketplace," said Owen Taylor, president of PEEI. "WATT has developed a cutting-edge manufacturing process that can also be applied to PEEI's larger-scale tubular technology, making it accessible and affordable in a way that was not previously possible."

Last year, Parker Hannifin Corp. announced the first installation of its propane-fuelled SOFC CHP system in a 36-foot sailboat; the fuel cell provides electricity, hot water on demand and optional heating. The fuel cell was co-developed with WATT and this installation is helping the companies refine the unit ahead of a commercial launch planned for later in 2014. The unit is not restricted to marine applications, but would also be suitable for recreational vehicles, trailers and road haulage. The fuel cell is hybridized to a battery and can power lighting, appliances, navigation and entertainment equipment while at the same time providing instant hot water.

According to Taylor, the agreement between PEEI and WATT further solidifies the fuel cell industry's place among other advanced and alternative energy solutions being looked toward as an answer to more stringent energy efficiency goals and greater energy independence. Using readily available fuels such as natural gas and propane in a more efficient and environmentally responsible fashion, the implementation of fuel cells is anticipated to lead to greater energy cost control, and ultimately more energy independence, for the everyday consumer.

"With the escalating urgency around energy efficiency, the marketplace is demanding 'now' solutions, not just those theoretically possible in the future," Taylor said. "In that respect, this merger is literally groundbreaking, as it automatically broadens the spectrum of near-term fuel cell system solutions in the sub-50 kilowatt range."

"Cost and reliability have long been barriers to entry for commercially viable fuel cell systems, particularly in relation to costs associated with manufacturing at scale," said Dr. Finnerty. "WATT's advanced manufacturing process has already proven to be more cost-effective, while providing higher quality, more reliable and higher-power-output finished parts. Implementing our manufacturing techniques with the PEEI technology could potentially reduce manufacturing costs by as much as 75 percent, and, if we observe the same trends we have seen during the scale-up of WATT's core cell technology, we could also see up to a 30-percent increase in power output."

According to Finnerty, PEEI's more than 37,000 hours of technology testing, combined with in excess of 23,000 hours of testing on WATT's balance-of-plant (BoP) technology, facilitates the company's strong position as it transitions in to larger systems, which will be designed for applications including residential power and smaller-scale distributed generation. WATT additionally remains a leader in development and use of SOFCs that operate on readily available energy sources, such as propane, natural gas and various other liquid and renewable fuels. WATT's products provide efficient, affordable, and environmentally responsible energy solutions for a range of applications in the portable power and distributed-generation energy markets.

WATT Fuel Cell Corp.
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