Greenovate! – ACAL Next Gen Fuel Cell Technology

 CASE STUDY - ACAL Next Gen Fuel Cell TechnologyCASE STUDY

Real world stories about innovators and innovative companies are an important way to learn and we place high value on them at Innovation Excellence. We are very pleased to begin a series of case studies on companies who have been curated by Hult International Business School and Center for Innovation, Excellence and Leadership (IXL Center) in their book Greenovate!

 CASE STUDY - ACAL Next Gen Fuel Cell TechnologyThe book Greenovate! documents 53 case studies that are defined by “sustainable, green innovations” (or “green ovations”). Each profile combines business innovation with a synthesized concept of sustainability, from startups to leading global organizations. The first case study in this special series is:

ACAL ENERGY - Next Gen Fuel Cell Technology

INNOVATION

ACAL Energy developed a new method for generating current within a fuel cell by using a proprietary recirculating liquid cathode technology that performs better and at lower cost than existing fuel cell systems.

SUSTAINABILITY

As with other fuel cell systems, the only by-products of the fuel cells are water and heat
In addition, ACAL’s technology reduces the required amount of platinum, a rare and expensive mineral.

RESULTS

The new technology enables fuel cell systems to operate up to five times longer than is currently possible.

ACAL Energy cuts the amount of platinum used in fuel cells by 80% and reduces the price of fuel cells by 40%.

DRIVERS

TECHNOLOGY PUSH:
Fuel cells are unique in energy delivery, combining benefits such as: low or zero emissions, high efficiency and reliability, multi-fuel capability, no noise pollution.

FOUNDER’S EXPERTISE:
Dr Andrew Creeth, the founder of ACAL Energy Ltd with more than 15 years scientific experience, invented a new technology for ACAL.

DEMAND PULL:
According to Clean Edge, the fuel cell market is expected to grow steadily to $15.6 billion over the next decade — about 10x its 2008 size.

GOVERNMENT PUSH:
To cut carbon emissions, UK government sets up organization and business incubators to support start-ups and emerging technologies.

BARRIERS

PRECIOUS METAL:
Fuel cells require the use of precious metals (usually platinum) as catalysts — the scarcity and expense of these metals make the fuel cells unaffordable for mass use.

BUSINESS RESOURCES:
The company needed funds in order to take the technology forward from small-scale laboratory systems to manufacturable prototypes.

COMPLEX EQUIPMENT:
Sophisticated components and systems are required to ensure fuel cell reliability contributing to the high cost of current systems.

BUILDING TRUST:
FlowCathTM technology is new on the market and the lack of brand recognition is a challenge to attracting customers.

ENABLERS

CHEAP ALTERNATIVE:
Acal’s FlowCathTM technology removes the need for platinum, replacing it with a proprietary liquid that is continuously pumped through the cell.

CRITICAL INVESTORS:
The company is supported by UK VCs, Japanese and European corporations, and public investors — altogether, they provided £7 million in funding.

SIMPLIFICATION:
The use of liquid instead of platinum allows simplification of equipment, thus eliminating the need for a hydration system.

COMMITTED PARTNER:
Carbon Trust, a UK government organization, assesses and supports the development of FlowCathTM, increasing its credibility.

IMPACT

COST REDUCTION:
FlowCathTM allows an 80% reduction of platinum used in fuel cells and a 40% decrease in fuel cell price

INTERNAL:
ACAL Energy built a state-of-the-art lab and a 4,000 m2 plant, growing from 5 to 23 employees in 18 months.

PERFORMANCE:
The use of the liquid improves the fuel cell’s durability to more than 1,500 hours with no loss in performance.

AWARD WINNER:
ACAL Energy was a finalist in 2009 Carbon Trust Innovation Awards, which recognize innovative, low-carbon companies.

WHAT’S NEXT

The company’s near term strategy is to build partnerships with key supply chain companies and fuel cell OEMs. In the long term it plans to enter more markets: transportation as well as industrial and domestic distributed energy.

image credits:  acalenergy; ixlcenter

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Tyler McNally, Ronald Jonash & Dr. Hitendra Patel are co-authors of  Greenovate! — Companies Innovating to Create a More Sustainable World and members of the leadership team at IXL CENTER, the Center for Innovation, Excellence & Leadership at Hult International Business School.

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