Power Electronics

Data Points

Five Countries Represent 80% of Fuel-Cell Demand

In 2006, the United States, Japan, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom accounted for four-fifths of all commercial fuel-cell demand. These and other developed nations will continue to account for the vast majority of fuel-cell product and service sales over the next decade, with a few notable exceptions, such as China (see the table). These and other trends are presented in “World Fuel Cells,” a study from The Freedonia Group.

With several products now on the market, electric power-generation applications accounted for well over one-half of all commercial fuel-cell sales in 2006. However, the portable electronics market is expected to register the strongest growth through 2011 and beyond. The report indicates that demand for fuel-cell-powered motor vehicles also will rise at a healthy rate. The rate will be driven by increases in prototyping, demonstration and test-marketing activity as fuel-cell technology continues to improve and manufacturing costs decline.

According to the report, most developing countries are not expected to become sizable fuel-cell markets until some time later because of fewer evolved end-use sectors and a scarcity of capital to invest in early-generation fuel-cell systems. However, fuel cells will find some use as a source of electricity in developing nations with inadequate central power grids.

Freedonia analyst Ken Long states that PEM fuel cells dominate in most applications except portable. This type of fuel cell is the most researched and has the distinct advantage that it can be operated at room temperature. Solid-oxide will be the second-largest fuel-cell technology in the future.

Though fuel-cell technology has not been widely deployed, several viable markets are expected to develop over the next 10 years as technological advances and economies of scale help drive costs down to competitive levels. High energy prices and environmental concerns also will contribute to fuel-cell commercialization activity and market gains. As additional products enter the marketplace, commercial sales will make up an increasingly large share of total fuel-cell expenditures. However, the report projects that it will take time for fuel cells to penetrate markets now served by other power sources, and commercial demand will continue to account for less than half of all fuel-cell spending in 2016.

Table. World fuel-cell demand.
Geographic region Fuel-cell demand by year (millions of dollars) Annual growth in five-year intervals (%)
2006 2011 2016 2006 to 2011 2011 to 2016
Global 420 2490 8450 18.7 42.8
United States 135 780 2490 15.7 42.0
Canada and Mexico 28 180 520 25.5 45.1
Western Europe 133 725 2130 21.1 40.4
China 7 130 740 47.6 79.4
Japan 86 420 1290 13.8 37.3
Rest of Worlds 31 255 1280 52.4 38.1

The 392-page “World Fuel Cells” report, published in May 2007, is available for $5500 from The Freedonia Group. For further details, please contact Corinne Gangloff at (440) 684-9600 or via e-mail at [email protected] Information also available online at www.freedoniagroup.com.

Ultracapacitors Support Hybrid-Vehicle Research

Maxwell Technologies will supply ultracapacitor cells and integration kits to the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory for a collaborative research project. These components will be assembled and evaluated in an integrated ultracapacitor/Li-ion battery energy-storage system for hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Argonne will provide batteries and power electronics, and will design and fabricate the integrated energy system that includes the ultracapacitors. The system will then be installed in a hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) platform at the Advanced Powertrain Research Facility (APRF) in Argonne's Center for Transportation Research. The system will undergo HIL validation during the summer of 2007.

According to Dr. Don Hillebrand, director of Argonne's Center for Transportation Research, there is great interest in ultracapacitors' rapid charge/discharge capabilities and the ability to handle heavy cycling. These same capabilities are required for regenerative braking, torque assist and other demands on energy-storage systems for hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Argonne and Maxwell have agreed on an active parallel system configuration that will combine a standard lithium-ion plug-in hybrid battery with a string of 112 of Maxwell's BOOSTCAP BCAP0650 P270 650-F ultracapacitor cells. The system also will include the appropriate power electronics, cooling and safety-related features.

APRF's primary focus is technology validation and benchmarking testing for advanced vehicles and their supporting subsystems. More information about this research is available at www.transportation.anl.gov/facilities/aprf.html. Information about Maxwell's ultracapacitor technology is available at www.maxwell.com.

Report Projects Continued Growth for Flexible Thin-Film Batteries

According to a recent report entitled “Flexible Thin Film Batteries — A Global Technology, Industry and Market Analysis (ETP-104),” from Innovative Research and Products (iRAP), the global market for flexible thin-film batteries (thicknesses below 0.6 mm) reached $41 million in 2006. The report forecasts that this will increase to $230 million by 2011, with an annual average growth rate of 41.1%.

The wide range of possible applications for these batteries derives from their important advantages as compared to conventional battery technologies. For example, they can be made in virtually any shape and size to meet the requirements of each application. Based on lithium and Li-ion technology, the batteries are also rechargeable, which means their size need be no larger than is required to satisfy the energy requirements between charge cycles.

Four major applications — SmartCards, RFID tags, implantable medical devices, and microelectronic devices and displays (such as flexible displays and e-papers) — discussed in this report will create most of the demand for these batteries. The report projects that from 2006 to 2011, medical implantables will show the highest annual average growth rate (AAGR) reaching 58.4%. This is followed by microelectronic devices, flexible papers, cosmetics and e-papers at an AAGR of 46.1%, SmartCards with 37.9% and RFID tags with 35%. This report includes a detailed patent analysis, company profiles and industry trends. It also provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the market in North America, Europe, Japan, China, India, Korea and the rest of the world for thin-film batteries. Regionally, North America captured about 61% of the market in 2006, followed by Japan at 19% and Europe at 17%.

For more information, visit www.innoresearch.net.

EPSMA Fears Impact of IPC-9592 Guide

The European Power Supplies Manufacturers Association (EPSMA) has written an open letter to IPC to express its grave concerns over the IPC's draft document IPC9592 “Performance Parameters for Power Conversion Devices.” The EPSMA has cast doubt on the approach taken in the IPC9592 document, which was drafted without consultation with the main power-supply industry players worldwide.

“A guideline of this type is useful, but the document should look very different. At the moment it feels like a standard,” says Lars Thorsell, chair of the EPSMA's Technical Committee. “The documentation required by IPC9592 is excessive and makes it impossible to protect suppliers' confidential information. Furthermore, the extensive testing specified would significantly increase cost and time-to-market, which runs completely counter to market demands.”

In its letter to IPC, the EPSMA highlighted several concerns. The IPC draft is considered too broad, attempting to address too many products and applications. The document is overly prescriptive in its attempts to secure quality and does not leverage existing standards from JEDEC, IEC, IEEE and ISO.

Bernhard Erdl, chairman of the EPSMA, added, “The EPSMA and the Power Sources Manufacturers Association have already supported the High Density Packaging User Group, which represents a large number of companies from the communication and system integrator industries. It has done a lot of work in producing guidelines for board-mounted power supplies over the last two years, working closely with the user community. This work has resulted in a comprehensive document of nearly 150 pages, aimed at a mature and bilateral understanding between users and manufacturers of such products.”

The EPSMA is willing to share its expertise with IPC and proposes to work closely with IPC to develop a document with collective input from both users and manufacturers. For further information, contact Matthew Towers, EPSMA secretariat, at [email protected].

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