More than 25% of all the energy consumed in the United States is used in transportation, with the majority of that consumed in cars and trucks. Improved powertrain technologies can enable more efficient and cleaner vehicles. New and novel approaches are needed to spur transformational increases in vehicle powertrain efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Numerous electric vehicle technologies in development, including battery electric, hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles, aim to dramatically improve vehicle efficiency. One type of fuel cell, the solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC), operates at elevated temperatures and has high efficiency, low emissions, and fuel flexibility, but is rarely used in automotive applications due to low power density, long startup time, and poor tolerance for thermal cycling. Next-generation SOFC technology that meets stringent performance requirements could enable disruptive efficiency, emissions, and range improvements at the vehicle and fleet level, and avoid the short range, long charging times, and infrastructure challenges of other electric vehicle technologies.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) will develop a high power density, rapid-start, metal-supported solid oxide fuel cell (MS-SOFC), as part of a fuel cell hybrid vehicle system that would use liquid bio-ethanol fuel. In this concept, the SOFC would accept hydrogen fuel derived from on-board processing of the bio-ethanol and air, producing electricity to charge an on-board battery and operate the motor. The project aims to develop and demonstrate cell-level MS-SOFC technology providing unprecedented high power density and rapid start capability initially using hydrogen and simulated processed ethanol fuels. The majority of the project will focus on the optimization and development of scalable cells that meet stringent power density and start-up time metrics. High-performance catalysts and state-of-the-art high-oxide-conductivity electrolyte materials will be adapted to the MS-SOFC architecture and processing requirements. The cell will be optimized for power density by making the electrolyte and support layers as thin as possible, and the porous electrode structures will be optimized for catalytic activity, gas transport, and conductivity. If successful, the MS-SOFC will be used in a fuel cell stack to achieve low startup time (less than 3 minutes), thousands of operating cycles, and excellent anode oxidation tolerance thus solving issues that have prevented conventional SOFCs from being used effectively in vehicles.