After decades of potential but limited deployment, fuel cells are beginning to carve out a role in grid-scale generation (see “59-MW Fuel Cell Park Opening Heralds Robust Global Technology Future” in the May 2014 issue). Now, continually falling costs are bringing fuel cell generation all the way down to the consumer level.
In December 2014, Dresden, Germany–based firm eZelleron launched a fundraising effort on crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter for a personal charging device based on its proprietary microtubular fuel cell technology. Called kraftwerk (German for “power station”), the charger generates power from liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) such as propane or butane using commonly available recharge canisters. Most of the palm sized–, 7-ounce unit is taken up by the LPG fuel tank; the actual fuel cell is smaller than a cigarette (Figure 7).
|7. Portable power. The kraftwerk portable charger can recharge a variety of electronic devices using an internal fuel cell and liquefied petroleum gas. Courtesy: eZelleron
The Kickstarter project reached its funding goal in a week, and the company is promising to begin delivery of the units in December 2015. According to the company’s website, the microtubular fuel cells can also be packed into arrays for larger capacity. It offers 250-W modules that can be combined into stacks of up to 80 kW capacity.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD