Metal-Supported SOFCs for Ethanol-Fueled Vehicles
In 2017, the U.S. consumed 142.84 million gallons of gasoline, which produced 1,269 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Compared with gasoline, using fuel cells to power vehicles is more efficient and solves the emissions problem. But they also have a shorter range and long refueling time. A technology is needed that provides the best of both worlds—low emissions with shorter refueling and long range.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) is developing a metal-supported SOFC (MS-SOFC) stack that produces electricity from an ethanol-water blend at high efficiency and energy density. This technology will enable light- to medium-duty hybrid passenger EVs to operate at a long range, with higher efficiency than gasoline vehicles and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than current vehicles. LBNL’s MS-SOFCs are mechanically rugged: they can heat from room temperature to their approximately 700°C (1292 °F) operating temperature within a few minutes without cracking and tolerate rapid temperature changes. Usually, ethanol fuel is converted into hydrogen and carbon monoxide prior to entering the fuel cell, which adds volume, cost, and complexity. The team will adapt these MS-SOFCs to operate on liquid ethanol-water fuel directly, while maintaining their high performance and durability, and tackle challenges around scale-up.
LBNL’s MS-SOFC features low materials cost, rapid start-up time, and unprecedented power density to meet vehicle requirements.
The U.S. produced 14.8 billion gallons of ethanol in 2015, which was 58% of global ethanol and enough for 37 million vehicles (15% of the U.S. fleet). This abundant domestic fuel with the proposed high efficiency and low emission technology promotes U.S. energy independence. Additionally, the project’s success could ensure U.S. leadership in advanced energy technologies and manufacturing.
GHG emissions will be reduced by 67% or more, from 305 g/mile for the internal combustion engine (ICE) average to 87 to 102 g/mile for the new system.
The proposed system’s efficiency is expected to be 55 to 65 miles per gallon-equivalent (MPGe), which greatly exceeds the U.S. ICE average of 36 MPGe.