The Magical Technical Tour around Vancouver, BC, Canada
The Hydrogen + Fuel Cells International Conference + Exhibition in Vancouver, BC, Canada, was our 97th international H2/FC conferences which we attended since 2003. On the margins of this conference there was also a technical tour with approx. 40 participants. For me it was good to attend the Technical Tour, there was much to learn. We visited the AFCC Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation and Power Tech, a subsidiary of BC Hydro, the local electricity provider.
Founded in 2007, the company AFCC combines the know-how of three companies: Daimler AG is the largest shareholder with 50.1% , the Ford Motor Company holds 30% and Ballard Power Systems 19.9%. AFCC has around150 employees. There are currently over 150 vehicles with fuel cells of AFCC in the drivetrain worldwide on the road. The company has its location at Ballard headquarters in Burnaby, BC.It is led by CEO Dr. Andreas Truckenbrodt, formerly executive director of hybrid development at Daimler AG.
AFCC's predecessor was the fuel cell alliance, founded in 1997 by Daimler, Ford and Ballard. Today, Daimler and Ford are the only automotive companies jointly to develop fuel cell systems, so that duplication of R & D efforts should be avoided.
In doing so, they also utilize the experience of NuCellSys (formerly XCELLSIS), headquartered in Nabern Germany. The approx. 200 employees of this company have specialized on the fuel cell system engineering and designt, they have over 570 patents in the field of fuel cell drives. NuCellSys provides components for the supply of hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cell stacks of AFCC, and work on the validation and the integration of the systems in various vehicle platforms.
We saw the testing laboratory of AFCC. Chief Strategy Officer Craig Louie, P. Eng., led us through the facility. Impressive was the number of active test racks. More than 20 fully equipped test stations, looking like intensive-care-stations for fuel cell systems were to be seen. Long-term tests, humidity tests and / or tests under changing dynamic loads ran in a great hall, filled under the roof with electronic devices, power and fuel supplies and safety equipment. Comments of some conference participants after the tour of the AFCC: "They know what they are doing ..." or: "I am impressed ..." or: "Here much know how and much money is invetsted…” or: "That was good to see ...".
I myself have in the past 15 years much of hydrogen and fuel cells seeon coming and going, but this test lab for me was the most modest and yet persuasive argument for the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cells. Please continue with your power at AFCC!
The next stop of our Technical Tour offered also positive surprises:
Powertech Labs Inc., a: "... wholly owned subsidiary of BC Hydro (a Crown corporation of the Government of British Columbia), based in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, BC. We visited the Hydrogen Technology Center, which was opnened in autum 2007. Here we could see different test procedures for hydrogen tanks and hydrogen filling stations (350 bar and 700 bar).
Convincing was also the intruction into the concept and components for the future independent power supply (island solution) the city of Bella Coola in British Columbia. Under the title: "Hydrogen Assisted Renewable Power System" (HARP) it is implemented in a partnership between BC Hydro, General Electric (GE), and Power Tech. The project is supported by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), an organization of the Government of Canada.
The village Bella Coola. with around 600 inhabitants is located 439 road kilometers north of Vancouver: It is not connected to BC Hydro's interconnected power grid. Currently, the city is supplied with electricity by means of diesel generators (6.2 MW), however, they are emmiting greenhouse gases. A hydroelectric power plant there generates a "clean" electricity (at 2.12 MW), but this is currently not stored. On the data sheet, which was distributed to us, however: "flow or conventional" batteries with 125 kW/400 kw-hr performance are shown.
The proposed peak power shaving system will use "surplus" power of the water-run power plant to convert hydrogen by means of electrolysers (300 kW) and stored in specific storage tanks, then using fuel cells (100kW), in turn, to generate electricity for the peak demand. This system is controlled via a Microgrid Control System with special software from General Electric.
The components for this system: electrolysers, hydrogen storage and fuel cell systems are ready, we could see them in the Hydrogen Power Technology Center at Tech Labs, but unfortunately were not to be photographed. After completing the tests, the components are shipped to Bella Coola and then installed there. The operation is already scheduled to begin in 2009. We will report back on that issue.
All in all two interesting visits, both future-oriented and both "renewable". It would be beautiful, if other countries allow such future initiatives. The implementation of hydrogen and fuel cells into “the real life” will remain exciting, also in the future!...
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