A U.S. fuel cell company has shipped its first prototype beta unit to an association of rural electric cooperatives.
NEW YORK, New York – H Power says it shipped the unit for evaluation and testing to ECO, an association of 300 power cooperatives, with the right to market products to 900 cooperatives whose service territory includes 83 percent of U.S. counties in 47 states. “We continue to make steady progress toward our primary goal of commercial fuel cell production in the second half of calendar 2001,” says CEO Frank Gibbard. “Beginning shipment of the beta units before the end of calendar 2000 was an important milestone.” The New York company will commence commercial shipments of fuel cell systems to ECO in the second half of this year, and expects to deliver 12,300 units within 30 months following delivery of its tenth commercial unit, which the company plans to ship in the second half of this year. The delivery schedule is expected to accelerate over this 30 month period. H Power and ECO have enhanced the fuel cell system to increase capacity by 50 percent to 4.5 kilowatts, while simultaneously decreasing system size by 25 percent. “We are continuing our aggressive cost-reduction program to reduce our fuel cell subsystem and component costs,” explains Gibbard. “The initial costs for certain system components are higher than originally estimated as is common with developmental products.” The company has also signed a lease for a 80,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Monroe, North Carolina, which will be ready for commercial production later this year in order to fulfill the delivery obligations to ECO and other customers. H Power’s goal is to establish fuel cells as a major alternative energy source. It focuses primarily on existing markets for stationary power products such as the rural residential market, but intends to penetrate the markets for portable and mobile fuel cell products. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells generate electricity from the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is obtained from natural gas or propane, while oxygen is drawn from the air.