STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
This analysis focuses on the three main components of the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) for proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC):
- Gaseous diffusion layers and bipolar plates.
- Catalysts and inks.
Polymer membranes that are the electrolyte, and therefore the heart of the fuel cell, receive extra attention. The report also examines the history and advancing technology of these components, the companies involved in these developments, the current and projected incentives, and the projected markets for such technologies.
Identified as a practical solution to many of the technological and environmental problems facing the world today, the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell is appropriate as a power source for transportation, stationary distributive power and small-scale applications such as portable electronic products. Applications for all types of fuel cells are still evolving. In the process of this evolution, the different proton exchange membrane materials and membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) will evolve and be adapted to more specific uses.
Identifying how researchers are searching for better membranes that have greater tolerances to poisoning, greater durability and lower costs is a major objective of the report. The U.S., Japanese, Chinese and European governments are pouring billions of dollars of loans, subsidies and outright grants into fuel cell research and development — and at the same time there has been a series of confrontations between Congress and President Obama's’ administration over continued fuel cell funding. This could be set to change with the exit of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu (no friend of fuel cells in general). Meanwhile, European and Far Eastern government subsidies have increased.
Commercialization of the fuel cell is not solely influenced by engineers and scientists working on stacks and reformers. (This is also brought about by subsidies by the government, lobbying efforts, venture capitalists and most of all by some consumers actually finding a need or desire for the product.) A major cost issue addressed is the critical issue of the catalyst component, both in terms of cost control and efficiency.
REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY
Fuel cells are viewed as potential candidates for vehicle power, auxiliary power, mobile power, stationary distributed or central power, and portable product power. Advances in the technology are made, but sometimes these advances reveal even more challenges to be met. Slowly there is the realization that total dependency on hydrocarbon fuels is not a viable economic option. PEMFCs have a part in securing energy security for the country, improving the environment, greatly reducing urban pollution and creating jobs in manufacturing as the technology advances. They can also provide a cost-effective and performance-driven rival for advanced batteries.
Hydrogen feed fuel cells are based on the electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. This electrochemical process does not pollute the environment with hydrocarbons, particulates or any sulfur or nitrogen oxides. The study identifies the opportunities and technological requirements of the PEMFC and the MEA and the bipolar plates for the PEMFC. When several units of the membrane electrode assembly are capped off with a bipolar plate and properly assembled, the arrangement is referred to as a stack.
This study analyzes components of the PEMFC, a technology offering the promise of greatly reduced environmental impact and excellent performance, price and efficiency advantages. Recent historic developments and approaches are described along with recent commercial developments and PEMFC state of the art.
Questions to be answered include determining a timetable for PEMFC commercialization, as well as what types of membranes and membrane assemblies are needed to make this possible.
This report is intended to provide a unique analysis of the broadly defined global PEM market and will be of interest to a variety of current and potential fuel cell users as well as fuel cell makers and component and membrane makers. This report also can provide valuable information in terms of assessing investment in particular technologies and, therefore, should benefit investors directly or indirectly. The vital importance of platinum as a catalyst for PEMFCs is addressed. Anyone interested in the precious metals market, in nanomaterials or in alternative catalysts will find the evaluations of the technology of interest. BCC Research wishes to thank those companies, government agencies and university researchers who contributed information for this report.
This analysis is designed to be as comprehensive as possible. This document is intended to be value to a broad audience of business, technical, investment and regulatory professionals. It is an information source for an emerging industry as well as a reference on a developing technology. It presents analysis and forward-thinking evaluations that will be of advantage to manufacturers; material suppliers; and to local, state and federal government entities. Corporate planners will benefit from the report’s evaluation of the demands for proton exchange membranes, membrane electrode assemblies, and platinum catalyst and the companies involved in their development and manufacture. Others may find the broad discussions of energy policy, environmental impact, platinum supply and chemical synthesis of membranes to be of considerable value in understanding the opportunities and problems facing the fuel cell industry in the near to mid-term.
SCOPE OF REPORT
The fuel cell industry in various forms has been developing for decades. There are notable examples of fuel cell successes. The PEMFC is emerging as a winner in many of the primary categories that fuel cells can satisfy. Existing membranes and assemblies still have room for improvement. PEMFC development and commercialization is an ever-changing process. This BCC Research analysis examines the market and technology for the materials and technology of proton exchange membranes and electrode assemblies and for bipolar plates for PEMFCs, including direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs). This includes the gas diffusion layer (GDL), the catalyst ink/electrode, the membrane itself and the bipolar plate. Ancillary stack assembly materials such as bolts, gaskets, tie-outs, and final assembly and packaging costs are excluded.
This report details the actuals for 2007, 2011 and 2012 and compound annual growth rate (CAGR) projections for 2017. North American, European, Far Eastern and rest-of-world markets are covered. When appropriate, consensus, optimistic and pessimistic scenarios are presented. A patent analysis and discussion for power sources and vehicle components describes where research is performed and emphasizes intellectual property issues. An extensive set of company profiles is provided.
An in-depth analysis of technical and business literature and published dissertations, a review of the history of the technologies involved, interviews with industry experts, company representatives, federal government researchers and university scientists provide an assessment of the outlook for the next generation of PEMFCs and membrane electrode assemblies. Other information sources include product literature from suppliers, scientific references, conferences and patent searches.
Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in preparing this report, which is based on interviews with commercial and government sources, literature reviews and patent examinations. Throughout the report, past market data is expressed in current U.S. dollars, and estimates and projections are in constant 2013 U.S. dollars. Historic markets (2007, 2011 and 2012) and the projected market for 2017 are provided. Most market summaries are based on a consensus scenario for wholesale (producer) prices that assumes no unanticipated technical advances and no unexpected legislation. When appropriate, pessimistic, consensus and optimistic market scenarios characterize several developmental markets. Totals are rounded to the nearest million dollars. When appropriate, information from previously published sources is identified to allow a more detailed examination by clients.
Market assumptions used in this report include those based on updates of material from an earlier version of this analysis, as well as from BCC Research studies. This report’s author prepared these studies as well. He also edited the BCC Research newsletter, Fuel Cell Industry Report, which provided a uniquely valuable source for this market. Although many segments of the industry are well documented, much of this information is based on estimates, not hard facts. The distinction between these estimates and facts can be vital, and wherever possible, sources are identified.
This report’s project analyst, Donald Saxman, edited the BCC Research newsletter, Fuel Cell Industry Report and has founded several other BCC newsletters. Saxman has more than 28 years of experience in market analysis, technical writing and newsletter editing. Since 1983, he has operated as a technical market consultant and subcontractor to BCC Research, and in this capacity, he has prepared more than 80 technology market research reports, including many that covered battery technology and battery markets. His previous experience includes supervision of a quality-control laboratory at a major secondary lead refinery, experience as an analytical chemist at a hazardous waste testing service, product assurance manager for a space station life-support-system project and an information technology business analyst and project manager.
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This publication provides informative material of a professional nature. It does not constitute managerial, legal or accounting advice, nor should it serve as a corporate policy guide or an endorsement of any given product or company. The information is intended to be as accurate as possible at the time it was written and was undertaken on a best-effort basis. The views expressed are those of the author’s and they do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information, or for the interpretation of data or its use by others. Projections involve risks and uncertainties and are not limited to, but include, technical risks associated with technology development, government regulatory approvals and access to capital. The author assumes no responsibility for any losses or damages that might result due to reliance on this material.