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Author Topic: Methanol fuel cells  (Read 1129 times)
Jeremy
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« on: February 27, 2013, 05:24:40 AM »

Leafing through a motorhome accessories catalogue earlier I came across something I hadn't seen before - Efoy fuel cell systems for charging batteries. They are small units (only a few kg in weight) which produce electricity from methanol. The largest model in the catalogue I was looking at only produced 90w, so they're certainly not an alternative to a conventional generator, but perhaps better thought-of along the same lines as solar panels - silently producing a small amount of power to continuously trickle-charge batteries.

I'm not advocating them particularly - and I'm sure they're not cheap - but it's something I've not come across before so thought it might be of interest to others

http://www.efoy.com/



Jeremy
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2013, 07:35:28 AM »

I looked at these at the Vancouver Boat Show a couple of weeks ago.  They were either $6500 or $7500 each.  They are ridiculously low power output, maybe 100 watts or even less.  And you have to carry methanol to fuel them.  I really didn't pay close enough attention to the details so I'm sure I don't have the exact numbers but low power and high cost is what stuck in my mind.

IMHO they're a solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist.
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R.J.(Bob) Evans
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Tony LEE
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2013, 07:11:29 PM »

One that uses propane might get a leg-in, but these methanol-powered units have been languishing for a few years now and apart from the "must-have the latest" buyers with more money than sense, they don't appear too often.  Was one high-end Oz Motorhome fitting them as an option but I don't recall hearing any followup so it may not have lasted long.

Some interesting puffery in some of the advertising blurb eg "you will ALWAYS have a dependable source of power" - except when you run out of the special expensive methanol of course.
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belfert
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2013, 05:46:25 AM »

The only advantage I see over a generator is silent operation and possibly lack of fumes.
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2013, 06:43:22 PM »

You have to admit that it would be great if it had a bit more power and was priced affordably.  In due course, these and other variations might become common.
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 07:18:51 AM »

Well .......... if we're gonna play what if ............

If it had 3x as much output and ran on diesel then I'd be all over it.  As it is .......

I stood there and listened to the guy for probably 15 minutes but my eyes glazed over pretty quickly and my ears soon followed. I think I saw a fuel cell that ran on diesel fuel at the Seattle Working Boat show several years ago now but I've never seen it again.  That's actually why I stopped at this clown's booth - I thought it might be the one I had seen before.  I said I "think" I saw one in Seattle because I'm starting to doubt my memory.
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R.J.(Bob) Evans
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Jeremy
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 08:14:59 AM »

I would think that the chemistry could be made to work with any form of hydrocarbon fuel, although the vast majority of fuel cells in everyday use (in forklift trucks and electric cars etc) appear to be fueled with hydrogen gas - but I guess liquid methanol is better for these portable camping units because it's easier to buy and transport (although people manage readily enough with propane and lpg).

By the way, According to Wikipedia at least, fuel cells are 40% more fuel efficient than conventional diesel engines, and only produce 20% of the emissions. At the moment these units are probably just a plaything for the man who has everything (or maybe the man who is converting a submarine or a spacecraft into a motorhome) - give it another few years for the economies of scale to kick in though, plus further advances in the technology to improve the output and fuel efficiency, and we'll all have them.

Jeremy
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Cary and Don
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 08:34:17 AM »

We did a little research on these after seeing the ad also.  The only emissions they are suppose to put out is heat and water.  I'm thinking quite a bit of heat since it has to be vented to the outside.  If they produced that much heat,  maybe there would be a way to use it for interior heat or hot water or something.  Just wondering.

If they acutally produced enough you could do away with the generator.  That would save a lot of room and weight.  But they seem to be a long way from that and that's a lot of money to spend unless it could replace the generator.  If they produced a lot fast enough you could also shrink the battery bank size.

The absolute killer is, unless you are on a coast and near a major port,  it doesn't appear to be any supply for the methanol. You would have to be able to get the methanol at least in all the major cities.

This may work in the future,  way in the future.

Don and Cary
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lvmci
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 09:21:08 AM »

Hi All, arent farms next to a great source of methane? Cant you just plug a hose into one of these moooving methane producers? By products would be milk shakes if you had bessie towed in a trailer! Lvmci...
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 09:29:39 AM »

Funny,  some of the big dairies are kind of doing that.  LOL

Don and Cary
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