“Fuel cells are a genuine ‘clean’ technology,” says one of the study’s investigators, Professor Chris Hendry of the Cass Business School, London. “But re-investment in nuclear technology is likely to squeeze out the investment necessary to make fuel cells competitive with existing energy sources and with other non-nuclear alternative energy options.”
The study, co-written by Prof. Hendry, Dr. Paul Harborne, James Brown and Prof. Dinos Arcoumanis, gives a strong clue to one of the major obstacles to development by referring to fuel cell technology as a disruptive innovation. A disruptive innovation, if successful, eventually overturns the existing product on the market. Recent examples include the digital camera and the compact disc. Disruptive innovations are radically different from the existing dominant technology and to begin with they are often not as good. The result is two-fold. First the proponents of existing technology are likely to fear and so resist the new development. Second, because profits are unlikely to be immediate, funding can be problematic.
The automotive industry and stationary power provide examples of fuel cells as a disruptive innovation. However, while their potential is being pursued in the UK, Germany, North America and Japan, interviews with seventy companies in these countries show the UK fuel cell industry is lagging behind.
The UK is comparatively strong in developing hydrogen as a fuel source, reflecting the interests of the oil and gas companies, and in fuel cell components. Indeed, university research has led to the establishment of a number of new firms. Nevertheless the industry supply chain for fuel cells is generally underdeveloped and there have been few efforts by government to support the creation of a market.
In stark contrast, the study finds, Germany has more medium and large firms along the supply chain as well as technological excellence in engineering and electronics to support the overall design of fuel cell systems. It has energy supply companies committed to testing fuel cells, and there are active government incentives. As a result, Germany has 75 per cent of the installations in Europe. Germany and Japan offer the most favourable conditions for fuel cells in residential combined heat and power and, the authors say, may well become ‘lead countries’ in technology and market development.
Buses seem a promising test-bed for fuel cells but, as Hendry and his co-authors point out, large technical systems like transport and power generation are embedded in institutional and economic commitments which fuel cells will have to overcome. Bus manufacturers and operators are lukewarm and, with the exception of Iceland, there is little evidence of coherent government transport and taxation strategies anywhere in the world to encourage the transition to low emission buses. As a result, the bus market is failing to provide a viable niche for fuel cells, let alone a foothold for wider automotive applications.
This shows the limitations imposed by framing demonstration projects as ‘technological’ rather than ‘social’ experiments and the need for continuing public procurement to provide a bridge beyond demonstrations. “The role of a clear guiding vision and political will,” the authors say, “is illustrated by Japan, which has bypassed bus demonstrations in favour of building a fuel infrastructure that can be used by the automotive industry to support the development of cars.”
Annika Howard | alfa
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences