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Germany-based Smart Fuel Cell AG announced Tuesday (Aug. 6) that its methanol-powered fuel cell is standard equipment on a motorhome produced by Hymer AG.
Red Herring, a technology trade publication, reported that the A50 cell model used in the 22-foot motorhome will not help power the vehicle and won’t affect gas mileage. Instead, the cell will continuously recharge the battery to run onboard devices such as parking heaters, satellite and television systems, lighting, and digital gadgets.
Hymer, a German builder servicing Europe and Asia, is also offering the fuel cell as an option in its B-Class and B-Star-Line vehicles.
Red Herring said that while one analyst doesn’t dispute that this is the first time a fuel cell is being shipped for commercial vehicles, he said it is not the first time a fuel cell is being used to run such devices in vehicles.
“Every little bit helps, but it’s not propelling the vehicle,” said Dan Benjamin, a senior analyst at ABI Research. “It’s not a fuel-cell-powered vehicle, not by a long stretch.”
Still, Smart Fuel Cell, called this the world’s first commercial fuel cell in an automotive application. The SFC A50 fuel cell was previously available as backup power for RVs and other recreational vehicles, but was not commercially integrated into a vehicle before now, the company said.
“Hymer’s adoption of our fuel cells as standard equipment in the S-Class signals the beginning of a new era,” said Pieter Bots, Smart Fuel Cell’s chief marketing and sales officer. “We are extremely proud to be the first fuel cell manufacturer worldwide to finally offer a fully commercialized fuel cell to the automotive industry.”
Red Herring said the industry still faces daunting challenges, including high cost, and the need for higher power density, smaller size, and infrastructure to make and distribute the new fuel.
Most vehicle manufacturers have been developing hydrogen-based fuel cells, while most companies working on micro fuel cells for electronics devices have concentrated on methanol.
Hymer will present the fuel-cell-equipped S Class at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (IAA) 2005, or the IAA International Motor Show 2005, which begins in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sept. 15. Smart Fuel Cell said it is currently in negotiations with “numerous potential international cooperation partners” in a wide range of automotive applications.