Cummins Power Generation, manufacturer of Onan-brand generators, recently was awarded a 10-year, $74.2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to develop an affordable 10 kW fuel cell module.

The Onan diesel, gasoline and LP generator sets that Cummins Power Generation now builds for RV use produce 12.5 kW.

The goal of the research effort is to develop a virtually silent source of electric power with significantly lower fuel consumption and exhaust emissions when compared to existing technologies using fossil fuels.

McDermott Technology Inc. of Alliance, Ohio, will subcontract with Cummins Power Generation in the effort. The Cummins/McDermott team will provide an additional $91.5 million over the life of the project.

“Our program goal is to reduce the manufacturing cost of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and to make them commercially available in a price range similar to that of current competing generating technologies,” said Paul Plahn, director of advanced product development at Cummins Power Generation.

Fuels cells operate by oxidizing a reformed fuel with a special ceramic substrate to generate direct-current (DC) electricity without combustion. The only waste products are water vapor and a small amount of carbon dioxide.

Fuel cells now in production require either very large and complex hydrocarbon fuel reformers to produce pure hydrogen or a supply of bottled hydrogen gas as a fuel source. The distribution of bottled hydrogen currently is not economical or practical.