FRANKFURT - Delphi Automotive Systems' new Solid Oxide Fuel Cell system enables a car's on-board electrical functions to be run off auxiliary power.
Delphi is developing the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell system in conjunction with Renault and BMW.
The first diesel application will be in the Renault Kangoo, probably in 2005. The first gasoline application will be in a future BMW model.
The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell supplies up to 6 kilowatts of power without the need to turn on a car's engine or draw power from the battery.
In commercial vehicle terms, the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell could allow truck drivers to air condition their cabs, maintain refrigerated load temperatures, and take care of other electrical requirements over lengthy stops - without the periodic need to run their trucks' engines.
'The degree of interest in the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell is very high worldwide - but especially in Europe and North America,' said Jean Botti, director of the Customer Solutions Center for Delphi Energy and Engine Management Systems.
'Truck drivers want their cabins cooled or heated, and they need to keep their loads refrigerated,' he said. 'This fuel cell does not cause any pollution, which is useful as environmental concerns mean that [in future] truck drivers will no longer be able to idle their engines overnight.'
The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell system works by creating a chemical reaction between air and fuel that generates heat. It is contained in a thermally insulated structure that reaches temperatures higher than 800 degrees Celsius on the inside. Multiple fuel cells can be stacked together within the structure to provide additional electricity, depending on power requirements.
The Solid Oxide Fuel Cell system may eventually take the place of the conventional lead battery. Delphi says the system is more suited to the growing electrical needs of future vehicles, and is more powerful and longer lasting than a lead battery.