PEM fuel cells take note that there is a new player in town and that is the platinum-free device developed by Daihatsu. Daihatsu Motors is the minicar division of Toyota and they have come up with a less costly fuel cell that runs on hydrazine hydrate (N2H4H2O). To the chemically-challenged this means that a combination of nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen are being used to produce an electrical current in the fuel cell. Nitrogen is also the most abundant element in the air we breathe.
The new Daihatsu fuel cell uses less costly materials instead of platinum like nickel and cobalt catalysts on the electrodes to promote the creation of electricity. The new fuel cell is also alkaline-based instead of acid-based like the typical PEM fuel cell.
Hydrazine hydrate in both its liquid and solid form are being tested. The liquid form is less stable and poses additional safety risks so Daihatsu is experimenting with the solid form, turning it to liquid only as needed before entering the fuel cell. In addition, hydrazine hydrate produces zero CO2 emissions, so its on par with PEM fuel cells in this regard.
At a time when people are calling for less expensive fuel cells, it’s good to see Daihatsu step up to the plate and deliver one. Additional testing is needed before this platinum-free fuel cell is commercially viable, but it shows that some companies are moving in the right direction in bringing down costs associated with zero emission vehicles.