General Motors and Dow Chemical Co. are leading the biggest commercial application for fuel cells, in hopes of providing as many as 35 megawatts of fuel cell-generated electricity while also securing a base to increase cell manufacturing.
GM will supply as many as 500 fuel cells at Dow's plant in Freeport, Texas, in a two-year test. Commercial applications are scheduled for 2006, according to the deal announced Wednesday, May 7.
The plan would be 15 times bigger than any previous fuel cell program, GM officials say.
"This is a significant milestone," says Bill Jewell, business vice president of energy for Dow, of Midland, Mich. "Technology moves forward in steps. This step can prove the feasibility of manufacturing and using fuel cells in significant quantities."
The 500 cells will run on hydrogen made as a byproduct in Freeport and generate enough electricity to power 25,000 homes for a year. Dow plans to tap the 35 megawatts to help supply its operations, cutting its overall energy costs at the complex.
The contract also should provide enough manufacturing demand to begin larger-scale production of fuel cells and their components.
"The most compelling reason for GM to collaborate with Dow is ultimately to reduce the cost of fuel cells and improve their durability so that we may put them in cars by the end of the decade," says Larry Burns, GM vice president of research, development and planning.
Dow and GM also are discussing the prospect of using fuel cells at other Dow sites in North America and Europe.
Rhoda Miel is a staff reporter for Plastics News, a sister publication of Automotive News.