Panasonic trims Ene-Farm fuel cell size and price

Jan 22, 2013 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org)—This month, Panasonic and Tokyo Gas announced the launch of their newest Ene-Farm home fuel cell, a product that residents can use to generate energy right from their homes. This is a smaller, cheaper, and efficient successor to the Ene-Farm products of the past; the new product can operate 20 percent longer than the previous model, for 60,000 hours. The developers, Tokyo Gas and Panasonic, said that this Ene-Farm home fuel cell achieves overall efficiency of 95 percent LHV, as the world's most efficient fuel cell.

LHV is short for Lower Heating Value. This is the value obtained by subtracting the heat of vaporization of the from the total heat generated when the gas fuel is fully combusted.

With the new Ene-Farm's smaller sized equipment, the required installation depth was decreased from 900 mm to 750 mm and the backup was separated from the hot water unit; the product announcement explained how that means the home can be easily installed in a wider variety of places, an important advantage for residents in houses with limited space such as those in the Tokyo . Another key promotion point is price. The new Ene-Farm costs about 760,000 yen less than the recommended retail price of the Ene-Farm model currently on the market. The new design marks the first time that the recommended retail price of an Ene-Farm product in Japan is less than 2 million yen.

The cost cut is attributed to the fact that the new entrant has less components. The price will be 1,995,000 yen with the standard backup heat source; including tax; excluding installation fee.

Another "first" being promoted as part of the Ene-Farm announcement is that the new Ene-Farm marks the first time the product will include a remote control with color display. The screen size is larger and the text and graphics, they said, are easier to see. For those homes with a installed, an Ene-Farm addition would work, in that the can display information on electrical generation for the entire home including power from the dwelling's solar panels.

Panasonic trims Ene-Farm fuel cell size and price

Panasonic is the manufacturer of the fuel cell unit, and the company supplies it to Tokyo Gas, in combination with a unit and backup heat source by Gastar, a subsidiary of Tokyo Gas. The new product will be available to the general public in three models, starting in April.

The world's first 'Ene-Farm' products were put on general sale in May 2009. Panasonic, in efforts to strengthen its position as a leader among green companies, is keen on advancing the development of fuel cell efficiencies. According to the company, "Panasonic is now promoting fuel cells as one of the most important business categories of the Panasonic group in line with its vision, namely to become the No.1 Green Innovation Company in the electronics Industry in 2018, the 100th anniversary of our founding."

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More information: Press release

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ForFreeMinds
2 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2013
So this fuel cell converts natural gas into electricity. With a cost of about $22,000 for a 7 year life (for the fuel cell, not the natural gas or installation costs) this amounts to a yearly cost of $3,143, or $262/month, just to buy the equipment. It'd be interesting to see what the fuel cell electricity costs compared to that from the electric company, with all costs included. But I don't want to dig thru my engineering books to figure it out.
djr
not rated yet Jan 22, 2013
I think you are right ForFreeMinds - this is still an exoctic technology that is not going to get a lot of customers. Perhaps business clients here in the u.s. that can take advantage of the tax breaks for fuel cells - that is what is keeping Bloom afloat at the moment. Definitely an expensive back up system - a small gas (petrol) generator will run you $3 - $5,000.
Subach
not rated yet Jan 23, 2013
@djr
The fuel cell does have a reliability advantage, along with much faster start up times. To some business models those advantages might justify the higher price tag. I hope so because if such an industry can be supported for long enough these things could become economically viable for general decentralized power production fairly quickly. Doing the same calculation ForFreeMinds did for the old system price @ 50k hours of operation I get ~$450 /month. So the new system represents a 70% decrease in equipment based operating cost.

@ForFreeMinds
The thing can produce 750w, so over its life it produces 45mwh. Residential gas is ~40-80 cents per therm. 1 therm = 29.3kwh. 1th * 0.95 = ~27.8kwh. using $0.6/th I get 2.16 cents per kwh. The average cost of electricity varies, but 12 cents is reasonable. So the savings could be $0.1/kwh. ($0.1/kwh)*45,000kwh = $4500.
Or another way to put it;
It's about $0.52/kwh vs $0.12/kwh, not including installation.
So not good for the wallet yet.

phys reader
not rated yet Jan 26, 2013
Decrease in installation space is beneficial aspect of novelty
Also lower price is an advantage.......