Book Reviews

Scholarly Reviews

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Winkler, Director of Institute for Energy Systems and Fuel Cell Technology, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, Germany, August 2014,
“The book gives a remarkable overview of the fuel cell developments and their history worldwide. It is excellently researched and gives high value information even for insiders.”

Subhash C. Singhal, NAE, Battelle Fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99352, USA, March 2013,
“You have done a monumental job of capturing the fuel cell history worldwide. It must have taken quite an effort. It will come in handy when I have to look up something from the past. You also make a very passionate case for a new “Manhattan Project-like” fuel cell program in this country. Hopefully, the politicians will realize that need and opportunity.”

Mark C. Williams, Director, Research, Chief of Engineering Research for URS, December 2012, “This effort is monumental and erudite. It is a tour de force. While presenting the analysis of fuel cell technology that had to be done, the book lays out a research plan that commands attention. The book is highly readable. This is a one of a kind book; no book compares in depth and scope. The author is fierce and hard-hitting, but her conclusions are sound and defensible.”

Harumi Yokokawa, Dr. FECS, Emeritus Researcher, Invited Research Scientist, Project Leader, “Durability/Reliability of SOFC Stacks/System”, Energy Technology Research Institute, National Institute of advanced Industrial Science and Technology (SOFC), December 2012, “Fuel cells will provide a paradigm change in energy technology, which has the potential to penetrate deep into modern society. I hope managers in the energy industry and in governments will read this book to learn how to manage fuel cell developments over the long term with enthusiasm and prompt decisions.”

Prof.Dr. Robert Steinberger-Wilckens, Chair Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Research, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham, December 2012, “A knowledgeable, exhaustive and at the same time relentless review of world fuel cell R&D and the way governments fail to support it properly – controversial and sometimes erring in small details. Essential reading and valuable reference in fuel cell history with a clear vision of how the technology should be further developed to market entry.”

Other Reviews

Behling investigates why the fuel cell…is still not a commercial product in wide use. The topics are fuel cells and the challenges ahead, the history of the alkaline fuel cell, phosphoric acid fuel cells, molten carbonate fuel cells, solid oxide fuel cells, proton exchange membrane and direct methanol fuel cells, strengths and weaknesses of major government fuel cell research and development programs, and policy recommendations.” Reference & Research Book News, December 2013

“Behling (formerly, Central Intelligence Agency), a science and technology analyst for 30 years, provides a detailed history of the development of fuel cells, emphasizing policy-making aspects…It is well suited for researchers and policy makers with years of experience and a long-term interest in fuel cells…Summing Up: Recommended.” Choice Reviews Online, November 2013

“Behling…a science and technology analyst for 30 years, provides a detailed history of the development of fuel cells, emphasizing policy-making aspects. The book starts with two introductory chapters and continues with five chapters (more than 85 percent of the book) on the history of different fuel cell technologies…It is well suited for researchers and policy makers with years of experience and a long-term interest in fuel cells…” CHOICE, November 2013

Ondanks gecompliceerde techniek is de brandstofcel te waardevol om niet te benutten
NRC HANDELSBLAD, the Economy section, Page 28,, the Netherlands
8 February 2013

English Translation
Despite the complex technology, the fuel cell is too valuable not to use
More than 170 years after the discovery of the fuel cell by William Grove in 1839, commercial success of the technology is still unclear. This is the provocative thesis that begins the recently published voluminous book on fuel cells by Noriko Hikosaka Behling, consultant and analyst. After providing an historical review of the different types of fuel cell technologies, such as the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell and the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC), she notes that after many years of effort the promise of commercially viable fuel cells is unfulfilled because the technology remains a complex and difficult challenge. But fuel cells are too valuable to pass up, she concludes and calls for a research and development strategy that is comparable to that of the Manhattan Project. What is especially needed is fundamental research over five years, with funding at $ 2,000,000,000 per year, which will ultimately give humanity extremely attractive devices that provide cheap, clean and reliable electricity and heat. Noriko Hikosaka Behling: Fuel Cells, Current Technology Challenges and Future Research Needs. E l i s e v e r, 684 € 232.95 p. VVVVV

Fuel Cells: Current Technology Challenges and Future Research Needs
by Dan Carter, Manager

“In the book…Noriko Behling provides a comprehensive history of each major type of fuel cell technology and proposes a bold course of action to address current difficulties in commercialising fuel cells…The book culminates in a set of policy recommendations, which Behling builds towards throughout.”, January 31, 2013

31 JANUARY 2013
In the book “Fuel Cells: Current Technology Challenges and Future Research Needs” Noriko Behling provides a comprehensive history of each major type of fuel cell technology and proposes a bold course of action to address current difficulties in commercialising fuel cells.

The book is structured into nine chapters and begins with a brief history of fuel cell technology, from its invention through to its emergence as a commercial product today – Behling ponders that William Grove couldn’t have dreamt it would take more than 170 years before commercial exploitation of his invention!

There follow five chapters which comprehensively lay out the commercial history of all the major fuel cell types. Beginning with alkaline fuel cells (AFC) and the technology’s association with numerous space programmes in both Russia and the USA the author discusses a large number of companies in the USA, Europe and Russia that have attempted to commercialise AFC technology. It concludes that little progress has been made in this regard, and that all of these companies have now ceased development of this technology. While some of the companies cited technical reasons, the author does not always make it apparent why others ceased developing the technology. The sole exception is UK-based AFC Energy, which is currently running field trials of its AFC unit fuelled using by-product hydrogen at a chlor-alkali plant in Germany.

Phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) developments focus mainly on the USA and Japan. In the US, government support for PAFC has historically been strong, with research programmes funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) and run by United Technologies Corporation (UTC). In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has also funded a range of initiatives attempting to develop commercial PAFC units. The companies involved are discussed here, but this chapter also includes comprehensive tables listing installations by the US DoD, UTC Power, and those under the METI sponsored programmes. Little PAFC development activity is discussed for Europe, but again, a table of European installations is included, dominated by those from UTC Power. Like that of AFC technology, Behling states that PAFC technology has not enjoyed any measurable success globally primarily due to its high cost.

The chapter on molten carbonate fuel cells is dominated by US-based FuelCell Energy (FCE) and its tie-up with POSCO Energy in Korea. Again, tables of installation data are available and show FCE’s domestic sales dwindling in recent years. However, through its Korean partner, sales have ramped up progressively during the past four years. In Europe, FCE also dominates installations, with other companies going out of business citing a lack of funding to develop a commercial product.

The picture for SOFC development is little better according to Behling, despite a number of US companies succeeding in commercialising their fuel cells for prime power and military applications. A list of commercial ventures from companies such as Bloom Energy and Versa Power Systems are discussed, but the author concludes that US dominance in the development of SOFC technology has waned in recent years. European developments by Topsoe and Wärtsilä are discussed among many others, including the companies active in developing micro-CHP SOFC systems, and Behling concludes that there is a lack of strategy in Europe when it comes to commercialisation of SOFC. The one positive she identifies is the adoption of Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited’s SOFC technology by Germany, but overall the author bemoans the lack of cost competitiveness, durability and efficiency of SOFC technology worldwide.

The final technology chapter covers both proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) and direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC). Similar to the previous chapters it tracks the development of the technologies, in particular citing the development of PEMFC for vehicles around the world and for residential micro-CHP trials in Japan. Developments at each of the main automakers conducting fuel cell research are included, as are tables of material handling vehicle deployments in the USA. Behling again concludes that PEMFC and DMFC are failing to find the major international success they promised, and that more niche applications are emerging. She suggests that trends have emerged showing PEMFC and DMFC are not robust or efficient enough to serve as prime power units in cars and buses, likewise for residential CHP applications.

The book culminates in a set of policy recommendations, which Behling builds towards throughout. The author states that fuel cell technology is too valuable to abandon, but having identified key failure modes for each technology, she calls for a back-to-basics approach to fund research aimed at solving the problems which have beset the industry thus far. In part this lack of fundamental understanding is attributed to scientific techniques being too underdeveloped to allow full understanding of fuel cell fundamentals. Behling states that overcoming this will allow for better development of commercial products. To this end the author calls for a National Fuel Cell Development Project (NFCDP) on a similar scale to the Manhattan Project to advance fundamental understanding of fuel cells. She calls for $2 billion per year in funding for 5 years to achieve this.

Overall, the book provides a thorough digest, if slightly negative at times, of global developments in the fuel cell industry, both in terms of research and commercialisation. While the author’s call for fundamental research funding on such a scale is admirable, achieving such funding levels in the current economic climate would be challenging.

The book is available to order online in both the UK and the USA. Dan Carter, Manager,

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