By Dr. Cameron Chai
According to a report titled, “Fuel Cells for Military Applications” released by the cleantech market intelligence company, Pike Research, military fuel cell shipments are likely to increase from 1,200 in 2011 to 272,000 in 2017. This in turn will generate military fuel cells revenues of $1.2 billion from $9 million in 2011.
The report also states that the US military is the single largest energy consumer in the world and that the instability in oil markets in recent times can pose a great threat to the military. Due to this factor, the US military has been placing great emphasis on developing latest technologies with particular focus on fuel cells. Complicated battlefield conditions in countries like Afghanistan present great opportunities for manufacturers of fuel cells and Original Equipment Manufacturers. The report talks about the portable, static and mobile power applications of fuel cells, its markets and its barriers.
According to research director, Kerry-Ann Adamson portable power applications for devices like night vision goggles, radios and ruggedized computers to be used by soldiers can be the greatest area of fuel cell usage and thus can provide big opportunities to fuel cell manufacturers. These devices use fuel cells as an alternative for portable batteries in applications like surveillance systems and unmanned sensors. At present, soldiers carry 9 lbs of disposable batteries on an average and are required to carry more portable devices thus leading to more weight. Since fuel cells have a higher density in energy than traditional military batteries it makes them a lighter and more convenient alternative. However, since the specifications required for fuel cells in military usage can be very stringent, fuel cell manufacturers may not be able to meet the standards.