Dow Chemical Co. and General Motors Corp. are leading the biggest commercial application yet for fuel cells in a move to provide up to 35 megawatts of fuel cell-generated electricity while also locking in a solid base to ramp up cell manufacturing.
Detroit-based GM will supply up to 500 fuel cells for use at Dow's Freeport, Texas, chemical production facility in a two-year test of the technology's capability. Commercial applications are slated to launch by 2006, according to the deal announced May 7.
The plan would be 15 times bigger than any fuel cell program previously launched, GM officials said.
``This is a significant milestone,'' said Bill Jewell, business vice president of energy for Midland, Mich.-based Dow. ``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 own operations, cutting its overall energy costs at the complex.
The contract also should provide enough manufacturing demand to launch 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,'' said 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 in the future.