Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies

Unlike other fuel cell companies, Horizon has taken the approach of starting with small and simple consumer products and evolving slowly toward more complex, industrial grade and aerospace applications.

Horizon was founded in 2003 and has offices in Singapore and Shanghai, China. Their first product launch was the “H-racer” toy scale fuel cell car in 2006. It was quickly followed by several other consumer products and received several design awards as well as a Time Magazine “Best Invention Award.”

Consumer Products

Horizon has focused its early efforts on proton exchange membrane fuel cells for consumer electronic products and portable power. There are four product offerings in this market segment as follows.

  • MiniPak – Touted as the “personal power center,” this palm sized universal portable power charger can provide power to any consumer electronic device requiring up 2 W. This will include such things as cell phones, smartphones, GPS units, and mp3 players. The device offers a standard prong outlet as well as USB charging capabilities. The system relies on a PEMFC fuel cell with a metal hydride storage unit. The cartridges are refillable using the AC powered “HydroFill,” which uses electricity to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is absorbed by the metal hydride to refill the cartridge (called a HydroStick).
  • HydroPak – This portable power device is intended to be used as an electrical generator for off-grid applications. Like the MiniPak, it only requires that water be added. Unlike the MiniPak, the system does not store hydrogen, but rather produces hydrogen on request utilizing the interaction between aluminum, water, and sodium hydroxide. The system is capable of producing up to 50 W of power and weighs only 0.65 kg with solution (0.35 kg without solution).
  • SUNBOX – This is a solar unit capable of providing up to 11 hours of artificial light. It requires a full 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to charge. It is intended for off-grid use in camping and adventure travel.
  • H-Cell 2.0 – This radio controlled car utilizes a 30 W PEMFC that runs on the same HydroStick cartridges discussed under the MiniPak above. The toy is intended to be fun, but also to provide an introduction to the household use of hydrogen refueling from water and electricity.

Stationary Products

Horizon has partnered with H2Planet to create several PEMFC based UPS systems ranging from 500 W to 2 kW. The systems are intended to be used for telecom backup power, emergency power, outdoor events, and remote construction. They can run on both compressed industrial hydrogen gas or on metal hydride canisters.

Aerospace

Horizon has recently partnered with South Korea to produce the AeroPak for use in unmanned aerial vehicles. They claim the system provides 300% more flight time than traditional power systems and also, by decreasing noise and heat generation, increases the stealth abilities of these aircraft.

This system is capable of producing pure hydrogen gas on demand from the interaction of water and chemical hydrides. The system is capable of adjusting the flow of hydrogen fuel to accommodate the needs of the vehicle as they change. The system is compact, lightweight, and hot-swappable, which allows for extended duration usage and minimized downtime.

Automotive

Horizon and the United Kingdom unveiled a two-seater, zero emissions, hydrogen-electric car in London in 2009. The car is expected to have a fuel consumption equivalent to 250 miles per gallon and will be made available to consumers for 200 pounds per month ($315).

The car runs on a 6 kW fuel cell system developed by Horizon and is constructed of lightweight composite materials. It includes a 60% regenerative breaking energy system and can travel 240 miles on a single hydrogen tank weighing only 1 kg. The vehicle itself weighs only 350 kg and is capable of top speeds of 50 miles per hour.

The vehicle has an interesting approach to power utilization. Rather than running the vehicle primarily off of the fuel cell, acceleration and cruising have been separated so that the fuel cell is only responsible for maintaining speed. Acceleration, which is known to take a tremendous toll on fuel cells, is accomplished through the use of ultra-capacitors. Ultra-capacitors are capable of maintaining charge for only for short periods of time, but are also capable of delivering the high bursts of voltage necessary for acceleration. By coupling these capacitors with the regenerative breaking system, it is possible to charge them for use in acceleration and then handoff speed maintenance to the fuel cell. In this way, energy is conserved as much as possible and the range of the vehicle is greatly extended.