Fuel cell technology
Ethanol is the perfect fuel for fuel cells
A fuel cell is a device that can obtain 40 to 50% efficiency in conversion of a fuel into useable power (as opposed to approximately 18% efficiency for the average internal combustion engine). This technology is a by-product of the NASA space program, developed to provide a lightweight and efficient power source for use on manned space missions.   Some fuel cells use specialized molecular sieves made of complex polymers with some type of anode/cathode properties , and others use expensive platinum catalysts. There are four main types available.  Some use pure hydrogen as a fuel source to make electricity. Some are designed to run on propane, but may only have a membrane life expectancy of 3,000 hours (125 days). One of the main problems with any fuel cell is contamination of the membrane. So it seems like a great advantage, then, to use a fuel source which has been distilled and is 99.9999 % pure. The ideal fuel for a fuel cell is ethanol. Plus, this is a biologically derived fuel with no horrible byproducts.http://www.dodfuelcell.com/fcdescriptions.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0
Ethanol is a lot cheaper than hydrogen.  Using ethanol to make hydrogen for a fuel cell, you would get 60% efficiency.
Ethanol Research notes:
Over the past several years, Arthur D. Little, with support from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and other organizations, has developed a fuel processor that allows fuel cell powerplants to operate on ethanol. Ethanol used in transportation applications reduces oil dependence and results in lower emissions. Fuel cell applications are particularly desirable for ethanol because:

1. Fuel cells operate very efficiently compared with internal combustion engines, reducing the price gap between utilization of ethanol and cheap imported gasoline.

2. Hydrated ethanol  (alcohol which still has some water content, not 200 proof) can be used in a fuel cell system with no loss in efficiency compared with 100 % high-grade ethanol, opening the way for the use of ethanol that can be used at a lower cost.

In a program conducted in 1996 for the ICMB, Arthur D. Little conducted a series of tests to demonstrate the use of hydrated ethanol in an advanced fuel processor. The results of this testing were successful and have been presented at prominent industry gatherings, including the 1996 Fuel Cell Seminar and the 1996 DOE Customer Coordination Meeting. This research is also the subject of a paper entitled, "Evaluation of Hydrated Ethanol in an Advanced Fuel Processor," which has already been accepted for publication and will be presented at The Society of Automotive Engineers Annual Conference in March, 1997. This technical work and publication effort has kept ethanol positioned as a desirable fuel cell vehicle fuel. In the meanwhile, fuel cell vehicle advancements have occurred in other programs at a very rapid pace.

The proposed program for 1997-2000 will continue to promote the use of ethanol in advanced fuel cell powerplants. Arthur D. Little will compete on a team for a $15 million, three-year, cost-shared DOE contract to develop a fuel cell powerplant capable of operating on multiple fuels. In Arthur D. Little's proposed program, ethanol has a visible and attractive role. The designs and tests conducted in this program will highlight ethanol's performance in a 50-kW fuel cell powerplant. By 2000, this powerplant--capable of operating on both ethanol and ethanol blends--will be ready for integration into a prototype light-duty vehicle or hybrid bus. This program thus positions ethanol as a premier fuel for transportation powerplants of the 21st century.

This program will demonstrate that ethanol--even low-cost hydrated ethanol--can be used in advanced fuel cell vehicles. Fuel cell buses operating on other fuels are already on the road. Under the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, each of the Big Three is working on fuel cell passenger cars. By 2008, a fleet of 3,000 fuel cell buses and 5,000 fuel cell cars could consume about 18 million gallons of ethanol yearly.

Illinois Corn Marketing Board:
Breakthrough research sponsored by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the State of Illinois has opened the way for efficient, zero-pollution fuel cell cars and buses powered by ethanol. Fuel cells are up to three times as efficient as conventional vehicles and emit virtually no pollutants. Renewable ethanol made from corn can power these fuel cell vehicles using an ethanol fuel processor developed by Arthur D. Little, Inc., of Cambridge, MA. Ethanol is the ideal fuel for advanced fuel cell vehicles since it reduces oil imports and has fewer negative consequences for the environment than any other practical fuel alternative.

In 1996, several stunning achievements in fuel cell vehicle technology were announced by major automakers. In May, Daimler-Benz unveiled its NeCar II, a second generation fuel cell powered van with a 200-mile range and five-passenger capacity. In October, Toyota showed a fuel cell vehicle based on the highly popular RAV4, a sport utility vehicle. Both companies have announced satisfaction with the progress of fuel cell technology, and both have publicly stated their intent to proceed toward a production decision for fuel cell vehicles. These vehicles are shown in Figure 1. Automotive News, the most authoritative (and technologically conservative) source in the industry, covered these developments with front page stories. Discussion in the automotive industry has turned from debate over the practicality of fuel cell vehicles toward a discussion of possible timetables for their introduction.

While the practicability of fuel cell technology has been demonstrated, the issue of which fuel these vehicles will operate on is still very much in flux. Fuel cells ultimately need hydrogen to operate. The Daimler and Toyota vehicles operate directly on hydrogen, which is an impractical transportation fuel for the near term. Daimler, Toyota, General Motors, and Georgetown University all have major programs underway to develop fuel cell powerplants that utilize methanol. The American Methanol Institute is a vocal advocate of methanol as a future fuel. Methanol is not a logical or appropriate fuel since no production or delivery infrastructure currently exists, and its use will not reduce dependence on foreign energy resources. In addition, methanol fuel cell vehicles cannot utilize ethanol.
Over the last several years, Arthur D. Little, with support from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, the State of Illinois, and the Department of Energy, has worked to keep ethanol positioned as a viable fuel for fuel cell vehicles. In 1994/1995, this involved critical technology demonstrations and design developments that proved that ethanol can be effectively transformed into hydrogen on board a fuel cell vehicle. Figure 2 shows the resulting 50 kW multi-fuel reformer on its test stand. This fuel processor is more advanced and compact than any methanol fuel processor shown to date. Chrysler, General Motors, and Scania have shown keen interest in this design, and it will appear on a static show car in an upcoming North American auto show as a statement of one automaker's intent to build prototype fuel cell vehicles using the ADL reformer technology.

The successful development by Arthur D. Little of a multi-fuel reformer has significantly altered the discussion of fuel choice for fuel cell vehicles. Because it was designed to process ethanol denatured with gasoline, the multi-fuel reformer is also capable of processing straight gasoline. GM and Chrysler, supported by several oil companies, now advocate gasoline fuel cell vehicles as the best interim solution to more efficient, lower polluting vehicles. For ethanol interests, this is a mixed blessing. U.S. industry has become a strong advocate of this technology, resulting in greatly increased private and DOE resources directed toward the development of multi-fuel capable fuel cell powerplants. The bulk of DOE's fuel cell vehicle budget over the next three years (over $30 million) will be directed toward multi-fuel fuel cell powerplant development.

Commercialization of fuel cell vehicle technology can also occur much more rapidly using a widely available fuel such as gasoline since a national fuel infrastructure already exists. However, neither the auto companies nor the oil companies can be expected to highlight this basic fact: Any fuel processor capable of using gasoline can also be designed to utilize ethanol. Many technical aspects of ethanol fuel processing (such as carbon formation and sulfur trapping) are simpler with ethanol than with gasoline.

In 1996, Arthur D. Little continued to refine the multi-fuel fuel processor, working with major automotive companies to integrate this technology into advanced vehicle designs. Arthur D. Little (with support by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board) continued to advance the case for ethanol, a very desirable fuel for fuel cell vehicles. Our technical work program for 1996 was aimed at improving the cost associated with use of ethanol as a fuel cell fuel. We successfully operated our fuel processor on hydrated ethanol, demonstrating that a lower cost feedstock can be used. The successful results of this program have been presented in various public forums including the 1996 Fuel Cell Seminar. Appendix A includes a draft of a technical paper describing the results of our 1996 program to be presented to the Society of Automotive Engineers in March, 1997.

The objective of the proposed project is to ensure that ethanol remains among the most desirable fuels for fuel cell vehicles. In response to an announced solicitation, Arthur D. Little will team with a fuel cell supplier and in early 1997 submit a cost-shared proposal (for approximately $15 million) to DOE to develop a fuel cell powerplant for use in light- and medium-duty vehicles. DOE will require that this powerplant operate on gasoline. However, on behalf of the ethanol industry, we propose to add to our work plan specific design and demonstration tasks to assure that the powerplant developed in this program is fully compatible with ethanol. 

Specific objectives for ethanol include:
Form a competitive team (including Arthur D. Little, the Illinois Corn Marketing Board, other ethanol interests, a fuel cell developer, and other commercial companies) to successfully compete for a DOE contract for fuel cell powerplant development. Each participating organization, including Arthur D. Little, will be responsible for its own proposal preparation costs. No Illinois Corn Marketing Board funding is requested to achieve this objective.

Include design tasks in the proposed DOE work program to ensure that the powerplant that is developed is fully compatible with ethanol, ethanol blends, and hydrated ethanol.

Include explicit demonstration tasks in the proposed DOE work program to effectively demonstrate ethanol operability in the fuel cell powerplant.

Continue to underscore the positive role of ethanol in fuel cell vehicles in prestigious and visible technology and policy forums.

Specific tasks for the DOE fuel cell powerplant program will not be determined until DOE publishes a full RFP in mid-December, 1996. The full proposal will be submitted to DOE in early 1997. A copy of the completed Technical and Cost Proposals will be provided to the ICMB on request. As we develop the complete DOE Program Plan, we will include tasks consistent with the objectives described above.