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Xantrex introduces its fuel cell-based APU (April 03, 2003)

ARLINGTON, Wash. -- Xantrex's fuel cell-based auxiliary power unit (APU), currently being demonstrated by Freightli...

ARLINGTON, Wash. — Xantrex’s fuel cell-based auxiliary power unit (APU), currently being demonstrated by Freightliner, has future potential for the commercial trucking industry.

Xantrex built the electrical management system on the Freightliner test truck, which was recently introduced at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2003 World Congress in Detroit.

"This is an exciting installation for us," says Brian Lawrence, heavy-duty truck manager for Xantrex. "It shows the potential for generating low-noise, low-emission on-board electrical power to meet all the needs of a long-haul trucker."

The prototype APU incorporates fuel cell technology from Ballard Power Systems to generate up to five kilowatts of 120-volt AC power. The APU is fueled with a mixture of methanol and water, but further development will enable it to use ultra low-sulfur commercial diesel fuel.

“The fuel cell’s DC power goes to our sine wave inverter/charger which inverts it to household 120-volt AC power. The inverter/charger can provide up to 4,000 watts of continuous 120-volt AC output,” says Lawrence. “The AC output is distributed through three integrated circuits to loads both inside and outside the cab including a 2,000-watt heating and cooling system, a microwave oven, coffee maker, TV/VCR and various tools and work lighting.”

Lawrence says future fuel cell-powered systems could be set up to give truckers a choice about where they get their electrical power.

"Our inverter/charger on the test vehicle includes a transfer switch that controls and distributes regular 120 Volt AC power, for example shorepower, same as the inverter/charger option offered by Freightliner today. The trucker of the future could plug into regular AC power when parked at a truckstop and use the fuel cell technology when at rest areas or loading docks."

Lawrence envisions a growing role for fuel cells in heavy-duty vehicles.

“It’s a clean way of generating electricity to power everything on the truck,” he said. “The Freightliner test vehicle clearly demonstrates the potential for on-board fuel cell power.”

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