As I post about on the blog, 60 Minutes created a stir with a new feature on a new kind of fuel cell that is apparently on the verge of mass production. If you are not familiar with fuel cells, they are devices that extract electrons from a fuel (usually hydrogen or natural gas) to generate electricity without the need for a large power plant. They are being considered for everything from cars to homes.
The Bloom Boxes look too good to be true, so I checked with one of my colleagues in the energy business, and here was his response:
"I hope I am wrong, but the Bloom Box looks like it suffers from the same problem that all fuel cell companies are suffering from: their systems are really expensive per KW. If Ebay paid $700,000 to $800,000 per unit for 5 units, as was suggested in the story, this would be $3.5 to $4 million. If they saved the stated $100,000 in 9 months this would be a 26 to 30 year payback – and with a fuel cell using natural gas you still need a natural gas pipe and have associated carbon emissions. If Bloom can somehow deliver the dramatic cost reductions that they claim this could start to look more attractive but until Bloom provides additional
details, it looks like more hype than substance. Many other well funded
companies including UTC, Honda and GE are working on similar technology and none have been able to deliver the big breakthrough. Yet."