UltraCell wins US Air Force contract for portable fuel cell development

Portable fuel cell manufacturer UltraCell has landed a $3 million contract with the US Air Force to develop portable fuel cells for use by soldiers in the field. The project involves a 50 W fuel cell system designed to offer at least 72 h of runtime.

California-based UltraCell was awarded the contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, close to the UltraCell manufacturing facility in Dayton. The company is a leading producer of fuel cell systems for mobile power applications, using its reformed methanol micro fuel cell (RMFC) technology.

According to a report in the Dayton Business Journal, UltraCell has said that if it also wins a similar Air Force contract still under review, the company would move manufacturing operations for its 50 W system from California to Dayton. The Dayton plant currently supports production of the UltraCell XX55™ fuel cell, which is used in computing, communications, and sensing devices.

‘This award confirms that UltraCell has leadership in the market with our fuel cell systems,’ says Keith Scott, CEO of UltraCell. ‘Our relationship with the Air Force and the AFRL at Wright-Patterson AFB is strong and continues to grow. We’re looking forward to building more systems at the Dayton plant with this contract.’

In 2006, UltraCell announced plans to open a production facility in Dayton and create 360 jobs by 2010, but state officials have since revised that number to 60. Currently the Dayton facility has 13 employees, according to the report. CEO Scott says that the latest contract will probably increase that number, without giving a specific figure.

In May, UltraCell raised $3.8 million in venture capital funding to help expand operations at its facility in Dayton. The manufacturing facility is believed to be the first volume-production micro fuel cell facility in North America.

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