Neah Power System’s highly scalable, patented PowerChip® fuel cell technology acts as an instantly rechargeable battery that, once a given supply is depleted, can simply have its fuel cartridge swapped out to fully recharge the system. This core technology, in addition to the company’s formic acid reformer fuel cell system, Formira HOD™ (Hydrogen-on-Demand) and its BuzzBar Suite, designed to be the total, compact, off-grid charging solution for small electronics, has garnered NPWZ more and more attention from investors of late, due to the wide variety of applications such a portfolio covers. We are talking everything from UAVs for both the defense and commercial markets, as well as energy supply roles, to military, transportation, and portable electronics markets.
The hot-swappable fuel supply characteristic of NPWZ’s PowerChip solution is a key advantage to the system that not only resolves the recharge time duration, but offers extended range to the platform where it is applied, reduces swap out time and overall cost, as well as delivers sustained voltage levels over the entire duration of the fuel supply, unlike virtually all batteries, which are prone to voltage drops as the power discharges. Such capabilities are essential in military applications like field-deployed computer systems and modern battlefield hardware. The NPWZ technology also offers the potential to deliver around two to three times as much energy capacity as the military’s standard issue BA-5590 high capacity battery systems, which are used for the vast majority of portable power needs, but are also big, bulky, and require multiple units to be carried on extended missions, adding to already pressing logistical burdens.
Built using established computer chip manufacturing methods, this extremely robust and compact energy supply solution offers significant other advantages over batteries of the same weight and size, particularly in extended use scenarios. And, because the design can be configured for fully-sealed applications using a liquid oxidant/methanol fuel combination, the system is also perfect for subsea and space applications, where long-term use is part and parcel. The PowerChip is made in America at Neah Power’s Bothell, Washington facility, using established techniques that have been in continuous use throughout the semiconductor industry for over three decades, a fact which offers certain key cost-effectiveness and capital efficiency advantages that make the product extremely attractive, no matter what industry we are talking about. The company’s ongoing work with leading small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) developer, Silent Falcon™ UAS Technologies, to incorporate its fuel cell technology into their fixed wing drone platform is currently proceeding apace, and this integration, when completed, will form the basis for similar applications in other UAS/UAV platforms.
Because energy accounts for some $4 billion plus of the DOD budget every year (2013), and Army takes up around $1.3 billion of the pie, while managing some 1 billion or more square feet of building space, power outages on U.S. bases (87 in 2012 alone, costing around $7 million) have become a major keynote for the DOD’s ongoing transition to alternative energy. Fuel cell technology in particular has seen a growing amount of interest amid this push and the DOD’s target for 25 percent of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2025 cannot likely be seriously achieved alongside the need for increased robustness and electrical grid independence, without a sustained move towards localized fuel cell based systems.
This overarching trend is very bullish for fuel cell tech in general when it comes to military dollars, creating a fuel cell ecosystem vector that will no doubt continue to present technologies like NPWZ’s Formira HOD™ (Hydrogen-on-Demand) system with numerous advantages that will bleed over into the broader, planet-wide security, defense, and energy supply markets. The global drive towards renewables is extremely advantageous for a piece of technology like Formira, and Neah Power Systems announced earlier in September that their revolutionary HOD technology has been put up for $3.5 million in EU grant funding, with the ultimate goal of delivering scaled-up implementations of Formira for applications such as dedicated, on-site, premium-power generation at critical load facilities and the like. Such technology is seen as vital by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, a unique public private partnership tasked with advancing fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe, which was recently reaffirmed as part of the Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative, under the EU Horizon 2020 Framework.
Neah Power Systems is expected to publicly drop some new product videos and spec documents any day now, and the company is already in the preliminary stages of designing larger 1,000W and smaller 10W units for critical off-grid applications. Moreover, the company is well on its way towards the October 2015 target for demonstrating Formira HOD to the Australian Army, as part of the company’s teaming agreement with Tectonica Australia. Another teaming agreement, between NPWZ and Clear Path Technologies, has the company lined up for serious commercial momentum in various regions, and Neah Power has already executed several multi-million dollar proposals as part of the agreement in order to capture demand from potential customers. The company is also in ongoing talks with several entities in China to license and manufacture the technology.
Remote power in emerging markets is one of the key trends for the growing fuel cell technology industry, especially in countries handicapped by antiquated grid architectures such as India, where persistent rolling blackouts have continued to hamper progress, even since the now famous 2012 blackouts, which left over 700 million connected people (mostly in northern and eastern India) without power for days. Despite the seriousness and now inescapability of the national grid infrastructure problem in India, the best efforts by the government have thus far failed to really offset the rapidly growing public’s concerns about the future of the grid, and this is especially true in remote rural regions, many of whom are not yet even powered. It is difficult for remote villages to modernize or have any hope of a future without access to power and the Indian government has really started taking this problem seriously in recent years.
The ability of scalable fuel cell technology to serve as a drop-in solution for remote rural populations is the same feature that makes it ideal for forward bases in military applications, or for off-grid power at corporate installations. NPWZ’s ongoing talks with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, to finalize a licensing agreement for its PowerChip fuel cell technology, dovetails exceptionally well with PM Narendra Modi’s Make in India program that was launched last year around this time. Third-party validation of the technology from such a high profile global entity is a major coup for NPWZ and the same disruptive PowerChip fuel cell architecture that could soon be bringing power to India’s remotest villages, is also being advanced by NPWZ in the form of a ground breaking porous silicon-chip based battery application, the PowerChip® Battery.
Mobile energy uses for computing are a growth market for micro fuel cell applications like NPWZ’s PowerChip technology, whose development is the result of over $50 million in strategic investment capital from major sector players like chip manufacturing giant Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) venture capital arm, Intel Capital, and semiconductor innovators like Novellus, which was acquired by Lam Research (NASDAQ: LRCX) in 2012. The combination of advanced fuel cell technology and cutting-edge battery storage technology could forever change the way we think about power consumption rates in portable electronics and it would be wise for investors to keep an eye on micro fuel cell technology as the centrally disruptive factor in this arena.
The recent announcement of a pivotal teaming agreement with remote, real-time situational awareness technology developer, S4W Worldwide Technologies, to integrate NPWZ’s power generation and porous silicon battery technologies into S4W’s wearable cameras that are designed primarily for police and security markets, is just the latest feather in Neah Power Systems’ cap. This agreement calls for NPWZ to deliver commercial Formira HOD units, in addition to PowerChip fuel cell and PowerChip Battery engineering units to S4W, while also providing the requisite engineering and technical support needed to ensure that these technologies are integrated optimally into S4W’s own industry-leading products. This team-up could provide exactly what the booming wearable camera market has been yearning for, particularly among LEOs and operators in the security market: a reliable, high-performance, long-lasting power supply that will keep a unit running through an entire duty shift.
Learn more, visit NPWZ’s website at www.neahpower.com
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