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Cost of Platinum Constrains Fuel-Cell Uptake, Says GE

platinum energy manageFuel-cell technology ultimately will be stymied by the high cost of platinum, according to General Electric, as reported by Bloomberg.

The chief engineering officer of GE’s Power Conversion division told Bloomberg that platinum is a really effective catalyst for fuel cells, “but if you scale it up, there’s not enough platinum in the world.”

Proton-exchange membrane fuel cells requires platinum or palladium, with platinum currently selling for about $1,400 an ounce and palladium costing about $760 per ounce, says Bloomberg. At such prices, the GE executive predicts fuel cells will remain a niche market.

Plug Power’s CEO told Bloomberg that platinum is a only a small fraction of the total price of fuel cell systems and is not a deterrent to scale.

Plug Power makes fuel-cells for forklifts fleets. The company’s stock peaked in February after it announced a big order from Walmart. Plug Power will supply hydrogen fuel cells to power electric lift truck fleets at six of Wal-Mart’s North American distribution centers. The first site will be deployed by the second quarter of 2014.

In March, Plug Power’s stock plummeted after its CEO misspoke about receiving a new contract from an automaker, when in fact, that contract had already been revealed to the public.

Photo: Platinum bar via Shutterstock

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