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PFC shipments to reach 4.5 million by 2017

Posted: 05 Oct 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fuel cell? consumer electronics? battery?

A recent report released by Pike Research cited that there will be a huge total accumulated shipment of portable fuel cells (PFCs) in six years. Specifically, 4.5 million PFCs that will be used in portable consumer electronics will be manufactured and shipped by 2017. Such figure represents a 237 percent compound annual growth rate over the next six years.

The consumer electronics sector is one of the most promising emerging markets for PFCs. Integrating fuel cell technologies into smartphones, media tablets, notebooks, and digital cameras remains a leading long-term objective for the fuel cell industry. While the development of this market has taken longer to materialize than expected, several fuel cell manufacturers and large-scale electronics companies have announced and demonstrated a host of new micro and small PFCs across a range of portable electronics segments. In the next several years, most of these will come in the form of external battery chargers.

PFCs present several advantages for high-end consumer electronics. Such applications require a relatively high power density for long durations. External fuel cell chargers provide the required power without requiring a connection to the electrical grid. Additionally, since smartphones and media tablets are positioned as high-end applications, consumers will likely be less averse to higher prices than is evident in the conventional phone and laptop markets.

"The last few years have been a cautionary period for fuel cell manufacturers in the consumer electronics market," says research analyst Euan Sadden. "That will change starting in 2012 as manufacturers realize the potential of fuel cells for external chargers across a range of portable electronics categories."

The key challenges that have limited the use of PFCs have included durability, performance, and cost. Also, integrating fuel cell technologies into the micro and small portable electronics products has proven to be significantly more difficult than anticipated five years ago when internal fuel cells were first demonstrated. Now, though, most companies appear set to enter the market through the provision of external battery chargers that work with a range of products.

In October 2009, Toshiba introduced the Dynario, a direct methanol fuel cell designed to power mobile phones, MP3 players, and other devices up to 5V. Korean and Japanese electronics developers, with their huge resource base and extensive intellectual property, are expected to play a crucial role in developing this market.

Pike Research's report, "Fuel Cells for Portable Power Applications", provides a comprehensive examination of applications for PFCs, including portable electronics, external battery chargers, remote monitoring, and military applications. Key technology and business issues are analyzed in depth, and major players in the fuel cell supply chain are profiled. Market forecasts for unit shipments and revenue growth, segmented by application area, are provided through 2017.

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