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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Zero-emission fuel cell back-up power now available for RVs

"Fuel-cell cars have been a tomorrow technology . . . but it looks like 2015 will be the year they finally go commercial," writes Jim Motavalli, a regular contributor to the New York Times and the transportation blogger for, in the Miami Herald, "with hundreds of thousands (you read that right) planned for production as early as 2015."

Right now, the numbers are very small, since the infrastructure does not support hydrogen yet. But fuel cells have proven themselves running forklifts at Walmart and Firestone, for example, because they are cost-effective, require no heavy battery packs, and have zero emissions--making them ideal for operating indoors.

But a German company, Smart Fuel Cells' EFOY, has been successful selling $4,000 to $6,000 portable fuel cell back-up power--they have sold 20,000 of the units, and the units have already logged a collective 8 million operating hours.They are ideal for large RVs, avoiding having to run the vehicle's engine--a huge waste of fuel--or a noisy, smelly generator to produce power when boondocking. And, since the fuel cells are quiet, there is no problem with having to go without 120-volt electricity during quiet hours.

The EFOY (photo) made by SFC uses a $65 plug-in methanol cartridge that you get off the shelf in 1,500 convenience stores in Europe (where it's partnered with 50 RV companies), and 50 in Canada.
The U.S. is the next market at the end of 2011, and you know we have a lot of RVs. The price seems high, but for expensive RVs, back-up power will just be one more available option.

The EFOY is also standard equipment as back-up power for federal troops in Germany, because it reduces on-the-move weight compared to diesel generators. And nearly all of them are eyeing the pending deployment of fuel-cell cars from major manufacturers as the next big market to get into.

These fuel cells could re-define boondocking for large rigs, and even for smaller rigs, if their continued success in other operations ramps up production and they are able to reduce manufacturing costs and drop the end price. With low operating cost and zero emissions it would make an ideal power source for RVers.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking and Snowbird Guide eBooks at


  1. Can you run 2 roof A/C units with them and the microwave? If so, that would justify the cost in a new RV.

  2. Hi Chuck - I don't usually spend the time to write about these kind of things
    but the fuel cell article was so full of inaccuracies that I felt I had to. I
    thought that a $6000 generator replacement for large RVs was too good to be

    It is - check the manufacturers web site.

    The largest Pro-2200 puts out 7.5A at 12V, hardly enough to run a couple of
    lights, never mind a large RV. No way to get 120V AC directly - you need to buy
    an inverter. ( You
    also need at least one 12V battery. It's barely more than a $6000 trickle
    charger!! You are still so far ahead of the game running a simple Honda
    generator - an EU3000 retails for about $2300, gives you a max of 25A of 120V
    power (no need to buy an inverter), has enough power to run an AC unit, etc
    etc..... To get the same amount of power as the Honda, (2800W) you would need
    31 Pro-2200s. I'm sure you could get a discount, but it would still run you in
    the $150,000 range, plus the cost of an inverter and batteries...


  3. Chuck, give us some specifics as to how much power, for how long, at what weight, and at what fuel cost.

  4. I emailed EFOY for a response to Steve's comment above. I will post their response on this blog when i receive it.

  5. I have to disagree with Bob. The key statistic here is watt hours/day.

    Of course the number is small but this device is running 24/7 to replenish the battery. You will certainly have to practice serious energy conservation to make it work, but the numbers can work out. (run some estimates from their calculator chart).

    You certainly cannot run the AC unit and you would have to cook on the gas stove (what a new idea) vice the microwave. Heating via the gas furnace vice electric. The pay off is SILENCE.

    I am the first to admit that however attractive the idea is, it is a bit beyond my budget, however, if some cash fell out of the sky I would be first in line.

  6. The system while expensive could provide invaluable backup to solar when the weather does not cooperate. There are many currently in use in Australia by serious boondockers. The EFOY is only active when the battery reaches a preset charge level, Ex 12.4 volts. The EFOY could be used in situations when generators were not allowed or only allowed during certain hours. There is definitely a niche market for the fortunate few in the US that can afford such a product.