Watts fuel cell

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Well-known member
Aug 30, 2018
I  used the search function here but came up with everything but what I really wanted.
The WATTS Imperium fuel cell.    Has anyone seen them work?  Are they available yet?  Does anyone have a price for one???? does anyone have one?

From what I see you use LPG .  a tank like you use for your gas grill will last 60 hours.
It does NOT burn the gas but makes electricity from a chemical reaction.
The by product is water and  Carbon Dioxide ( not the monoxide that kills people)
It puts out 500 watts
It has a charge controller so you can attach solar panels. As the panels create electric.  the WATTS stops making electric.
At night as you use less electric ( when you turnoff the TV andlights)  it throttles down and uses less gas.
it is NOT 110 it is a battery charger , keeps your batteries up and of course you still need an inverter

They also said Roadteck will stop putting in  generators and start using these things.

But of course all I read is hype and no reports from  actual people using it yet. 
Sounds like a very interesting product.
I have not looked at the Watt brand product in a while, though I have been following the slow trickle of information that has been coming out on it the last couple of years.  It does certainly seem interesting, though the information on their web site seems to mostly be written by the marketing department, and does not mention some of the key downsides to this technology. 

The Watt fuel cell is an SOFC propane fuel cell, which various companies have been working to develop for at least the last 15 years.  SOFC fuel cells have some major advantages over other types of fuel cells, one of which is that they operate at a much lower temperature, though this lower temperature is still around 700 degrees F, so not exactly cool.  Another thing that is not mentioned on in the marketing material is that SOFC's must be pre-heated, usually with electric heating elements, which consume a significant amount of power (that would typically come from your battery bank) this preheat typically takes about half an hour, so you can't just turn them on and have electricity like you can with a conventional generator.  Also with an output of only 500 watts these will have limited application in an RV.  Now maybe in a few years when the output is around 2,000 watts,  combined with a large Lithium Ion battery bank, I might be interested, but for now I am not sure where the big benefit is.  SOFC's also require high purity propane, when fed by off the shelf commercial propane, considerable filtering must be done, even then the life of the fuel cell is significantly shortened vs how long it would last if fed pure propane.


Interesting. Helps us dummies though if you list what the abbreviation is at the top of your post. I had to go looking to see that sofc equals solid oxide fuel cell.  ;)
Yeah, lot's of marketing hype.  If you compare the Watts cell to a basic 500W propane generator, the advantages of the Watts don't impress me greatly.  CO emission from a propane-fuel internal combustion engine is a rarity because propane stops burning if the air/fuel ration gets much out of optimum, and a 20 lb BBQ tank lasts a long time powering a genset that small. Further, inverter genset technology has the throttle-back capability and that is here and now, not pie in the sky.  The biggest advantage would probably be in sound level, and that's no small thing in an RV, but 500W isn't much power either. A 500 watt inverter and a battery or two have the same advantages.  I'm a fan of fuel cell technology, but I'm not holding my breathe waiting for it to be practical in Rvs or vehicles.

Roadtrek showed a demonstration unit with the Watts cell at the Pomona RV Show this year but I see nothing YET about a planned product with it. However, Hymer has inked an exclusive agreement with Watts to develop RV applications and we MAY see some fruits from that.

This is NOT 500 watts to use but 500 watts going into the batteries. You would still need a large battery bank.
500 watts would supplement solar panels.  The hype says the gas is cleaned before entering the system so clean gas is no longer a problem...

It sounds like an interesting thing but as said above 500 watts isnt enough... They did mention making bigger units.....

Of course there was no mention of pre heating the thing.    I hope to be going to Arizona for the RVshow and RTR  and I'm sure they will be there demo  ing  the thing.    If I see it, i'll report back.
Sure the gas is "filtered" though if you look at some of the other industrial SOFC fuel cells that have been on the market for a while for industrial applications (pipeline monitoring, etc.) you will see filter replacement is a major maintenance issue.  Also various other previous SOFC propane fuel cells have shown significantly shortened life (by 75% or more) when operated on filtered commercial propane vs running on pure lab grade propane.  Even then not all commercial propane is the same see http://www.propane101.com/propanegradesandquality.htm
I'm pretty much solar 95% of the time when I camp in the backcountry.  If I'm not anticipating air conditioner use, I have a small 700 watt 2 stroke generator that I use to top off my batteries by directly powering the converter.  When I need airconditioning, I pull out the 3kw inverter generator.  I rather have spare power from a gasoline powered generator then a propane one.  Propane is a PITA to fill and expensive.

The gasoline in my 2 stroke is almost a year old as I rarely have needed to use it due to large battery banks and living in CO where it is sunny most of the time.  This post reminds me I should burn that old fuel ;-)

My dream is to find and install a small slow speed diesel generator that way I can run it on waste oil or even waste engine oil and perhaps a waste oil or wood heater to supplement my propane heater.

John Hilley said:
500 watts from propane would be a nice supplement to solar on cloudy and rainy days.

I dunno. 500 watts equals just over 40 amps of charge current (@12 v), and that is in the neighborhood of what my 1200 watt solar array provides on a good day. Honestly, I can't use all the power in a day that my solar array generates. One doesn't want to confuse that with 3000 Watt gensets. That much power is needed to start an air conditioner, but only a fraction of that is needed to keep it running, and substantially less than that to run a TV and all the other appliances.. 40 amps into a good size battery bank / inverter would power a lot of stuff!

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