Motorola today announced that it is showing a Dimetra IP TETRA base station with a fuel cell at the TETRA World Congress in Hong Kong.
The fuel cell incorporates a reformer so that the base station can run using a water/methanol mix. This would overcome any supply issues associated with hydrogen and makes the fuel cell a viable solution in many more locations and in developing areas of the world. This solution was also shown at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in February 2008, through a fuel cell powered cellular phone.
In mission-critical or emergency operations, TETRA base stations must run continuously to provide secure communications even in times of power outages. Batteries or conventional generator solutions have to be provided as a backup for mains power at critical locations or if the mains power has regular outages. Generators have a number of disadvantages, including carbon emissions and noise. Fuel cell technology is advancing and now offers significant advantages that match the needs for TETRA base stations in challenging locations.
Motorola has investigated hydrogen powered fuel cell technology for TETRA, and in areas where hydrogen is readily available, it offers a viable alternative to diesel powered generators. Motorola is already actively planning the roll-out of hydrogen powered fuel cells in critical locations in a nationwide network in Northern Europe. Hydrogen fuel cells are now well proven in critical power back-up situations and can run for extended periods limited only by the capacity of the hydrogen, and the only emission is water.
Fuel cell technology is shrinking and Motorola is actively working with partners to investigate the feasibility of fuel cells in all types of mobile communications including mission critical radios. In many mission critical operations, there is a need for long periods of use without the ability to recharge the unit. Fuel cells offer the promise of extended periods of use without the need to return to base to recharge. Fuel cells can also be used to charge TETRA radios in remote locations, for example where TETRA is being used in an emergency and no power is available. Small fuel cells using liquid fuels are being evaluated as a means of charging several radios at one time in a compact desk-top unit. Further announcements will be made during 2008 on the application of this technology in mission critical applications.
As TETRA service extends to more and more areas, the need for cost effective, reliable, and environmental-friendly back-up power becomes more significant. Motorola has already recognised this trend in cellular communications and has a wind and solar power solution available. This builds on the successful trial in Namibia of a wind and solar powered GSM base station. The wind and solar power solution can be used with remote TETRA sites, recognising that there is a need to design the complete power system for continuous service during periods of unusual weather conditions. Fuel cell technology would complement wind and solar power to provide very high levels of availability in all seasons and extremes of climate.