National Small Business Week celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that powers our nation. During this week, we want to highlight a few small businesses who deserve recognition for their work in clean energy innovation.
Albuquerque-based Pajarito Powder is a company on the bleeding edge of fuel cell technology. They deal in fuel cell catalysts—an essential component in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), as well as other applications that rely on them as a power source.
Fuel cells are a still-emerging way to power electric cars. The first commercially-produced fuel cell cars are less than a decade old and are still rare in the consumer auto market. But they offer a few stark advantages over battery-powered electric vehicles.
Pound for pound, fuel cells are far more powerful than electric batteries. One kilogram of hydrogen has the ability to store 236 times more energy than a kilogram of lithium-ion battery. Because of this, hydrogen power has a much wider utility for vehicles than battery power does. If the technology continues to improve, the ships and planes of the future could run on hydrogen.
However, for a hydrogen fuel cell to function, it needs a catalyst. Fuel cell catalysts have historically been made from precious metals, like platinum. The price of the metals needed for the catalyst makes the process too expensive for mass production in many cases.
That’s where Pajarito Powder comes in.
Using proprietary methods, Pajarito Powder makes engineered catalyst supports. This product allows FCEVs to run using much lower amounts of precious metals, so the entire process is more cost effective. The company also makes precious-metal-free catalysts for other applications that function using fuel cells.
Pajarito Powder is only a few years old, and they are still a small company with less than 20 employees. However, their products have already gained international interest, and there’s every reason to believe they will be contributing to the local economy for years to come—and perhaps even be a “catalyst” in the nationwide clean energy economy.
“We are working with almost every major car company in the world who has a hydrogen fuel cell program,” says Webb Johnson, Senior Director of Business Development.
That’s probably because Pajarito Powder is ahead of the curve. They are currently one of the few domestic sources for fuel cell catalysts.
Although the western world is only beginning to set its sights on manufacturing FCEVs for the mass market, Asia has shown great enthusiasm for the technology. In fact, Japan has plans to use hydrogen as the nation’s dominant power source in the near future.
“It’s a testimony to American small businesses’ ability to innovate and compete globally,” says Webb when asked about Pajarito Powder’s monumental success over such a short time.
Here at CRES, we’re delighted to see American ingenuity on full display over at Pajarito Powder. Congratulations to a small business that is furthering clean energy innovation on a global scale!