Panasonic launches cheaper home fuel cell

Panasonic and Tokyo Gas are launching a cheaper, smaller Ene-farm unit onto Japan’s booming micro-CHP home fuel cell market.

Their new model is the first Ene-farm product with a retail price under 2 million yen. Its 1,995,000 yen ($22,500) price tag represents a saving of about 760,000 yen from the unit it replaces, achieved through a 20% cut in the number of parts.

panasonic ene-farm unit

In having a separate backup heat source and hot water unit, the new Ene-farm model could also herald further price cuts, said Scott Dwyer, a senior analyst at Delta-ee.

‘It could be interesting for bringing costs down even further,’ he told COSPP.

‘The fuel cell is now separate and could be sold like an engine in a car, which could also make it more compatible with markets outside Japan and help achieve higher volumes to bring down costs.’

Targeting its domestic market, Panasonic (NYSO:PC) aims to raise its annual production in 2013 by 50% to 15,000. Tokyo Gas (NSE:9531) is aiming to sell 12,000 units, up from its 2012 sales target of 7,100.

‘I would expect the new unit to easily meet sales targets,’ said Dwyer. ‘Since Fukushima, there has been a huge increase in interest in fuel cells, which has brought a big jump in sales for companies with Ene-farm products.’

With a depth of only 75 cm, down from 90 cm, the entire engine should be easier to install in cramped Tokyo apartments.

Panasonic also claims a record overall efficiency of 95% for the new unit.

Ene-farm is a national residential micro-CHP programme, launched in 2000, that has helped make Japan the world’s leading market for residential fuel cells.

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