Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


eTAG Report Summary

Project ID: 662498

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - eTAG (Thermoacoustic- based residential mCHP system)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2015-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The eTAG is a novel thermoacoustic engine which will be embedded inside an existing boiler, to form a quiet, durable and efficient mCHP system having very low emission levels. Each component has already demonstrated reasonable maturity, while the system level integration, holds the promise for a game changing, highly reliable and efficient product. This assembly has not yet been fabricated on a system level; however, Qnergy is currently in final stages of commercializing its mCHP system, based on the innovative free piston Stirling engine, comprising several similar internal components, as well as comparable production technologies, related market segments, and dissemination objectives. Moreover, the extensive Stirling knowledge, with more than 30 years of production experience fully mastered by Ricor, assures a firm innovative basis and continuous support along the project R&D efforts, as the company focuses its growth path in a clear direction.
The project scope includes a rapid development process for the eTAG within the SME instrument phases, based on the predicted key performance criteria, estimated according to the numerical modelling we have performed. In phase-1, the feasibility assessment was focused on a general business plan, leveraged by a detailed feasibility assessment and market study. The selected partners would be expected to collaborate in phase- 2 of this project, where a prototype of a 5 kWth embedded system will be demonstrated (having electrical power Pe ~ 1 kWe), tested and evaluated according to the specifications defined in phase-1.
The eTAG will contribute to the reduction of GHGs, as well as lower the carbon footprint, to comply with EU environmental challenges, as well as providing a sustainable solution for residential heating and electricity generation in an environmentally efficient method, by using a broad range of available, renewable energy sources. The project final goal (in the proceeding stages) includes a complete- system ready for easy integration into a smart grid based on a distributed power generation scheme. The proposed system is planned for implementation in a significant market share, allowing the company to boost its unique manufacturing skills, leveraging our current position through scale up of our Stirling manufacturing expertise, at estimated annual production quantities > 200,000.
The eTAG will include a novel thermoacoustic engine, employing a highly- reliable linear alternator to form a >90% efficient grid- quality electricity- generating system. Typically on its optimal operating point ~1 kWe electrical output power would be produced, intentionally on 110-220VAC @ 60-50Hz, thereby avoiding unnecessary electrical transformations while to complying with regulations and safety standards. Considering common compromises between efficiency and capital cost, our initial customer reviews project a three times improvement in terms of price/performance above current solutions values.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The valuable study executed during the last 10 months, had turned to be very useful, while emphasizing the main technical challenges, risks, regulatory considerations, market opportunities, and the viability of a complete eTAG system for most mCHP end- consumers.
The specific details discussed in this report summarize our risk management strategy, followed by in-depth feasibility estimations and manufacturability considerations, resulting in a robust product specifications. Additionally, intellectual property survey had been performed to assure freedom to operate, while all relevant regulatory requirements had been reflected as well. During the wide-ranging market study, we have identified several optional partners, which further focused our attention on the prime economic aspects, such as ROI, BOP, channels to market and complementary costs. A resulting letter of intent from British Gas Company is attached as annex.
Current mCHP costs are ~ €15,000, as some customers tend to be concerned more on installation costs (while in Germany customers would be willing to pay up to 25% higher prices, as in the Netherlands a 50% price drop seems essential for broad market dissemination), while others are more attracted by lower maintenance and operational costs.
The European market has a potential for annual sales of ~ 50,000 units at these figures, while the global market could accommodate millions of units.
We have been assured, by the collected data and work performed during this feasibility study, that a significant market for engines based on Stirling technology exists. However, the optimal strategy to access the main market still needs to be cultivated further.
To maximize the chances for successful market implementation, by following a clear roadmap, the actual need for additional illuminating examination, focused on more concrete specification has been clearly identified. Thus, we plan to continue the ongoing process with the EASME coach, to solidify our strategy on how to reach the market. The developed business plan will be delivered in our SMEINST phase two proposal.
This plan will include an optimized distribution channels to the EU market, and resolve expected revenues, specific sales, refined spec, performance mapping, validation test plan, prototyping schedule and company resource allocation.
Although the most prevailing technology employed today in the mCHP market is internal combustion engines, Stirling engines are expected to dominate by 2020, and embrace the main market share.
Apparently the mCHP system’s final product price has key influence on the decision making process of common customers. Furthermore, a lasting commitments is strongly influenced by installation aspects and payback duration.
To ensure the maximum possible use of the project results, several exploitation activities are aimed at properly transferring technology to the targeted market niches through protection of our intellectual property rights. Contributions to standardization activities will be linked to technology transfer aiming at an efficient exploitation and re-use of technology. Strategic planning of the forthcoming exploitation actions would be periodically reviewed, to facilitate smooth continuity and fast uptake of the technology being developed.
As far as we know, the proposed solution forms the best- in- class option in terms of actual $/W costs, reliability, and efficiency, making it a vital factor it the company's roadmap, allowing to leverage our business dramatically.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

All of the expected deliverables, as well as the work packages intended for SMEINST phase one had been accomplished effectively, as extremely useful insights had been obtained.
Considering the importance of the key factors, product cost, energy efficiency and reliability we strongly believe there is room for successful implementation of such product based on the proposed technology.
The commercial business plan has been adapted to take full advantage of our production methodologies, particularly adequate for high volume manufacturing. We have clearly identified the main technical and operational challenges, and understand the necessary actions to mitigate, manage or control the risks identified.
This approach is expected to maximize flexibilities, while helping accomplish the eTAG project goals in the proceeding stages, as we plan to follow the pre-production prototype with integration of the Stirling technology into a commercially successful product.
Additionally, in the near future we will refine our business plan, to increase the chances of realizing the maximum available potential, increase the product value and reach the market more prepared.
A comprehensive technical feasibility had been executed, through detailed numerical modeling, using two leading simulation packages, DeltaEC and Sage, while concurrently considering practical points, material limitations and mechanical restrictions. Because of the enhanced performance of FPSE, we will continue to pursue this option directly, and consider removing the displacer only in the stages ahead. In addition, complete product specifications have been designated, bearing in mind complete view, including technical aspects, customer value, production capabilities, schedule, costs, validation gates and manufacturing repeatability.
The intended path is expected to considerably increase the product value, and allow extensive deployment of the eTAG in global markets in the short term. Periodic market updates by major installers, distributes, and energy utilities, will ensure we keep progressing in the right direction. In parallel, high volume manufacturing methods will be implemented by a robust proven process.
Few independent inspections of intellectual property rights had been performed, to assure we have freedom to operate, while extensive study on required certifications, directives and regulations had been thoroughly considered.
It had been undoubtedly stated that indeed we have the necessary rights to conduct R&D without risk of infringements, and smoothly comply with all required legislations.
The market study accomplished focused on categorizing the competitive landscape, while addressing numerous factors, such as value propositions, policies, key drivers, and entry barriers. It had been concluded that the eTAG product has tremendous value, and remarkable prospective to quickly become the best in class, in a fast growing market. Moreover, the detailed financial assessment, including all production aspects, concludes with a very appealing ROI, below two years under many conditions.
However, few areas that require deeper knowledge have been identified, as projected systematic investigation needs to focus on the energy industry particularities, while considering the diverse structure in different countries.
Moreover, fresh perspective gained from the 3rd international workshop on thermoacoustics (October 26th 2015, The University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands) needs to be managed further, considering the practical viability of the eTAG for typical mCHP customers. Furthermore, few critical business variables needs to be further developed into a more tangible model, during a methodological process, which is currently taking place with the productive support of our EASME coach, through the business model canvas methodology. Formal SWOT analysis, value proposition alternatives and market implementation strategies are expected to better allocate the required resources for an optimal organizational structure design.

Related information

Record Number: 186256 / Last updated on: 2016-07-08
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top