Ready for Volume Production

One thing is quite sure: the CO2 limit values for the coming years can only be achieved by having more hybrid and electric vehicles in the fleets. To this end, OEMs and suppliers have to make progress with the development of fuel cell technology and get it ready for volume production. Commercial vehicles in particular will benefit from this drive variant. IAV’s fuel cell team has the expertise and experience to support customers with volume production projects.

Battery electric and fuel cell vehicles have a certain number of things in common: both have an electric powertrain with high torque and low noise level.

Ready for Volume Production
Fuel Cells-System

Both take their energy ideally from renewable sources such as the sun, making them climate-neutral during use. And both are meanwhile ready for volume production. However, public debate is currently dominated by battery electric vehicles (BEV) while attention is not focused on fuel cell technology. Although less efficient than BEVs, fuel cell vehicles are an interesting option particularly for commercial vehicles travelling long distances, and they are available in the short term.

Japan and Korea champion fuel cells

Other countries are forging ahead with the technology. Toyota and Honda in Japan and Hyundai/Kia in Korea are bringing out more and more new products that show what fuel cell drives can do. They offer similar ranges and outputs to conventional powertrains and are quickly refueled. The 2020 Olympics will be playing an important role in Japan, with the intention of focusing on fuel cell drives. The plan is for all buses and cars to run on hydrogen so that the country is constructing around 100 new fuel stations.

IAV has been dealing with fuel cell drives for many years, also using the experience gained with conventional and hybrid powertrains. “Although a fuel cell vehicle is basically electric, its topology is similar to a hybrid”, says Ralf Wascheck, head of the Fuel Cells-System Development department at IAV. “This means we can simply transfer many technical features.”

He is referring, for example, to the control systems and to designing the control units, the operating mode strategy, designing necessary accessory units in the air path and in the anode loop, as well as thermal management that plays a crucial role in terms of fuel cell output and service life.

We have mastered all the components in fuel cell drives and can also take on volume production projects. We stand out from competitors who are still dealing with the advance engineering stage.

Andreas Horn — Senior Vice President in charge of hydrogen topics at IAV

Besides the technical aspects, the IAV experts also see economic reasons for greater commitment in the fuel cell sector.

Keeping jobs and value creation in Europe

“Value creation in BEV production is undergoing massive offshoring”, says Wascheck. “But even European battery production needs less manpower because it is highly automated.” By contrast, fuel cell drives offer similar complexity to hybrid powertrains with potential for keeping both value creation and jobs in Europe.

But the success of fuel cell vehicles depends on having an adequate hydrogen infrastructure. Germany currently has 74 fuel stations: another 29 are in the building or planning phase so that roughly 100 fuel stations should be available by the end of 2019. “But that’s not enough”, says Horn. “Germany alone needs 1,000 to 1,500 hydrogen fuel stations.” IAV with its “smart electrolysis” offers one component for local hydrogen fuel stations. “Together with a renowned mechanical engineering company, we will be offering a hydrogen fuel station with an electrical input capacity of up to 300 kilowatt that is ideal for supplying rural areas as an optimum supplement to the existing fuel station network”, says Ralf Wascheck.

The article was published in automotion 02/2019, the automotive engineering magazine of IAV. Here you can order the autmotion free of charge.