IAV is driving forward fuel cell technology and hydrogen mobility with a new test bench and concrete development projects
Hydrogen-based fuel cell drive systems provide potential for zero-emission and carbon-neutral mobility. This puts them on a par with battery electric drive concepts, but with the benefit of greater traveling range and faster refueling times. Particularly on long journeys, it makes fuel cell vehicles an alternative suitable for everyday individual mobility. The fuel cell also lends itself to commercial vehicles for which the battery pack would be too bulky and heavy, and which are required to provide a high level of vehicle availability.
In tomorrow’s drive mix, this could make fuel cell vehicles part of the answer to a current problem Germany shares with many other countries worldwide. On the one hand, the Paris Climate Agreement virtually wants to reduce the release of greenhouse gases, like CO2, to zero by 2050. On the other, there are many places witnessing a continuing rise in CO2 emissions, particularly in the transport sector. “In many regions of the world, the requisite hydrogen infrastructure for the transport sector is being developed. In Germany alone, 400 hydrogen filling stations are planned by 2023, Japan is even aiming to provide 900 filling stations by 2030”, explains Ralf Wascheck, Head of the Fuel Cell Systems and Hydrogen Mobility department at IAV.
However, the carbon neutrality of fuel cell drives is only guaranteed if the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources, such as wind or solar power. At the same time, with the share of renewable energies growing, electricity generated from renewable resources must be matched to consumer demand so as to ensure that requisite capacities can be provided. The simplicity of converting electric energy into hydrogen (power to gas) using electrolysis makes it possible to store surplus electricity and also permits a decentralized or central supply of hydrogen, e.g. in the transport sector and industry. IAV has been developing fuel cell vehicles for many years. “We very soon came to realize that we not only need to focus attention on vehicle systems but also address the hydrogen infrastructure”, Wascheck says. Within IAV’s consulting activity, the experience the company has gathered over the years is made available to its customers by analyzing the cost and benefits of different infrastructure measures.
Comprehensive development portfolio
On the development side, IAV offers services ranging from designing, simulating and testing the fuel cell stack to engineering the fuel cell system and complete vehicle, including operating mode strategy, cooling system, tank system, vehicle electric system and safety concept. Here, customers also benefit from synergies created by close cooperation with other powertrain engineering divisions at IAV. This holds true, say, for developing the air supply system, the power electronics and thermal management.
Smart electrolysis for producing hydrogen
The alkaline electrolyzer developed by IAV for producing hydrogen is optimized for use in grids characterized by volatile electricity production – such as from wind power or photovoltaic systems. Given its highly dynamic properties, it can also cushion short-term production peaks and convert surplus electricity into hydrogen. With the electrolyzer being modular in design, its output can be matched within broad limits to any prevailing requirements. Wascheck: “Costs are significantly reduced by using components and production methods from the automotive industry.”
State-of-the-art test bench
IAV has commissioned a new test bench at the Development Center in Gifhorn that can be used for testing fuel cell systems and stacks with power outputs of up to 150 kilowatts and 180 kilowatts respectively. “In designing the test bench, we attached great importance to flexibility so that we can cover all analyses for fuel cell systems and stacks from research projects to volume production calautomotion | Driving Forces 23 ibration for passenger cars and commercial vehicles”, Wascheck says. Besides testing dynamic system behavior, it can also be used for conducting function analyses and endurance tests over any period. The test bench is fully integrated into the existing development process chain at IAV. The use of established methods, such as test bench automation, enhances test efficiency and reduces testing times. The development and analysis capabilities are not restricted to the automotive sector. Wascheck: “We are also in a position to design fuel cells for railroad drive systems or other applications and investigate them on the test bench.”