Fuel Cell Mass Production in Germany

Test stand for Evolution 2 stack, © ZSW

Fuel cell stacks continue to show a critical gap in power density development along the European automotive value chain. Filling it was the objective of two EU projects, Auto-Stack (FCH-JU GA 245142) and AutoStack CORE (FCH-JU GA 325335), which received financial support from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking. The collaboration between European carmakers, suppliers and renown research organizations has now succeeded in establishing core specifications and a technology platform for fuel cell stacks powering vehicles. These stacks meet the most stringent global standards on power density, lifetime, efficiency and cost.

The initial aim was to identify performance and space requirements to create baseline specifications for a scalable stack platform delivering between 10 kilowatts and 95 kilowatts of output. This stack was intended for vehicles from several manufacturers, for buses and for the energy industry.

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Development was supported by benchmark studies to compare work results with the current state of technology around the globe and by a study from an independent service provider to determine costs based on automotive industry standards. Extensive testing was conducted to confirm the performance, lifetime and functional capabilities of the stack. It also provided the basis for recommendations on developing future stack generations.

Two stacks in different stages of development were designed, built and tested in a total of 51 months. The first stack is called Evolution 1, which the industry considers to be a prototype. Evolution 2 corresponds to an A sample in automotive engineering. Additionally, design guidelines were created for developing a third-stage unit, a B sample in automotive terms.

The deciding factor for the project’s success was the open-minded attitude and the commitment of all partners to the collaborative effort. It not only encouraged answers to critical questions on stack development. The direct interaction between automotive manufacturers, component suppliers and research organizations also helped to identify and tap potential for improvement.

Progress reports and stack design samples were presented at several conferences and trade shows and have piqued the interest of many. A number of A samples have already been delivered for testing and demonstration. More are available on request.

New research venture to follow

This May, Autostack Industry, a new endeavor with a planned duration of 4 years, was established as part of the federal transportation ministry’s National Innovation Program Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. Succeeding the two projects mentioned above, it is a joint initiative by businesses from the German automotive industry, with the intent to advance the newly developed stacks toward full-scale production. It also aims to develop and validate the methods required for manufacturing 30,000 stacks a year and establish a foundation for the timely mass production of stacks after its end.

Authors: Ludwig Jörissen, André Martin

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