Enhanced Fuel Cell Systems, a project part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, and led by power technology company Intelligent Energy, has demonstrated an increase in fuel cell system power density of more than 30% together with reliable cold-start performance at temperatures down to -20°C.
The collaborative project, which ran from December 2009 to December 2012, focused on enhancing the reliability, durability and performance of Intelligent Energy’s class leading fuel cell engines, as well as reducing system weight. The £2.8 million development project involved collaboration between Intelligent Energy, Dyson Technology, Ricardo and TRW Conekt. The project team also benefited from operational advice from DHL.
An increase in power density of more than 30% was achieved by the project team, delivering an improvement in power output from 30kW to 40kW for the chosen test system without increasing system mass or size. Additionally, through the introduction of a new coolant module developed specifically for the project, cold start performance was consistently achieved at temperatures down to -20°C.
Within the project, Intelligent Energy worked to improve the overall design and integration of the enhanced fuel cell system with Ricardo acting as the customer, providing a comprehensive automotive specification and sign-off at the end of the project. TRW Conekt validated the integrity of the fuel cell modules through vibration and environmental testing, helping to identify and prevent potential problems. Dyson Technology developed a compact, high efficiency compressor (a key subsystem for air delivery into the fuel cell system) based on their digital motor technology, which was engineered to integrate into an existing stack enclosure, a component already designed for mass production.
James Batchelor, Managing Director for Intelligent Energy’s Motive Division, said: “Fuel cell systems offer one of the most promising solutions to reducing carbon emissions from road vehicles. This collaborative programme between leading industry players helps to accelerate the introduction of our automotive technology at scale with even greater levels of system power density and performance, making our fuel cell systems even more attractive to our OEM customers across the power range that they typically ask for, from below 30kW up to 200kW. With our recent stack power density improvements yet to incorporate, we expect to deliver even greater system-level performance in the near future.”
Mark Garrett, Ricardo plc Chief Operating Officer, added: "Ricardo was pleased to have been able to contribute its vehicle systems integration expertise to this project. Fuel cells offer the prospect of an attractive future low carbon vehicle powertrain solution and are expected soon to be competitive against other advanced technologies for many current transport applications. By bringing together the skills of one of the world's leading fuel cell developers, along with best in class automotive integration and systems development expertise, and the operational guidance of fleet operators, this project has moved fuel cell technology forward towards commercial application."
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