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UK consortium delivers enhanced fuel cell systems in collaborative project

A collaborative project in the UK has demonstrated a more than 30 percent increase in the power density of an Intelligent Energy fuel cell system, as well as reliable cold-start performance at temperatures down to –20°C.

The Enhanced Fuel Cell Systems project – led by Intelligent Energy, and part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the national innovation agency – has demonstrated improvements in the overall design and integration of an Intelligent Energy hydrogen PEM fuel cell system.

The £2.8 million (US$4.3 million) project, which ran from December 2009 to December 2012, also involved Dyson Technology, Ricardo, and TRW Conekt, with operational advice from logistics giant DHL. It focused on enhancing the reliability, durability, and performance of Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell engines, as well as reducing system weight.

The project team achieved an increase in power density of more than 30%, delivering an improvement in power output from 30 kW to 40 kW for the chosen test system without increasing system mass or size. In addition, 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.

‘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,’ says James Batchelor, Managing Director of Intelligent Energy’s Motive Division, ‘making our fuel cell systems even more attractive to our OEM customers across the power range that they typically ask for, from below 30 kW up to 200 kW.’

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 its digital motor technology. This was engineered to integrate into an existing stack enclosure, a component already designed for mass production.

‘Dyson has been developing digital motors for the past 15 years for use in our own technology,’ says Mark Taylor, Director of Group Research, Design, Development Operations at Dyson. ‘The latest motor has potential far beyond Dyson machines, and adapting it for use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles enthused our engineers and increased our understanding of the technology.’

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