- Delegation around State Secretary Steffen Bilger and ZSW specify research factory for fuel cells in Ulm
- HyFaB project: Driving mobility with hydrogen
On June 23, 2020, a high-ranking delegation headed by Steffen Bilger, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and coordinator of the Federal Government for freight transport and logistics, visited the Baden-Württemberg Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW) in Ulm. The group was accompanied by Ronja Kemmer, member of the Bundestag (constituency 291 Ulm / Alb-Donau) and Ulm’s mayor Gunter Czisch. In addition to trends from hydrogen and fuel cell research, the “HyFaB-Baden-Württemberg” project was specified. With the project, the ZSW will build a research factory for fuel cells in Ulm by 2021 to create the conditions for the industrialization of the technology. The federal and state governments want to participate.
Tomorrow’s mobility should be climate neutral and as emission-free as possible. Hydrogen and fuel cells offer enormous potential for CO 2 reduction in transport and for national value creation. The market for fuel cell vehicles includes that of the touring sedans, trucks, buses, trains etc. In order to bring the technology to the market in large quantities, industrialization of the production of fuel cell stacks is required.
The project “HyFaB-Baden-Württemberg – Research Factory for Fuel Cells and Hydrogen” is intended to strengthen the supply industry and create an open, flexible offer in order to be able to develop and test automated manufacturing and quality assurance processes for fuel cells. Further work is carried out on factory acceptance tests and on commissioning procedures suitable for large-scale production. To this end, the ZSW in Ulm is to be significantly expanded by 2021. The state of Baden-Württemberg begins with the first step towards the implementation of HyFaB: The Ministry of Economics, Labor and Housing will support the development of the research infrastructure with 10.5 million euros. The Ministry of the Environment is funding the first research work in the HyFaB project with a total of 7.9 million euros, of which 3.8 million euros will go to the ZSW. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) intends to fund production and process research on public projects with industry over the next few years with up to 30 million euros. “We fully support the goal of HyFab thatTo advance research into manufacturing processes for the production of fuel cells, ”said Bilger. The federal government sees great opportunities in this for German industry, with the main focus being on important sectors such as mechanical engineering and automotive suppliers. “Ulm can thus expand its importance as an important national location in fuel cell research.” HyFaB was developed together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) and many partners from industry.
High-performance fuel cell stacks are complex constructions: Hundreds of individual cells, consisting of membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) with 10 micron thin membranes, have to be matched to each other with bipolar plates with a construction height of almost 1 millimeter and filigree gas distribution structures plus the gas diffusion layers made of porous carbon fiber fleece and to form a stack be put together.
The HyFaB project aims to develop the new and automated manufacturing technology necessary for large-scale production. The creation of the associated, standardized quality methods is essential for the establishment of a powerful supplier industry and a competent mechanical engineering. The training of specialists will also be an important part of the project.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are driven by an electric motor, but the technology differs significantly from the battery vehicle (battery electric vehicles, BEVs) because the electricity is generated directly on board from hydrogen and air. The heat generated as a by-product can be used to heat the interior. A battery supports the fuel cell system during acceleration and regenerative braking. The main advantage of FCEVs compared to BEVs is the quick refueling and long range (approx. 3 minutes for 500 km) as well as the lower weight. In addition to driving touring limousines, they are particularly suitable for buses, heavy goods vehicles, trains and ships. In the long term, FCEVs powered by green hydrogen can take over important areas of application for diesel engines. By January 2020, the number of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles increased from 11,200 at the end of 2018 to around 19,000 units worldwide.
Commercial, production-ready models (cars and trucks) currently offer two Asian manufacturers in Germany: Toyota since 2014 and Hyundai since 2013. Mercedes Benz has been driving the GLC F-CELL as a test fleet since 2018. Other manufacturers have announced the first fleets for the mid-2020s: IVECO plans to produce the Nikola TRE electric and fuel cell truck in the Ulm plant from 2021 and will deliver the first models by 2023. 1,600 heavy-duty trucks from Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM) are said to be on the move in Switzerland by 2025. In addition, buses and the first local trains in regular transport with hydrogen are on the move at several locations. Parallel to the market launch of series fuel cell vehicles, the hydrogen infrastructure and hydrogen filling stations are being built worldwide.