Loughborough, UK-- A programme has launched to provide a blueprint to enable fully automated future mass manufacture of fuel cell stacks for the automotive market. Intelligent Energy is the programme’s technology lead with overall coordination provided by CEA Tech-Liten. The two companies will front a pan-European industry group to further commercialise fuel cells for the mass automotive market.
The programme, named DIGIMAN, is a €3.5 million programme, receiving funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) under the EU programme Horizon 2020, which will focus on creating a robust platform for future stack production for zero emission vehicles. Also involved in the three year programme are Freudenberg Performance Materials SE&Co.KG, WMG at the University of Warwick, and Toyota Motor Europe. The latter will be responsible for best practice requirements for future automotive stack production. Project management support and communication activities will be provided by the SME Pretexo.
Representatives from the partner organisations gathered at Intelligent Energy’s Loughborough headquarters to kick off the scope of work. The programme outputs will demonstrate operational and supply chain cost reduction via seamless integration of digital manufacturing techniques and advanced technology optimised for automated production. Once developed, the blueprint design will enable build-to-print machine configurations with ready to scale production capacity to meet future requirements of more than 50,000 fuel cell stacks by 2020.
Intelligent Energy’s Head of Manufacturing, Richard Peart said: “Hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles are available now, but to continue to drive customer adoption, we need to ensure future fuel cell stacks are robustly industrialised and remain cost competitive in the future. The programme will bring significant opportunity to further develop Intelligent Energy’s proprietary Air Cooled fuel cell architecture. Additionally, as Intelligent Energy’s Air Cooled fuel cell stack technology operates across multiple products and applications, the project will benefit commercialisation within multiple market sectors, including stationary power and drones.”
Martin Bloom, Group CEO at Intelligent Energy, added: “As the adoption of hydrogen technologies continues to gather pace, Intelligent Energy is ideally placed to be the technical lead on this programme. With the wealth of experience we have in this area resulting from our on-going joint manufacturing venture with Suzuki (SMILE), in addition to almost 30 years of fuel cell development, we have the know-how and capability to ensure we support and mobilise this ecosystem of partners.”
Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the FCH2 JU, said: “The reduction of the production cost of fuel cell systems to be used in transport applications is one of the five techno-economic objectives of the FCH, and Digiman fully contributes to the overall strategy. The project will indeed improve the manufacturing techniques by reducing the production time and costs, and increase the quality levels of PEMFC stacks. The project, which gathers industry, academia and research centres, is contributing to maintain Europe at the competitive edge on the key technologies for clean transport.”
This project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 736290. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and N.ERGHY.