Stuttgart/Friedrichshafen–Zero emissions, long ranges, short refuelling times and a broad application spectrum from passenger cars and buses, to commercial vehicles: the arguments in favour of the fuel cell speak for themselves and make the technology an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz drive strategy.
Its potential, with regard to the transformation of energy and transportation, is huge. However, hydrogen and the fuel cell have clear strengths in applications other than just for mobility: for example, as a derivative for conventional generators for (emergency) power supply – a technology for which Mercedes-Benz is already able to relate to with solid experience in the area of development. Lab1886, the innovation unit for business models within Mercedes-Benz AG, is now supporting drive and energy system provider Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG in a pilot project in the field of stationary energy supply systems. On the basis of automotive fuel cells, a holistic concept for future sustainable and independent (emergency) power supply is expected to be established over the coming months. This is a prime example of the symbiosis of battery and fuel-cell technology and a key step on the road to CO2 neutrality.
Fuel-cell technology is an integral part of the Mercedes-Benz’s powertrain strategy. Like no other company, it has vast experience across generations of hydrogen-powered electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz has completed millions of test kilometers around the globe and, with the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL fuel-cell plug-in hybrid (weighted hydrogen consumption: 0.91 kg/100 km, weighted CO2 emissions: 0 g/km, weighted power consumption: 18 kWh/100 km)1, it has recently set a further technological milestone.
“Innovation was and remains one of the main drivers of our sustainable success. Cross-sector dialogue and cooperation are absolutely crucial here. We are extremely delighted that as part of the pilot project we are able to support Rolls-Royce Power Systems on a further key step towards a successful energy revolution outside the car itself, too”, says Susanne Hahn, Head of Lab1886 Global.
On the basis of automotive fuel cells, in the coming months Rolls-Royce will develop a holistic concept for future sustainable and independent emergency power supply under its MTU product and solutions brand. It is intended primarily for safety-critical areas of application, for example, data centers – an area which today is covered by conventional engines. The project is already in the development phase. The construction of plants for the pilot project is planned to begin at the start of next year.
“As a provider of integrated solutions, the decarbonisation of the drive system and energy supply is one of our strategic goals which we are pursuing in a technology-neutral manner. As part of this, fuel-cell technology is a key technology for us”, says Dr. Martin Teigeler, Head of R&D of the Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit. “The principle of the fuel cell is as ingenious as it is simple, the technology is well-known but nevertheless demanding in terms of its application. Now it is ready for series production and therefore ready for the commercial market”, continues Teigeler.
Along with fuel-cell technology, Rolls-Royce is involved in the production of hydrogen and other synthetic fuels with energy from renewable sources – also for use in fuel cells. “In this combination, the fuel cell is making an even more important contribution to the energy revolution”, according to Teigeler. “We are delighted that in Lab1886 we have a partner whose technological excellence is an outstanding match for us. We are convinced that the fuel-cell module from Mercedes-Benz will open up new application options in stationary operation, namely in our markets, too.”
Computer centres are among the largest energy consumers in the new economy, and this consumption is showing considerable growth rates. The increasing energy requirement must be met with a sustainable and environmentally compatible power supply. Fuel cells are a very promising technology in this sector. No other energy technology offers such high reliability, modular scalability and all the advantages of renewable energy without dependence on the conventional energy market. When constantly supplied with hydrogen, fuel-cell systems continuously generate electrical power. Synergies can also be used in the cooling system: the output temperature of the computer coolant is the same as the input temperature of the fuel-cell coolant.
Back at the end of 2017, Lab1886 and Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell extended their development portfolio to include the field of stationary fuel-cell systems in cooperation with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America (MBRDNA). Together with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Power Innovations (PI) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in the USA the company is testing automotive fuel cells in stationary energy supply systems for (emergency) power supply of computer centres, thus reinforcing the potential of hydrogen and fuel cells within the framework of a future sustainable overall energy system.