Schaeffler will present a hydrogen-powered van at IAA Transportation
At the upcoming IAA Transportation trade fair in Hanover, Schaeffler will present a hydrogen fuel cell demonstration vehicle built from scratch on the basis of an electric van. The vehicle is driven by a Schaeffler 3in1 electric axle powered by a fuel cell system manufactured using Schaeffler components.
Schaeffler collaborated with REFIRE, one of the world’s leading providers of commercial hydrogen fuel cell technologies. The electric axle, fuel cell, control system and energy management system were all designed and built by Schaeffler’s electric mobility experts.
Schaeffler presents the vehicle as an example of optimal interoperability between electric propulsion, fuel cell and lithium-ion battery technology.
Initially, fuel cell engines will mainly be used in long-haul utility vehicles. Vans will also benefit from this technology as they also regularly travel longer distances.
—Matthias Zink, CEO Automotive Technologies at Schaeffler AG
The various components and systems that make up fuel cells include bipolar plates. These plates are an integral part of the fuel cell, accounting for up to 80% of the cell’s weight and up to 65% of the cell’s volume, although each plate is only 50 to 100 microns thick.
Schaeffler has been developing metal bipolar plates since 2017 and is currently manufacturing them in a pilot plant at its Herzogenaurach site. The manufacturing process for bipolar plates leverages the company’s extensive expertise in multiple manufacturing processes, including cold forming, stamping, assembly and surface treatment.
For Schaeffler, the development of processes such as the forming and coating of extremely thin steel parts like bipolar plates has largely been a case of adapting processes he has already used for many years in component manufacturing. engine and transmission.
Schaeffler also draws on its bearing know-how to develop various axial and radial air bearings for fuel cell air supply, nozzles for hydrogen recirculation and key system components. coolant management, including a thermal management module and smart valves for decentralized coolant control. . In addition, the company is continuously developing its expertise and capabilities in controlling fuel cell systems, including software modules for fuel cell specific functions.
The vehicle presented at the IAA Transportation show is equipped with a 13 kWh battery with a maximum output of 85 kW and a fuel cell system designed for a continuous output of 50 kW. Propulsion is provided by a Schaeffler 3in1 electric axle, complete with power electronics, with a maximum output of 140 kW. Schaeffler uses the vehicle as a development platform to test and optimize the interaction between the various system components.
By partnering with Symbio, a hydrogen technology joint venture between Faurecia and Michelin, to create Innoplate, Schaeffler aims to transition its bipolar plates to industrial production in early 2024. The Innoplate joint venture partners intend to produce plates both mobile and stationary applications. The joint production facility will be located in Haguenau, France, and will initially have an annual output of four million wafers, which will grow to around 50 million by 2030.
To verify the feasibility of manufacturing its bipolar plates on an industrial scale, Schaeffler set up a pilot production plant in early 2022. The plant is designed so that it can be used to manufacture bipolar plates in sizes up to the larger 1800 by 600 mm formats used in electrolyzers.
The individual process steps performed by the pilot plant, which was designed in partnership with Schaeffler’s in-house special machine unit, are already fully automated. The pilot plant is part of a new hydrogen center of excellence at the company’s Herzogenaurach site, which includes a large test bed for testing electrolyser and fuel cell technologies at components, battery and complete system.