We are on the road to a future with lower emissions. I feel that fuel cell technology is a useful addition to plug-in hybrids, electric cars and advanced internal combustion engines. So what’s fascinating about it? Well, instead of air pollution, the fuel cell´s exhaust is just moist air. In principle you could even drink it. MANN+HUMMEL already offers award-winning solutions for this technology.
The fuel cell clearly has the potential to become a clean solution for the electrification of long-distance driving and to reduce fuel consumption of trucks. Of course, this requires to produce hydrogen with renewable energy such as solar power or wind power. Fuel cell technology has been around since the late fifties – the for example, Apollo 11 mission to the moon used a fuel cell. Despite this, the technology has not yet been able to establish itself in the automotive sector. The reasons are surely that fuel cell systems are still expensive and that there is no network of hydrogen filling stations in place – a typical chicken or egg dilemma.
Applications for fuel cells today
There are several promising applications for fuel cell technology even today: in public and private buildings, e.g. with combined heat and power generation / co-generation units, in the area of plant logistics, e.g. with forklift trucks, or in the area of public transport and here I am particularly thinking of buses.
Combined heat and power generation is a practical application example for the use of fuel cell technology in private households. Natural gas is used as a fuel, an energy source which is already available in many houses. In a chemical reaction hydrogen-rich gas is produced from natural gas which is then fed to the fuel cell to produce power and heat. Since power and heat can both be used, the overall efficiency of the system is high.
The forklift trucks and buses in use today have a defined driving profile and a hydrogen filling station can easily be set up in the plant or bus depot to enable quick tank filling. The fuel cell replaces the large lead batteries currently used in forklift trucks. In buses it enables low‑noise mobility in cities. My daughter goes to school in an electric-powered bus and she always tells me enthusiastically how quiet it is inside the bus compared to the noisy traffic outside – and the conventional Diesel buses.
Full power over the entire service life
Although the majority of MANN+HUMMEL products are designed for filter systems and components for vehicles with combustion engines or stationary applications, we are also looking at the area of fuel cell technology to offer customers solutions for emission-free energy generation and transport. To create those solutions, we transfer our expertise in filtration and separation. One of our products is the cathode air filter, which was honored with the 2013 f-cell award of the Baden Württemberg state ministry for the environment, climate and energy industry. The cathode air filter separates particles such as dust and salt crystals and harmful gases from ambient air which can poison the expensive fuel cell catalyst. In this way we help the fuel cell system to achieve full performance over its entire life. The award-winning product concept enables installation without a housing, which differentiates us from the competition and helps our customers to reduce costs. Apart from that, our winding concept enables us to generate numerous product sizes at relatively little extra cost, something which is important for a growing market.
A second product is the ion exchanger filter. It ensures that the electrical conductivity of coolants remains low. Learn more in part 3 of our blog series on electric mobility, fuel cells and advanced internal combustion engines. Stay tuned!
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