The development of more powerful fuel cell components for heavy-duty trucks with a lifespan of at least 30,000 hours is the goal of a new project consortium called IMMORTAL (IMproved lifetiMe stacks fOR heavy-duty Trucks through ultrA-durabLe components).
The three-year project has a budget of 3.8 million euros and is supported by the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH 2 JU). Participants include Bosch, Johnson Matthey, FPT Industrial and AVL. The project is coordinated by the French CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique).
In concrete terms, the project has four goals: First, new materials for important components such as membranes are to be developed, which should prevent the degradation of fuel cells in use. New electrodes and MEA (membrane electrode assembly) designs are then to be developed from these materials in order to achieve step-by-step changes in durability. The key data mentioned are 1.2 watts per square centimetre of power at 0.675 volts.
In addition, load profile tests are to be developed to test the performance and durability of the new development. Data from real-life usage profiles of long-haul trucks will also be incorporated. The fourth goal is then to validate the new cells in stacks; the target here is the mentioned durability of 30,000 hours.
The four industrial partners are contributing their respective know-how, Johnson Matthey for the MEA, Bosch and AVL for the stacks, and FPT Industrial for the use of fuel cell drives in heavy trucks. FPT Industrial is part of CNH Industrial, which in turn also has stakes in Iveco and Nikola. On the scientific side, CNRS Montpellier will lead the project and contribute to the development of novel membranes, while IMTEK from Freiburg will focus on understanding degradation mechanisms using chemical and structural techniques.
Even with the 30,000 operating hours, such a fuel cell will probably not last the entire life of the chassis. At 45 operating hours per week, that would be an extrapolated 666 weeks or a little more than 13 years.