|Volvo C30 DRIVe Electric. Click to enlarge.|
Backed by research support from the Swedish Energy Agency, Volvo Cars is initiating development of a fuel cell system that can extend an electric car’s operating range . The aim is to have two prototype chassis based on the Volvo C30 DRIVe Electric ready for testing in everyday traffic in 2012.
Volvo Cars is working together with the company PowerCell Sweden AB on this project. In the first phase, a preliminary study is being conducted into a fuel cell range extender, consisting of a fuel cell with an on-board reformer—i.e., a version of the PowerCell Power Pac. The reformer converts a liquid fuel, in this case gasoline, to hydrogen reformate, which then fuels the stack.
The technology generates electricity completely without any emissions of carbon oxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx) and particles. Due to system efficiency, emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are significantly reduced compared with a conventional vehicle, according to Volvo. The technology also can be adapted for renewable fuels.
In the next phase, pending support from the Swedish Energy Agency, Volvo Cars and PowerCell will produce two test cars based on the current Volvo C30 DRIVe Electric. Testing of the cars will begin in 2012.
This is an exciting expansion of our focus on electrification. Battery cost and size means that all-electric cars still have a relatively limited operating range. Fuel cells may be one way of extending the distance these cars can cover before they need to be recharged. What is more, the project gives us increased knowledge about fuel cells and hydrogen gas.—Volvo Cars President and CEO Stefan Jacoby
This technology is expected to increase the electric car’s operating range by up to 250 kilometers (155 miles) in addition to the range provided by the car’s battery pack. The fuel cell industry expects that the cost efficiency will improve continuously through refined technology and large-scale production.
We have just taken the first steps and it is naturally too early to talk about market introduction of electric cars with Range Extenders. The industrial decision will come after we have learned more about fuel cells and the opportunities they offer.—Stefan Jacoby
|A PowerCell APU. The Click to enlarge.|
PowerCell AB. PowerCell Sweden AB was founded as a joint venture between AB Volvo and Statoil ASA with the objective of bringing fuel cell and fuel converter technology to full commercialization. In 2009, Volvo Technology Transfer invested in the company, along with Midroc New Technology, Ocas Ventures and Fouriertransform. (Earlier post.)
PowerCell plans to supply its Power Generator (reformer plus fuel cell stack) to two main market segments in the transport industry, the Marine leisure and the Truck segment, as an APU.
PowerCell Sweden’s technology is based on two patented components: the fuel converter (reformer) and the PEM fuel cell stack. The autothermal reformer was originally developed by OWI (Oel Waerme Institut) in Aachen, while the PEM fuel cell was developed at Volvo. Currently available with up to 7 kW output, the next generation of the fuel cell, currently under development, will output up to 30 kW.