Germany launches €60M, 3-year consortium project on high-volume production of automotive fuel cells; BMW, Daimler, Ford, VW
Germany has launched a ~€60-million, three-year consortium of leading industrial companies to investigate high-volume production of automotive fuel cell stacks. The “AutoStack-Industrie” project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), with €21.3 million in the first year.
The “AutoStack Industry” project is a joint initiative of the German automotive and supply industries and aims to provide the technical, economic and technological basis for the commercial introduction of fuel cell vehicles in Germany and Europe by 2020. The consortium, which is lead by BMW, comprises leading German companies in the fields of automotive and fuel cell technology: BMW AG; Daimler AG; Reinz-Dichtungs GmbH (DANA); Ford Research and Innovation Center Aachen; Freudenberg Performance Materials SE & Co. KG; Greenerity GmbH; NuCellSys GmbH; Powercell Sweden AB; Umicore AG & Co. KG; Volkswagen AG; and Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg.
Emission-free electric drives are the driving force of the future and hydrogen cars an important alternative and supplement to the battery vehicles. We intend to build up our own fuel cell production facility in Germany.—Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary with the Federal Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure
Currently, fuel cell stacks are largely assembled by hand. Automated assembly saves time and costs and is therefore a prerequisite for a broad market launch of fuel cell vehicles.
The partners in the project will create common specifications and derive stack and component designs from this, then build a prototype stack. At the same time, the technology is being researched for a scalable and flexible production plant with a potential target capacity of 30,000 fuel cell stacks per year.
To achieve this, approximately 25 million individual components have to be inspected, processed and then packaged in such a way that no shifts occur between the components and no leakage between the components occurs in a cycle time of 0.5 seconds with high precision to 0.1 millimeter.
The key processes of such a production are the automated high-precision gripping, transfer, positioning and placement of components which are partly flexible and partly under mechanical stress. The flexible system is designed to produce stacks in the power range from 10 to 150 kW with a life expectancy of at least 5,500 hours.