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Swedish Energy Agency awards PowerCell $960K toward developing modular fuel cell range extender system for EVs

The Swedish Energy Agency has awarded Volvo Group spinout PowerCell SEK7 million (US$965,000) for the MoRE Zero project to develop a fuel cell system for use in a modular range extender system for electric vehicles in the European ERA-NET project. The kick-off meeting of the MoRE Zero project took place on June 2014.

PowerCell will develop a modular and scalable fuel cell system in the order of 20-25 kW. The fuel cell systems will be integrated and demonstrated in three different types of electric vehicles: a small 3.5-tonne truck provided by IDIADA; a 5-tonne minibus or 10-tonne small bus provided By Hexagon Studio; and an 18-tonne heavy truck provided by E-Trucks Europe. The modular range-extender system will comprise:

  • A PEM-based fuel cell stack;
  • A peripheral system in order to condition and monitor the hydrogen and fuel cell stacks
  • A scalable hydrogen storage system; and
  • A modular DC/DC converter.
MoRE Zero work packages. Click to enlarge.

PowerCell, which has been developing fuel cell technology for more than a decade, has been working on its latest fuel cell platform (S2) since 2010. This is now in the final stages of development and will be launched as a commercial product by the end of 2014; S2 will be produced within the power range of 5-25 kW. This covers a gap in the fuel cell market, the company notes, as fuel cell stacks up to 20 kW are available from some manufacturers, but in the range 10-30 kW, there is more or less nothing available on the open market.

The fuel cell stacks that are made for these small power classes (<30 kW) are typically designed for stationary applications where packing volume and cost targets are not nearly as stringent as in the automotive industry. These designs require a smaller initial investment cost than automotive fuel cell stacks, but will never be anywhere near as cost-effective high volume. The PowerCell fuel cell stack is developed according to the standard for vehicles and for use in automotive environment and a power range that is appropriate for the range extender–application.

—Magnus Henell, CEO of PowerCell Sweden AB

The More Zero consortium consists of partners from four countries that have joined together in an ERA-NET project to develop a modular range extender concept that can be used in a variety of vehicles, based on the PowerCell’s fuel cell technology. Partners in the project are:

  • IDIADA, Spain
  • Triphase, Belgium
  • Hexagon Studio, Turkey
  • E-Trucks Europe, Belgium

ERA-NET is an instrument created for the European Commission to develop and strengthen the R & D collaboration between countries and regions in Europe.

PowerCell is a spinout from the Volvo Group with the objective to develop and produce environmentally friendly power systems based on a unique fuel cell and reformer technology that matches existing fuel infrastructures. PowerCell is based in Gothenburg and is owned by Volvo Group Venture Capital, Fouriertransform, Midroc New Technologies and Finindus.



The PowerCell/Volvo C30 FCEV is the right idea, more batteries and less fuel cell in a range extender configuration. The HTPEM can run on reformed liquid fuel without CO problems.


This is particularly attractive for cold climates, as the 'waste' heat from the fuel cell can not only provide cabin heating but help keep the battery at optimum temperature.

If cost and durability issues can be overcome then it is also much more weight-effective than simply adding more batteries.


This seems to confirm that a small 20 KW fuel cell may be enough as a range extender for a small e-vehicle?


PowerCell has a 25 kW HTPEM, there is no reason they could not make a larger one. The reformer does not have to be much larger nor cost much more.

If it takes 10 minutes to start up the reformer and warm the HTPEM, you have 12 kWH of batteries that can last for 30+ minutes on battery only. The costly parts are batteries and fuel cells, so use less of both.


Your 10 minutes for start up is right for the reformer:

The fuel cell stack is just a common or garden PEM though, not a high temperature one, and needs only seconds to start up.


That data sheet is for a small 5 kW LT PEM, this project is based on a larger 25 kW S2 fuel cell. This company has been working on HT PEM for a while, but the S2 is described as a "CO tollerant PEM"

The stack still has to be warmed to 70C minimum before starting, so it will take a while, maybe 3-4 minutes. An HTPEM starts at about 120C which takes a bit longer.


I got my companies mixed up, the HT PEM company is Serenergy in Denmark, this is PowerCell in Sweden. PowerCell claims to have a CO tolerant PEM, but most PEM fuel cells can not even tolerate 10 ppm, they need to take 1000 ppm to take reformed liquid hydrocarbon fuels, HT PEMs can do that.

Then there is sulfur, which is not a problem if you are reforming methanol, but that is another story :)


As their links state, the stack only takes a few seconds to start, just like the one in the Hyundai FCEV.
Presumably the efficiency is a bit low on start up, just like an ICE, but of course the working temperature for a fuel cell is way lower than for a combustion engine.
That's why I get awful mileage on short runs in the winter particularly! :-(


I don't know what "links" you are talking about, that PDF you referenced says nothing of the sort. That S1 data sheet does say "*Start/stop in freeze condition needs special process..."

Dave, just think about heating 200 pounds of stack from 0 degrees C to 60 degree C, how much heat energy that takes and how long it will take to do that. Now do you really think you can just cold start a large stack in seconds? The reaction will NOT take place until the stack is at 60C MINIMUM, the stack can not heat it self.

If you want a definitive report on the state of the art read: http://setis.ec.europa.eu/energy-research/sites/default/files/project/docs/HIEPSFinalReport.pdf

They say the best time from a cold start for a larger PEM was ONE MINUTE done by Toyota in a laboratory. So you keep thinking seconds when the reality is MINUTES.


Your latest link is to a methanol high temperature fuel cell.

Here is PowerCell:
'The Fuel Cell is based on PEM technology (Polymere electrolyte membrane). This is the most commonly used technology today, owing to its reliable and dynamic characteristics that allows for full power output within seconds. Another feature is the capability for extensive starts and stops.'


That is the page which gave the pdf I had cited.
I wrongly assumed the pdf gave the same information on starts.

As for start up times for the fuel cell in cars, it is so long since that has been a problem that I no longer have links to when it was overcome.

The ~1kwh battery pack is certainly not allowing the fuel cell to have minutes of warm up time.

The best I can do is ask you to have a look and find any test driver who claims that they have been waiting minutes for the car to start.
You won't find any.

Here is Fifth Gear testing the FCX Clarity, since when things have moved on:

No hint that they had to wait for the fuel cell there.

SJC, just think about heating a combustion engine from 0 degrees C to a couple of hundred degree C, how much heat energy that takes and how long it will take to do that?

The answer of course is that they manage just fine, as they do for hydrogen fuel cell stacks.

You seem to be confusing one company with another, methanol with hydrogen fuel cells, and the Lord knows what.


'Jan. 30, 2014 – Record low temperatures have stranded many East Coast drivers, but not those driving a Toyota fuel cell hybrid vehicle. Connecticut-based Proton Onsite, which operates a fleet of ten Toyota FCHV-adv fuel cell vehicles, says that even in single digit temperatures, the FCHV-adv shows no signs of frostbite.

"We had another snow storm Tuesday night and this morning the temperature was 3 degrees," says Mark Schiller, Proton vice president of business development. "I went out to my Toyota FCHV-adv and brushed off a foot of snow before starting the car right up. No problem."'



'PEM fuel cells are considered to have the highest energy density of all the fuel cells, and due to the nature of the reaction have the quickest start up time (less than 1 sec) so they have been favoured for applications such as vehicles, portable power and backup power applications.'



BTW a modern fuel cell stack runs at around 2kw/kg:

So a 100kw stack will be around 100lbs, not 200lbs.


Raising 100 pounds 100 degrees takes 10,000 BTU, how are you going to heat the stack 10,000 BTU in a few seconds? An internal combustion engine has lots of waste heat in every cylinder on every power stoke of each second. A PEM has electric heaters, that takes a while.


"This supports the DOE/FreedomCAR target of rapid startup of a fuel cell vehicle to 90% rated power soaked at –20°C in less than 30 seconds in 2010 with less than 5 mega Joules of energy."

Mind you that is a TARGET which still takes more than 1 kWh of energy heating a fuel cell for 30 seconds. It DOES take more than a 'few seconds'. Consider 1 kWh is 3400 BTU and we need 10,000 BTU, it will take more energy and time than a few seconds.

By the way, if PowerCell thinks that they can build thousands of PEM fuel cells that can withstand more than 1000 ppm of CO for more than 10 years, best of luck to them. When they say "rapid" startup time on their data sheets, they mean faster than an SOFC, which could take hours.


"..brushed off a foot of snow before starting the car right up. No problem."

That means he drove away on batteries while the fuel cell heated up. I made a mistake on the companies, I admit that.
People make mistakes, but they should not believe something that just is not true. Believing that a large 100 kW fuel cell starts up like an engine is not true.


"..brushed off a foot of snow before starting the car right up. No problem."

That means he drove away on batteries while the fuel cell heated up. I made a mistake on the companies, I admit that.
People make mistakes, but they should not believe something that just is not true. Believing that a large 100 kW fuel cell starts up like an engine is not true.


"In 2009 Toyota achieved at start up time of 30 seconds at -20°C, which they claimed was “the best cold start capability of any FCV in the world”

Page 28 second paragraph of the PDF link I posted.

The article is on HTPEMs comparing to PEM, so it is relevant.
So they are saying an HTPEM would take one minute and the PEM takes 30 seconds. This longer than "a few seconds".


Starting and criving a recent FCEV in cold weather is no longer a challenge. It reacts much like our ICEVs and supplies enough heat to keep the cabin comfortable.


It is not a challenge if you have enough batteries on board. With an engine, in a few seconds it is running, you warm it a bit and drive off slowly.

You do the same with an FCV, but you need batteries to provide the heat to warm the stack before it operates. Not much different. Thinking it is just like an engine is a mistake however.


By the way, the quote from the article on fuelcellmarkets.com

"...quickest start up time (less than 1 sec)..."

That is just plain wrong, they were mistaken and mislead the readers. If they were talking about a 100 watt stack it still would take longer than a second. I believe they call it critical thinking, try it some time.

just think about heating a combustion engine from 0 degrees C to a couple of hundred degree C, how much heat energy that takes and how long it will take to do that?

The answer of course is that they manage just fine

The difference being that the ICE can provide a large fraction of rated output power even when its coolant and lubricating oil are well below 0°C.  The PEMFC cannot.

If the FC stack is heated in sections, the battery could pre-heat one to starting temperature and then the waste heat from that one could thaw the rest in turn as they start providing power to the vehicle.  It would be interesting to say the least.

If the FC can't use reformed liquid fuel, there's going to be a chicken/egg problem.  Hydrogen's going to be hard to find for some time.


Maybe they should keep fuel cells for more temperate climates, or people with heated garages.
Maybe they could add gasoline or diesel pre-heaters. It is not as pure as an all electric system, but oil is cheap, available and if all you want is heat, it works fine.


Posters are enlarging an already solved problem?

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