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Intelligent Energy tech lead in €3.5M EU DIGIMAN program to advance fuel cell stack mass production; Toyota the automotive partner

A new European program has launched to provide a blueprint to enable fully automated future mass manufacture of fuel cell stacks for the automotive market. The objective of the €3.5-million DIGIMAN program is to advance (from Manufacturing Readiness Level 4 to MRL 6) the critical steps of the PEM fuel cell assembly processes and associated in-line quality control and end-of-line testing / handover strategies and to demonstrate a route to automated volume process production capability within an automotive best practice context.

UK-based Intelligent Energy is the program’s technology lead with overall coordination provided by CEA Tech-Liten. The two companies will front a pan-European industry group to further commercialize fuel cells for the mass automotive market.

DIGIMAN, is receiving funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) under the EU programme Horizon 2020, which will focus on creating a robust platform for future stack production for zero emission vehicles.

The reduction of the production cost of fuel cell systems to be used in transport applications is one of the five techno-economic objectives of the FCH, and DIGIMAN fully contributes to the overall strategy. The project will indeed improve the manufacturing techniques by reducing the production time and costs, and increase the quality levels of PEMFC stacks. The project, which gathers industry, academia and research centres, is contributing to maintain Europe at the competitive edge on the key technologies for clean transport.

—Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the FCH2 JU

Also involved in the three year program are Freudenberg Performance Materials SE&Co.KG, WMG at the University of Warwick, and Toyota Motor Europe. The latter will be responsible for best practice requirements for future automotive stack production. Project management support and communication activities will be provided by the SME Pretexo.

The program outputs will demonstrate operational and supply chain cost reduction via seamless integration of digital manufacturing techniques and advanced technology optimized for automated production. Once developed, the blueprint design will enable build-to-print machine configurations with ready to scale production capacity to meet future requirements of more than 50,000 fuel cell stacks by 2020.

Hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles are available now, but to continue to drive customer adoption, we need to ensure future fuel cell stacks are robustly industrialized and remain cost competitive in the future. The program will bring significant opportunity to further develop Intelligent Energy’s proprietary Air Cooled fuel cell architecture. Additionally, as Intelligent Energy’s Air Cooled fuel cell stack technology operates across multiple products and applications, the project will benefit commercialization within multiple market sectors, including stationary power and drones.

—Intelligent Energy’s Head of Manufacturing, Richard Peart

This project has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement Nº 736290. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, Hydrogen Europe and N.ERGHY.


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