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Daimler partnering to transfer its latest generation of automotive fuel cell technology to stationary applications

Daimler, with its wholly owned subsidiary NuCellSys GmbH, and together with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America (MBRDNA) and Daimler Innovations Lab1886 is expanding the use case of its innovative automotive fuel cell technology.

Joining forces with industry leaders Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Power Innovations (PI), a LiteOn company, Daimler AG, with NuCellSys and supported by MBRDNA and Daimler Innovations Lab1886, will develop prototype systems starting this year for back-up and continuous power solutions for data centers and other stationary applications using automotive hydrogen fuel cell systems.


Fuel cell technology is an integral part of Daimler’s powertrain strategy. The company has already gathered experience with hydrogen-powered electric vehicles over several vehicle generations and millions of test kilometers around the world. Recently, it presented the next step with pre-production models of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F‑CELL. (Earlier post.)

With the premiere of pre-production models of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-CELL, Daimler also presented its latest generation fuel cell technology: 30% smaller, 40% more power and with a size that now fits into the engine compartment of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles.

Convinced of the potential of fuel cell technology and hydrogen as an energy storage medium in the context of the overall energy system, the company is extending its development activities into non-transportation industries.

The maturity of automotive fuel cell systems is unquestioned today. They are ready for everyday use and constitute a viable option for the transportation sector. However, the opportunities for hydrogen beyond the mobility sector—energy, industrial and residential sectors—are versatile and require the development of new strategies. Economies of scale and therefore modularization are important challenges.

—Prof. Dr. Christian Mohrdieck, Fuel Cell Director at Daimler AG and CEO of Daimler’s subsidiary NuCellSys

Data centers are some of the largest consumers of power in the new economy, and the growth rate of this power consumption is significant as well. US data centers are projected to consume an estimated 140 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year by 2020, equivalent to the annual output of about 50 power plants, emitting nearly 100 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The increasing power requirements must be balanced with the provisioning of sustainable energy supplies that meet and exceed environmental standards. Fuel cells are a very promising technology in this field.

No other power technology can offer the high reliability, unlimited scalability, and renewable energy benefits without costly utility dependency like the fuel cell can. With a constant supply of hydrogen, the fuel cell will keep supplying power. The technology relies on an electrochemical reaction like a battery, but, unlike a battery, fuel cells have a limitless capability.

The high reliability, low emission rates, low noise levels and dramatically reduced footprint make fuel cells a suitable choice for micro-grids within data centers. Those technical benefits combined with the unlimited scalability, lowered maintenance, and cost efficiency can solve the massive energy storage requirements for today’s data centers, Daimler argues.

Rapidly escalating power demands are putting pressure on traditional power delivery solutions. The use of Daimler fuel cells for continuous and back-up power solutions will allow us to explore new, sustainable, cost-effective and rapid methods to power our customers’ data centers.

—Bill Mannel, VP & GM HPC and AI, HPE

HPE is working with the collaboration partners to integrate fuel cell power systems with its current IT infrastructure solutions, including the HPE Apollo 6000 Gen10, HPE SGI 8600, and other HPE platforms.

In order to enable a 24/7 data center power supply when using renewable energy, Daimler, HPE and PI re-think power generation and incorporate hydrogen storage and fuel cell systems to supply power directly to the racks of computer servers housed in data centers. The novel concept of a “hydrogen-based” carbon-free data center utilizes hydrogen fuel cells, electrolyzers, storage, solar (photovoltaic) cells and wind turbines. The partners thereby mitigate the intermittency and variability of renewable sources.

The idea is to have the basic power supply of the data center covered by solar power stations and wind turbines. Under conditions where solar and wind electrical generation exceeds total electricity demand of the data center, rather than curtailing generation, the excess power can be used to generate and store hydrogen.


In situations where data center electrical demand exceeds solar and wind generation, or even during power outages, the hydrogen fuel cells can provide sustainable power from the stored hydrogen.

This automotive fuel cell application helps simplify data center power generation and distribution with a significantly reduced carbon footprint. Traditional power distribution can constitute 30-40% of total construction costs for a new data center. This new power provisioning approach significantly lowers the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the data center by negating the need for diesel generators, central uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), switchgear, and expensive copper power lines.

Power Innovations is an established expert in delivering flexible, state-of-the-art, and efficient power generation and management solutions. As the system integrator for the fuel cell partnership, PI will use its expertise in small footprint, high yield power grids to redefine sustainability for the industry.

Efficient management of energy and material resources also applies to all components used in electromobility. Daimler’s sustainability approach, within the context of implementing “CASE” goes far beyond the automotive product. The company and NuCellSys, pioneer and worldwide leading company in the development of hydrogen fuel systems for automotive applications, are contributing several fuel cell powertrain systems to the innovative project in order to set up the first prototype systems for energy supply together with the partners.

The systems correspond to the latest technology generation, presented with preproduction models of the Mercedes-Benz GLC F‑CELL at this year’s IAA in Frankfurt. The partners will present first project results with a prototype system at this year’s SuperComputing 2017 conference in Denver, 13-17 November.

The project will begin a pilot phase next year when Daimler, HPE and PI will team up with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).



It will take a lot of time to move to supplying much of the power for data centres from renewables and fuel cells, but this is a massive opportunity, equivalent to of the order of half the carbon emissions of the US light duty fleet.

Fuel cells in the closed air environment of data centres also enable a slight reduction in the oxygen content, still entirely breathable, but not capable of supporting a flame, so reducing or eliminating fire hazard.
Getting to all renewable energy supply needs all the tools we have, not just some of them.

Apple is also integrating fuel cells into the suite enabling renewables to power data centres:


Data centers need fail safe power sources.

Clean energy from REs such as Hydro-Wind-Solar coupled with electrolysers-H2-FCs as back up energy could make future data centers independent from current polluting grids and Coal-NG-Oil fired generators.

The same technology could be expanded to supply fail save local grids with REs. Installed in hurricane proof buildings and/or underground with buried cables it could avoid major disasters from frequent hurricanes in the golf of Mexico and adjacent islands area and reduce pollution and GHGs with existing fossil fuel power plants.


I think its a great adaptation for the technology.

I also think its kind of funny that they left more or less the automotive application the same, just housed it in a box. I mean its cool that its drop in, just thought they might package it differently, but if it works why reinvent it.

I believe Google has Bloomboxes iirc, basically they use natural gas on site to generate power across a fuel cell.
It has a dramatic effect on the electricity costs, and is basically trouble free. I think they also used it for combined heating.

I think these microgrids are just the vanguards of the future of the smart grid. Local dispatchable power, tied in to cyclical power plants like renewables, would enable greater efficiencies everywhere. Running baseloads at a consistant rate, using high tension DC, even bringing DC into the home would save us tremendous on our CO2 generation/power usage.

We could even see this technology adapted for the consumer, net metering, combined heat, and tie in to renewables can all bring the efficiency way up. Not to mention, the longevity and the capacity of these systems can beat large battery backups. (enough storage that a family could quickly recharge an electric car or two if they need too, just saying that because individual homes typically don't use that much power). But these home units could be really small like 5kw all the way up to 25kw or larger if its intended for some extraordinary load like charging BEVs in times of crisis or grid peak times.

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