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AVL and Red Bull Advanced Technologies partner to develop high-power-density fuel cell technology

Mobility technology company AVL is partnering with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, the high-performance arm of Red Bull Racing Group, to develop the next generation of ultra-high-power density fuel cell technology.

The lightweight solutions are expected to be two-thirds lighter than conventional fuel cell systems, thereby paving the way for net-zero carbon emissions across high-performance automotive, motorsport and aviation industries.

This collaboration combines AVL’s industry leading portfolio of PEM fuel cell technology and Red Bull’s winning technologies and novel methodologies in lightweight design, construction, and aerodynamics.

Joint investigations indicate that upon successful completion, dramatic improvements in gravimetric power density can be achieved with values towards 6kW/kg on stack level and 2kW/kg on fuel cell system level. This technology has the potential to result in the world’s highest gravimetric power density PEM fuel cell system.

The solutions to be achieved will be a significant milestone in net-zero carbon technology innovation, enabling sectors such as aerospace, future motorsport series, and a multitude of other maximum payload applications to have the power density figures required in hydrogen mobility.



I was wondering if this is a separate initiative to Zero Avia aka Hypoint's HT PEM technology, and had a dig around.

It looks to be separate, and in the process of looking around I came across this conference from a year ago, which pretty neatly summarises the field:

In reference to AVL, they say:

' The final presentation of the H2-Aero Symposium was from Gernot Hacker, AVL List GmbH. AVL is supporting the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) BALIS project with a fuel cell composite testbed for up to 1.5 megawatts (MW) of power. The test field forms a development environment for hybrid-, hydrogen- and electric-drive concepts for passenger aircraft with a capacity of up to 60 people. The BALIS comprises test infrastructure and main components of the propulsion system itself. These include full-scale fuel-cell systems, the hydrogen tank, electric motors, a battery system and the cooling system, as well as control and feedback control systems. The great variability and functional variety of the test environment allows research and development in line with diverse framework conditions, specifications, and guidelines. “The BALIS laboratory is a novel testing environment which enables development and validation of the complete hydrogen and fuel cell systems for aviation. This unique test center will help develop high-power powertrains possible [of achieving] zero-emission flying,” he said.'


Other things which caught my eye from the conference were:

' Although sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) — i.e., derived from non-fossil sources, with a lower carbon footprint than conventional jet fuel — is needed in the near term to reduce CO2 emissions, it does not solve the local emissions issue and can consume up to three times more energy than hydrogen to produce with electrolysis. '

?? Does it? And if so, why? My thermogoddamits is not up to figuring out what is going on! Help!


'Hydrogen-electric powertrains would have two-to-three times higher endurance than a battery-electric propulsion system, Rainville said. Hydrogen “fuel cells are predicted to have a significantly longer service life than batteries or potentially a gas turbine,” he added, noting that “fuel cells are quiet and smooth,” and generate power that leads to only water vapor and oxygen-depleted air being emitted. There are challenges, he cautioned. “Fuel cells make about as much heat as they do power,” he noted, adding that a fuel-cell driv'en system is “more complex than a pure battery-electric system.”

Controlling the heat generated seems to be a major issue.

For hydrogen use in airports, a modest step forward is being taken locally to me, at Bristol airport, with hydrogen powered ground support equipment, with the aim of proving that hydrogen can be safely handled in the environment of a working airport, a necessary step, although obviously a long way from flying the planes on hydrogen:


My question to this for aviation is simple. Can you make a hybrid turbo fan unit that can burn hydrogen AND operate in electric mode?

A hybrid turbine motor setup that could run in combustion mode for high power mode (IE:take off) but then run in electric mode for low power mode (such as cruise depending on altitude and speed). You use a motor to either spin the turbine up to ignition speed or run a compressor to spin the turbine. There is a generator run by gear box off the turbine. There should be some how that you could be able to decouple the combustion section from the propulsor section and allow the motor to spin the fan for thrust.

You can simplify the setup somewhat because when you have fuel cells for electricity (to power the motor) then you don't need a generator function.

This would address some of the short comings of single motive force, whether combustion or electric, for aviation.



On page 6, of the Whitepaper “Multimodal H2-Airport Hub”, sponsored by the Vertical Flight Society:
“Also, as indicated in the diagram below, SAF production requires 3X the energy required to produce LH2. The renewable Hydrogen used as an aviation fuel has the potential to be 3X less expensive than SAF and substantially less expensive
than kerosene today.”
Figure 3: Energy and cost comparison of liquid hydrogen to SAF power to liquid (courtesy of universal hydrogen).
Depicts SAF based on Direct Air Capture and capex amortization not included.
The H2-Aero Team Chair Jesse Schneider that presented the VFS Whitepaper is the CEO of ZEV Station (H2 Fueling Stations).

Marketing documents.


Here is a 2023 NASA document on “Hybrid-Electric Aero-Propulsion Controls Testbed Results”.
Depicts a notional AGTF30 hybrid geared turbofan engine with integrated electric motor/generators in the compressor spools.
Electric power could definitely be used for aircraft taxi and ground operation. Cruise power would need significantly higher power.


I'll just note here that Japan is putting massive funds into developing within 5 years a 4MW fuel cell engine, apparently aimed at an 80 seater plane:

RyanAir is also very keen on hydrogen for regional aircraft transport, which would enable them to continue to send luggage and passengers to different destinations throughout Europe, for instance, but in a far less polluting although likely just as irritating a fashion.

I note however, and this is from someone who is, relatively speaking, a hydrogen enthusiast, that there is currently not a single aircraft of any size at all, not even a one-seater, running on hydrogen fuel cells, and just certification as well as development takes years.

I fully support efforts to develop both, but the notion that they can substantially reduce aviation emissions over the next 25 years when most of the GHG anyway comes from long distance flight would be absurd.


Since this post is about Red Bull Advanced Technologies and AVL, then it definitely looks like it points to a “future motorsport series”.
Recently, Formula 1, the FIA and Extreme E’s sister series Extreme H have announced the formation of a joint Hydrogen Working Group that will start in 2025.
AVL looks like a good partner having already developed PEM Fuel Cell Systems:
The AVL’s HyTruck fuel cell system even has an IHI oil free ETC (Electric Turbocharger) which avoids oil contamination of the PEM stack.
Maybe adding the Mercedes Subcooled Liquid H2 tanks would give these racecars the range for the Dakar Rally.


@Gryf said:

' Maybe adding the Mercedes Subcooled Liquid H2 tanks would give these racecars the range for the Dakar Rally.'

Wow! That would give a severe work out to the ability to control the temperature safely without excessive venting. Wonderful proving ground for any European long distance routes.

I'm wondering if it is more severe than on an aeroplane, although perhaps the vehicles would not change inclination so much as has to be allowed for on a plane, which is one of the many issues for hydrogen fuel cells in aircraft and makes it tough to keep constant pressure of the gas.


good ideas good comments


Dunno how far the race is, but the the Desert X Prix in Jeddah has at least one car (?) which is hydrogen powered:

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