Cellcentric, jointly launched by Daimler Truck and Volvo, is developing the hydrogen fuel cell drive system for heavy-duty trucks to production maturity. Mohrdieck, who serves as chief commercial officer (CCO) for cellcentric, reiterated the well-known advantages of fuel cell propulsion over battery power: the former is lighter, offers a longer range, and can be refueled faster than an equally powerful battery vehicle. After more than 30 years of development, this technology is about to enter small-scale production, Mohrdieck explained. He said there have been no technical problems when driving around the world with a small fleet of hydrogen cars. However, he said, it has become clear that an appropriate hydrogen refueling infrastructure is “essential”.
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In practical terms, the somewhat unusual efficiency curve of such a drive is significant. In contrast to a diesel engine, the fuel cell exhibits its maximum efficiency in partial load operation. Since road vehicles are usually operated in this range of the characteristic curve, this represents an advantage, Mohrdieck explained. A disadvantage, however, is standstill, where the fuel cell can degrade. It is now necessary to investigate different driving situations in order to mitigate this effect.
In terms of design, cellcentric is pursuing an integrated approach in the construction of its fuel cell drive - stack, DC/DC converter and control unit with software are housed in a single system. The drive, which has already been tested in everyday operation, has an output of 150 kW and is designed for a service life of 25,000 operating hours. Two such units will be installed as “twins” in the vehicles.
The development has been completed, and now the company is planning first small-scale production and next full-scale production. For this purpose, cellcentric plans to build its own factory in Weilheim near Munich/Germany.
So what kind of vehicle is this drive suitable for? Mohrdieck made it clear which parameters determine the economic efficiency of the fuel cell: The more intensively a vehicle is used and the heavier it is, the higher the probability that hydrogen propulsion will be profitable for a vehicle.