Aircraft fuel cell hits the road

1 min read

The Technology Strategy Board has invested £1.4m to help widen the use of the propulsion platform used in the first manned fuel-cell aircraft.

Loughborough-based Intelligent Energy plans to use the funding to boost a three-year programme aimed at repurposing its fuel-cell stack technology for cars and light commercial vehicles.

The group claims its design is more power-dense and compact than competitor systems, giving it the potential to be used commercially in the automotive industry, alongside parallel renewable-energy technologies.

Dennis Hayter, Intelligent Energy's vice-president of business development, said: 'We've already developed the first of our 10kW automotive systems with Peugeot. This project will move the technology into the wider automotive market. We will look at addressing the areas currently challenging all fuel-cell manufacturers: performance, lifetime, temperature range and reliability.'

The company hopes to move its fuel-cell system to a 30kW platform and extend its performance lifetime from 1,000 to 5,000 hours. It also plans to extend the temperature range from a -20°C unassisted cold start to -25°C and up to 45°C to meet the increased temperatures found in parts of its European market.

Hayter added that one of the programme's cornerstones would be to undertake a systems engineering approach. 'This will create five separate modules consisting of the control and health monitoring, the hydrogen supply side, air, water and stack,' he said. 'These can be constructed and maintained separately and so act as "plug and play" devices to minimise downtime and improve production efficiency.'

The project is due to begin next month with input from Ricardo Engineering, Dyson, TRW Conekt, Royal Mail, DHL and the Tata European Technical Centre.

Ellie Zolfagharifard