Hydrogen Fuel Vehicle

Intelligent Energy unveils hydrogen fuel cell for zero-emission cars

Loughborough, UK: Intelligent Energy (IE), a company developing powerful hydrogen fuel cell systems for vehicles and other applications, has unveiled a brand-new hydrogen fuel cell system that is smaller and more powerful than any other solution on the passenger car market – creating a breakthrough opportunity to unlock a global, zero-emission future for the sector. The company’s fuel cells are designed to be more efficient and cost-effective than previous versions, making it possible for smaller, mass-produced vehicles to run on hydrogen fuel. 

As the world searches for a truly sustainable, zero-emission mobility solution, fuel cells have the potential to help overcome some of the challenges associated with Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), namely a dependency on limited natural resources, limited electric grid capacity, long battery charging time and limited vehicle range. Manufacturers can also produce fuel cells as cheaply as internal combustion engines (ICE) and can make them from recycled and recyclable materials.

Intelligent Energy’s brand-new and patented IE-DRIVE™ system has been designed to give passenger car manufacturers direct access to the smaller, more powerful, turnkey and commercially-viable hydrogen fuel cell solution that is needed to make zero carbon emission mobility a global reality in the passenger car market.

A British company recently unveiled the single stack platform, the first of its kind designed, manufactured, and tested by them. Moreover, the unveiling took place during a launch event at Intelligent Energy’s Loughborough headquarters, where it powered a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) provided by Changan UK.

The specification of the IE-DRIVE™ platform brings significant benefits. Compare these benefits to those of fuel cells developed by large automotive groups and their third-party fuel cell suppliers. These are:

More power
In its current configuration, Intelligent Energy’s DRIVE fuel cell stack is capable of 157kW gross electrical power. This is higher than any other single stack application that is currently available for the passenger car sector.

Intelligent Energy’s patented direct water injection technology means DRIVE’s heat exchanger is up to 30% smaller than its competitors at equal net power output. In IE’s test SUV, the single pass heat exchanger measures only 0.34m² but allows cruising at 130km/h in peak temperatures and achieving a speed of 90km/h when traveling up a long, steep hill. Moreover, having a small heat exchanger makes vehicle packaging much easier. It benefits fuel cell vehicle design, particularly in relation to bonnet height and improved driver visibility.

Designing its novel direct water injection system has allowed Intelligent Energy to reduce its component count and bill of materials. This example illustrates that IE’s fuel cell doesn’t need a humidifier and related parts.

DRIVE is a complete fuel cell system in the shape of a traditional engine and is designed to meet the low bonnet requirements of passenger cars. It includes the fuel cell stack, electronic control unit, heat exchanger and Balance of Plant (BOP). It represents a genuine turnkey solution for car manufacturers.

Under full-scale, high-volume manufacturing conditions, Intelligent Energy predicts its DRIVE fuel cell system will cost around 100 GBP per kW by the end of the decade. This would make it less expensive than BEV solutions and comparable to ICE.

Intelligent Energy embarked on a four-year project called ESTHER in November 2019, supported by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), to develop a new breed of patented hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The £22 million initiative was a collaborative effort involving Intelligent Energy, Changan R&D Centre, Lyra Electronics and Alexander Dennis. Changan provided essential support during the project, including the provision of three SUVs to enable fuel cell testing.

Throughout the entire project, Intelligent Energy has revolutionized its manufacturing processes and streamlined assembly. They have worked hard to secure new cost efficiencies without sacrificing quality.

Intelligent Energy is now ready to roll its technology out to the passenger car market, in partnership with suitable car manufacturers.

David Woolhouse, Intelligent Energy’s Chief Executive, said: “With 25% of all passenger cars expected to have hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, this clean technology represents the future. I’m proud that, as an independent and privately-owned company, Intelligent Energy has developed a breakthrough solution that can open up the market for passenger car manufacturers that need to package a more powerful system into their vehicles.

“Our DRIVE product has the potential to shake up the hydrogen fuel cell market and accelerate the transition towards zero-emission mobility.

“As an IATF-compliant business we are looking to grow our capability as a tier 1 supplier. Fuel cell manufacturing will be a major driver of economic growth.”

Dr Ashley Kells, Intelligent Energy Programme Director, said: “The support provided by the APC has been fundamental to the development of this passenger car fuel cell system, along with the valuable input of the other programme partners. The IE-DRIVE™ product is a ground-breaking advancement in the automotive industry and the work we have undertaken clearly illustrates the UK’s ability to be a global leader in the hydrogen fuel cell arena.”

Intelligent Energy’s work doesn’t just stand to benefit the drive to zero emission mobility. By 2040, experts anticipate that the global market for fuel cells in passenger cars and vans will reach a value of $750 billion (£596 billion). If car manufacturers adopt its IE-DRIVE™ fuel cell technology, the company could scale up its manufacturing capability in the East Midlands – a move that would create significant new employment opportunities and provide a major boost to both the regional and UK economy.

Jane Hunt, MP for Loughborough, said: “Once again, Loughborough is in pole position with Intelligent Energy at the forefront of hydrogen vehicle technology.”

Commenting on the success of the APC-funded project that supported Intelligent Energy’s work in the passenger car fuel cell field, Nusrat Ghani, the Minister of State for Industry and Economic Security at the Department for Business and Trade, said: “The Advanced Propulsion Centre does an outstanding job supporting our automotive sector in the net zero transition. Their project with Intelligent Energy achieving such an important hydrogen fuel cell technology breakthrough with a product that they designed and manufactured here in the UK is fantastic to see.”

“ESTHER has been a very valuable project for Changan UK in helping the company transition from an ‘engine and gearbox’ company into one that now regards working on high voltage and hydrogen vehicles as normal business,” Martin Joyce, Principal Powertrain Technical Specialist, Changan UK R&D Centre Ltd, said.

“This, combined with the hydrogen fuel system we have installed during ESTHER, means we are fully prepared for the transition to zero emission vehicles, regardless of what energy source will ultimately be chosen in the markets around the world.”

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