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MORE AIR for the hydrogen fuel cell

  • Magazine Article
  • 20AUTP10_04
Published October 01, 2020 by SAE International in United States
  • English

New electric-blower technology aims to enhance HFC efficiency. Aeristech engineering boss Luke Read explains.

Management of air has long been a salient aspect of vehicle design. It's also vital for the operation of hydrogen fuel cells (HFC) as those propulsion systems continue to gain favor for commercial-vehicle use by a growing list of OEMs, including GM, Honda, Hyundai, Nikola, PACCAR and Toyota. Luke Read, head of engineering at U.K.-based Aeristech, is optimistic about the HFC's re-emergence in the mobility space. The company aims to enhance fuel-cell efficiency through improved air management and electronic controls.

“Using electric motors to move air efficiently and effectively is what Aeristech is all about,” Read said. “The power output of a fuel cell is proportional to the rate of air supply, which effectively constrains the rate of reaction between the hydrogen and oxygen. The more air we can pump, the more power we get.” With the hydrogen at high pressure (typically 350-700 bar/5,000-10,000 psi), an efficient fuel cell needs to receive high volumes of air, typically using an electric blower or compressor. “That's where the challenges arise,” Read said.