Daimler Truck steps on the gas in fuel cell series production

Daimler Truck steps on the gas in fuel cell series production

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

Together with the Canadian company Ballard Power Systems, Daimler’s experts have developed considerable know-how in the field of manufacturing methods and processes for fuel cells in recent years. From 1993 to 2008, Ballard and Daimler ran a joint venture to develop such cells. Daimler has since expanded this expertise, and now the Stuttgart-based engineers are transferring it to the direct preliminary stage of future series production.

The company is thus pursuing the vision of CO2-neutral transportation of the future. “The hydrogen-based fuel cell is a key technology of strategic importance in this context. We are now moving in the direction of series production of fuel cells and are thus doing pioneering work – beyond the vehicle industry,” says Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Truck AG and member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG. The company intends to invest a “substantial amount” in this over the next few years, said Daum, without however specifying this amount in more detail.

The processing of the highly complex fuel cell stacks requires considerable engineering knowledge, which is still scarcely available in the traditional branches of industry – mechanical engineering and vehicle construction. For example, the machining of numerous filigree components takes place in the micrometer range. The slightest contamination could impair the functionality of the fuel cells, which is why a clean room with filtered air is being set up for some of the work steps in the planned pre-series production. What’s more, temperature and humidity of the ambient air in production must be extremely stable, since even small fluctuations can lead to significant material changes.

However, the greatest challenge for the Daimler experts at present is to achieve a short production cycle time, which is essential for cost-effective production. For this reason, the experts are also making partial use of technologies from the packaging industry in the production of fuel cell stacks, for example – technologies that are generally not used in conventional engine production.

In April of this year, Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group signed a preliminary agreement to establish a joint venture for the development and marketing of fuel cell systems ready for series production for use in heavy-duty commercial vehicles and other fields of application. The two partners plan to start series production of heavy fuel cell commercial vehicles for demanding and heavy long-distance haulage in the second half of the decade.

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