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Engineering Materials

Manufacturing long-lasting fuel cells for transport vehicles

Government mandates have put vehicle manufacturers under pressure to cut fossil fuel emissions by producing electric alternatives. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells, projected to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 66.9% in vehicle markets from 2019 to 2026, are key to this transition. Electrification of the powertrain is irreversible, and can be achieved through lithium ion batteries (LIB) and fuel cell technologies.

Although LIBs are widely used for electric vehicles (EVs), fuel cell technology is an important pillar for all types of transportation. Together, they are responsible for cutting CO2 emissions generated from all kinds of vehicles. Transport vehicles alone produce more than 20% of total CO2. To decrease emissions, hydrogen fuel cell technology is the ideal, since it is light, refuels quickly and offers a longer driving range. It is especially ideal for commercial vehicles, buses, cargo vans and transport trucks.

Globally, industrial leaders are making massive investments in promoting fuel cell systems—primarily in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which offer low working temperatures, short start up times, the ability to run on ambient air, and easier electrolyte management. This is crucial for transport vehicles, which are built to travel long distances while maintaining a long service life. The first OEMs to launch PEMFCs optimized for the needs of transport vehicles will achieve a substantial competitive advantage.

Yet, PEMFCs require material solutions designed to prevent the most common failure modes, primarily in impurity and mechanical deterioration due to hydrolysis degradation. Material compounds may leach ions, which leads to decreased system performance and premature failure.  

Hydrolytically unstable materials are also unable to withstand hydrolytic and heat aging inside PEMFCs, which operate at temperatures up to 110°C with almost 100% humidity—causing parts to deform and fall below safety standards. PEMFC solutions that do not meet safety requirements will need to be taken off the market, negatively impacting your brand image.

XytronTM—the purest material solution with the highest durability on the market

Our researchers have concluded that polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) materials are best suited for PEMFCs. Xytron, our high-performance PPS compound, offers the high purity and superior mechanical strength needed to achieve the industry’s lowest ion leaching performance at temperatures up to 120°C, and highest hydrolytic and chemical resistance. This enables OEMs to develop long-lasting, highly efficient PEMFCs that lower the cost per kilometer and total cost of ownership for end users.

Outperforming every competitive material  

Xytron offers unmatched strength and toughness retention, dimensional stability, fatigue and creep resistance, and weldline strength in hydrolytic environments, ensuring lifelong reliability in PEMFCs. DSM’s testing shows that after 200 hours, Xytron shows virtually no increase in mass due to water absorption, which is a key contributor to ionic leaching.

By comparison, polyamide (PA6) increased in mass by up to almost 10% & PPA in mass more than 5%. Testing also demonstrates that Xytron loses minimal mechanical strength after more than 5,000 hours of hydrolytic and heating aging, while PA groups shows significant deterioration after 150 hours and other PPS materials begin to deteriorate after less than 300 hours.  

Dedicated fuel cell application expertise

DSM leverages extensive research, computer-aided engineering (CAE) and industry experts to validate Xytron’s performance in various PEMFC components. This enables our customers to design system parts, including media distribution plates, insulation plates, hydrogen recirculation components and hydrogen pressure regulation valves, using the same material, saving them time and costs. We provide customers with direct application design expertise and work with them to select the optimal material grades for their needs.

At DSM, we understand that making an impeccable first impression with a new product is critical. Although vehicle producers are eager to embrace green solutions, they require assurance that doing so won’t negatively impact their bottom line.

As a sustainability-driven company and the preferred partner of industry-leading vehicle, electronics and electrical industry manufacturers, DSM is ready to help you launch fuel cell technology that exceeds expectations. Our team is committed to helping you and your customers cultivate a cleaner, brighter future for everyone.

For additional information on improving efficiency and lifetime of fuel cells click here. You can also contact us for more information. 

Yu Bin

Global Advanced Engineering Manager for E-Mobility

Published on

10 December 2020

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yu Bin

Global Advanced Engineering Manager for E-Mobility

For the past six years Yu Bin has worked at DSM, and since 2018 he has been in the role of Global Advanced Engineering Manager for E-Mobility (HEV, PHEV, EV and fuel cell) in Engineering Materials. His background is in polymer and mechanical engineering. He attended Sichuan University to study polymer/plastics engineering.

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