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Fuel-cell Powertrains and Clustering in Heavy-duty Transports

FELICITAS aims to develop fuel-cell systems that are capable of meeting the demands of heavy-duty transport for road, rail and marine applications. These systems will be highly efficient, power-dense, durable, robust and reliable.

Tags: Multimodal


Two of the fuel-cell (FC) technologies most suitable for heavy-duty transport applications are polymer electrolyte fuel cells (PEFC) and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC). Currently neither technology is capable of meeting the wide-ranging needs of heavy-duty transport because of either low efficiencies (PEFC) or poor transient performance (SOFC). FELICITAS proposes the development of high-power fuel-cell clusters (FCC), which group FC systems with other technologies, including batteries, thermal energy and energy recuperation. The FELICITAS consortium will first undertake the definition of the requirements on FC powertrains for the different heavy-duty transport modes. This will lead to the development of FC powertrain concepts, which, through the use of advanced multiple simulations, will undertake evaluations of technical parameters, reliability and life-cycle costs. Alongside the development of appropriate FC powertrains, the consortium will undertake fundamental research to adapt and improve existing FC and other technologies, including gas turbines, diesel reforming and sensor systems for their successful deployment in the demanding heavy-duty transport modes. This research work will combine with the FC powertrains design and simulation work to provide improved components and systems, together with prototypes and field testing where appropriate. The FELICITAS consortium approach will substantially improve European FC and associated technology knowledge and expertise in the field of heavy-duty transport.


FELICITAS focuses on the development of fuel-cell drive trains capable of meeting the demands of heavy-duty transport for road, rail and marine applications. The main requirements include power levels above 200 kW, power density at about 200 kW/t, system efficiency at about 60%, fuelled by hydrogen and/or hydrocarbon, having robustness and longevity, improved environmental impact and price competitiveness to conventional IC engines.

The scientific and technological approach in FELICITAS comprises clustering and hybridisation. FELICITAS will contribute by providing improved SOFC technology for marine applications, onboard diesel reforming technology for SOFC powertrains, and gas turbine technology for hybrid SOFC powertrains. In consequence of the so far predominantly stationary application of the SOFCs, significant improvements in performance and design are necessary to meet the requirements of heavy-duty transport.

Onboard fuel reforming will be a critical issue too within the framework of FELICITAS, because operating on high-energy-density fuels, such as liquid fuels, is essential for long distance operation of heavy-duty vehicles or ships. Addressing the particular demands of marine applications is therefore the first logical step in the use of SOFC for mobile applications.

FELICITAS will improve PEFC technology in a similar manner by developing PEFC clusters for heavy-duty road and light rail applications and hybrid PEFC clusters with extended durability, efficiency and increased power dynamics. PEFC technology is already well adapted for automotive applications, but the durability and power levels of PEFC remain a challenge: PEFC efficiency does not exceed 50% due to electrochemical restrictions. However, hybridisation and clustering of PEFC modules developed within FELICITAS should be a cost-efficient and practicable way to overcome this limitation.

Description of work

The subprojects and work packages draw on the principal FELICITAS themes of FC clustering and FC hybridisation.

Subproject 1 – ‘Application requirements and system design’ – addresses the issues of FC-based propulsion and auxiliary power units (APU) for heavy-duty transport. This phase of the project brings together the operators and end users of heavy-duty vehicles to define the basic performance and physical requirements of the propulsion and APU systems. FC-based systems will be designed to meet these requirements. The subproject leader is Lürssen, a shipbuilder located in Germany.

Subprojects 2 and 3 are devoted to the improvement of FC types suitable for heavy-duty transport – SOFC and PEFC – and are led by FELICITAS’ major industrial partners and FC producers – Rolls-Royce and Ballard respectively.

The scope of Subproject 2 – ‘Mobile hybrid SOFC’ – is the marinisation of the Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell SOFC product currently being developed for stationary power generation. This will require components, systems and packaging improvements and modifications to meet the exacting needs of a marine application.

Subproject 3 – ‘PEFC-Cluster’ – concentrates on improving PEFC reliability and power level by clustering. The performance and packaging of these PEFCs are already very well advanced for mobile applications.

Subproject 4 – ‘Power management’ – concerns general technical problems of FC-based propulsion and will be led by one of the major research partners, FhG IVI.