Fuel Cells Test Facility

Fuel Cell Test facility

The Fuel Cell Testing facility was established to support developments in Regulation, Codes and Standards through the validation of testing procedures and measurement methodologies for the performance assessment of fuel cells. It will also have a reference function in the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative for pre-normative research and performance verification. The facility allows testing of Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell stacks, components and entire systems for up to 100 kW electrical power in stationary and transport applications. The performance is tested under simulated environmental conditions including temperature from (-40 to 60 ºC), relative humidity (up to 95 %), and simulated road vibrations, and shocks by means of a special table with six degrees of freedom at frequencies up to 250 Hz,. This combination of features is rarely found in similar facilities in industry and academia worldwide and constitutes a significant asset for pre-normative research.

Fuel cells produce electricity by combining hydrogen fuel and an oxidant (oxygen or air) electrochemically in a more energy-efficient and environment-friendly way than today´s modern combustion-based power technologies. However, fuel cell technology is not yet mature and needs to be further developed. To assess and validate technology improvements, commonly agreed measures for system efficiency, such as power density, dynamic behaviour and durability are indispensable. These in turn require harmonisation of testing procedures for entire fuel cell systems and system components for different applications (stationary, transportation and portable). At present, such harmonisation is lacking, and this also applies for assessment of fuel cell performance against user requirements. In practice, many developers have drawn up their own test protocols to meet their needs and those of their customers. Harmonisation of testing procedures and methodologies is indispensable for smooth and widespread introduction of fuel cells into the market, and for providing customers with a reliable and trustworthy basis for comparing the performance of fuel cells to that of other power generation technologies.

The Institute for Energy and Transport (IET) of the European Commission´s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Petten, the Netherlands has designed and built a state-of-the-art fuel cell testing facility to support and facilitate the development and harmonisation of fuel cell testing procedures in transport and stationary applications in the EU. The facility allows comprehensive testing and performance evaluation of proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, stacks and systems in terms of energy efficiency, durability, reliability and emissions at a scale of up to 100 kWe.

In the facility electrical, thermal and environmental performance can be investigated over a wide range of power loads in off grid and gridconnected configuration. This includes steadystate and transient response characteristics (start-up, shutdown, load following) typical forpower demand in stationary applications and in propulsion and auxiliary power applicationsfor road, air & marine transportation such as passenger cars, buses, trucks, recreational crafts,ships, and aircrafts. The facility is capable of testing fuel cells operating on hydrogen as well as on simulated reformate gas from a variety of fuels. Continuous monitoring of system emissions can be carried out using state-of-theart gas analysers. The facility is equipped with up-to-date control, monitoring and data acquisition equipment and software for automated control of test parameters and acquisition of process, performance and safety data, making it suitable for extended durability testing.

The facility has the following capabilities:

(1) Baseline Performance Characterisation

  • Fuel cell leak-tight testing for operational safety investigations
  • Operating fuel cells on various simulated hydrogen fuels (with deliberate controlled additions of fuel impurities)
  • Operating fuel cells on various fuel/oxidant relative humidity
  • Dynamic changes in anode/cathode stoichiometry and system pressure caused by ambient pressure variations (simulating stack altitude testing)
  • Compositional and emissions analysis of the in- and outlets of the oxidant fuel, streams

(2) Efficiency Characterisation

  • Fuel cell testing in load-following mode for performance characterisation in terms of power density, electrical and thermal efficiency
  • Performance testing of fuel cell power systems in off grid and grid-connected configuration
  • Evaluating heat-recovery capabilities of fuel cell systems under various thermal load scenarios in steady-state and transient conditions

(3) Characterisation of performance under simulated environments

  • Testing fuel cell systems under simulated environmental conditions including temperature (-40 to 60 ºC) and relative humidity (up to 95 %)
  • Simulating shock and vibration with six degrees of freedom at frequencies up to 250 Hz, and on-line evaluation of their effects on fuel cell performance

Combination of the above features is rarely found in similar facilities in industry and academia worldwide and constitutes a significant asset for pre-normative research aimed at harmonisation of fuel cell testing procedures and methodologies, thereby supporting European and international standardisation efforts in the field.

(4) Future expansion

Science Areas
Science Areas: