European Consortium to Develop Fuel Cells for Electric Vehicles

June 22, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

INSPIRE is a three-year program supported by a grant of €7.0 million from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), under Grant Agreement Number 700127, a unique public-private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration in the fuel cell and hydrogen energy sectors in Europe. The project will validate the next generation of automotive fuel cell stack technology and accelerate the commercialization of high performance, zero emission, fuel cell electric vehicles. Consortium members include fuel cell component suppliers, academic institutions and car manufacturer BMW Group.

Johnson Matthey has been developing and supplying state-of-the-art membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) that are a key component of an automotive fuel cell. Johnson Matthey will lead a major European consortium to develop higher performance, longer lifetime MEAs for integration into new, high power output fuel cell stack technology.

Johnson Matthey will work in close collaboration with its industrial and academic partners to bring forward materials and components already showing considerable promise in current FCH JU projects, integrate them for enhanced performance and demonstrate their capability to be manufactured in volume. Major European fuel cell component developers SGL Carbon GmbH will work on the carbon fiber gas diffusion layer part of the MEA; and DANA Holding Corp. will be developing an optimized design of metallic bipolar plate that delivers the hydrogen and air to the MEA and transmits the electricity generated to power the vehicle. BMW Group will set out the requirements for the stack and assemble the MEAs and bipolar plates into new stack designs aimed at achieving the cost, durability and volumetric power density targets required for mass market exploitation.

Johnson Matthey is a major global supplier of platinum-based catalyst layers, catalyzed membranes and fully-integrated MEAs. The MEA is the most critical component of automotive fuel cells, influencing their power output, efficiency, lifetime and cost. INSPIRE provides the opportunity for the company to work within a team of world-leading highly-respected industrial and academic partners to deliver on the challenging goals set by the FCH JU. In addition to the industry component developers, the project will involve partners working on next generation catalysts, electrodes and membranes from CNRS Montpellier, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd., Technical University of Munich, Technical University of Berlin and the University of Freiburg. Project management support will be provided by Pretexo.

Dr Jane Butcher, Managing Director of Johnson Matthey's Fuel Cells business said: "Fuel cell powered vehicles are anticipated to be a major application for MEA technology from the mid-2020s and beyond that will meet a growing consumer demand for full performance capable driving with zero tail-pipe emissions. Johnson Matthey is delighted to receive this award from Europe's Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, enabling it to work with such a high-caliber team of partners to advance the critical technology and products that will make a major contribution to the successful exploitation of this opportunity."

Bart Biebuyck, Executive Director of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking stated: "Projects like INSPIRE are essential to put European car OEMs in the starting blocks for the deployment of the next generation of fuel cell vehicles. INSPIRE demonstrates that European labs have delivered mature and high quality research solutions on hydrogen technologies, and these are now being transferred to the car industry in the manufacturing lines. This is a good signal for the decarbonization of transport, for the economy in Europe and for the job creations in our industries.”