Commercial vehicle manufacturer, Daimler, is poised to ramp up long term strategic investments it has made in what it calls Co2-neutral transportation of the future.
Over the last decade the company has developed extensive know-how in the production of highly complex and highly sensitive products such as hydrogen-conversion fuel cells.
In close cooperation with colleagues in Vancouver, Canada, the Stuttgart-based team at Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co KG have begun transferring their experience from ongoing fuel cell development activities to the preliminary state of future series production.
Investments are being made in new state-of-the-art facilities covering every single process stage of fuel cell production from membrane coating and stack manufacturing to the production of fuel cell units.
According to Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG the company was actively pursuing its vision of the Co2-neutral transportation of the future.
“The hydrogen-based fuel cell is a key technology of strategic importance in this context. We are now consistently following the path towards the series production of fuel cells and are thus doing absolutely pioneering work – and this goes beyond the automotive industry," he said.
"We will invest a very substantial sum in the coming years to achieve this,” said Daum.
Head of Daimler Truck Fuel Cell, Andreas Gorbach said the development of fuel cell technology has been beneficial in the field of production from many years of learnings acquired by its experts.
"This gives us an enormous competitive advantage: We are already in a position to work specifically on one of our most important milestones, namely the technological template for the series production of fuel cell systems on a large industrial scale,” he said.
Conventional industrial production processes cannot be directly transferred to the highly complex and highly sensitive fuel cell stacks.
The processing of numerous delicate components, for example, takes place in the micrometer range (1 micrometer = 1 millionth of a meter).
Even the smallest 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 in the planned pre-series production according to Daimler.
Optimising the ambient air in production is also especially important, since even slight fluctuations in temperature and humidity can lead to significant material changes.
This would make further work in subsequent processes considerably more difficult. Daimler acknowledged the greatest challenge its experts at presemt faced was to achieve short production cycles, which is essential for cost-effective production.
For this reason, the experts in the production of fuel cell stacks sometimes rely on technologies from the packaging industry, which are generally not used in conventional engine production.
In April this year, Daimler Truck AG concluded a preliminary, non-binding agreement with the Volvo Group to establish a new joint venture for the development and marketing of fuel cell systems to be used in heavy-duty commercial vehicles and other applications.
The joint venture will draw upon expertise from both Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group.
Fuel cell system production is also to be included in the joint venture.
Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group plan to offer heavy-duty fuel cell commercial vehicles for demanding and heavy-duty long-distance haulage from series production in the second half of this decade.
Daimler Truck AG brings together Group-wide fuel cell activities
In order to facilitate the joint venture with the Volvo Group, Daimler Truck AG is bringing together all Group-wide fuel cell activities in the recently established subsidiary Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co KG.
This also includes the activities of Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH. Prime Mover has learned that Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co KG is to transition into the planned joint venture at a later date.
Over the past decades, Daimler has acquired considerable expertise in the field of fuel cells at its site in Nabern, Germany, (currently the headquarters of Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH) and at other production and development facilities in Germany and Canada.