AFC Energy develops hydrogen fuel-cell EV charger

By Simon Warburton | 17 January 2019

Industrial fuel cell power company, AFC Energy has deployed CH2ARGE, an electric vehicle charger based on hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

The demonstration of AFC Energy's CH2ARGE system took place at Dunsfold Aerodrome in the UK and saw a BMW i8 recharged with power generated by a hydrogen fuel cell. The innovation took place after ten years of fuel cell research development at AFC Energy laboratories.

AFC Energy is preparing for the commercialisation of fuel cell-based EV Charge solutions to meet the growing demand for environmentally friendly power in the EV market.

The EV market is set to grow rapidly and the UK government has said 50% of new car sales will be EVs by 2030 which will see 9m EVs on the road. By 2040, 100% of new car sales are planned to be EVs leading to the entirety of the UK's fleet of 36m cars becoming EVs.

To recharge the fleet of EVs, the UK National Grid estimates show this will require generation to be increased by 8GW, while calculations by AFC Energy show if one in ten of EVs is being recharged simultaneously the UK's future fleet of 36m cars would have a peak demand surge of 25.7 GW based on an average EV battery of 57 kWh.

This maximum peak demand equates to around half the UK current generational requirement and is the equivalent of 7.9 new nuclear power stations or 17,100 wind turbines. Popular venues such as sports centres, stadiums and supermarkets will also have to scale up EV recharging solutions; a scenario where 25% of vehicles are EVs and half plug in to charge while at the venue would require 11.5MW of electricity generation.

Extensive investment in new power stations and upgrade of the distribution network would be required unless these demands are met through localised power generation.

"By 2030, it is estimated there could be 9m electric vehicles on the roads of Britain, up from 90,000 today," said AFC Energy CEO, Adam Bond. "For this transition, we need charging stations to be embedded throughout the country, as well as seeking solutions to overcome the severe limitations of centrally generated electricity.

"By developing and demonstrating the effectiveness of our hydrogen fuel cell in the application of EV charging, AFC Energy has shown it is ready to lead the way not only in solving the challenges of increased demand for electricity, but also doing so in a truly zero emissions approach."

CH2ARGE includes AFC Energy's small-scale fuel cell connected to an inverter similar to those used by other major automotive companies at their Electric Vehicle research centres. The inverter transfers energy created by the fuel cell to a charger. The system is supported by a 48V battery pack to assist with peak power demands. The solution can also be tailored for both on and off grid applications and scale up as required.

The demonstration CH2ARGE system was sized to provide sufficient power to charge two EVs concurrently at recharging levels 1,2 or 3. The system's inverters are controlled via AFC Energy's fuel cell control system.

Being integrated into AFC Energy's control system means product solutions can be implemented with Smart Charging capabilities.