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Daimler Trucks working on fuel cell series production

By Graeme Roberts | 30 June 2020

A fuel cell coating line at the Daimler facility in Stuttgart

A fuel cell coating line at the Daimler facility in Stuttgart

Daimler Truck's Stuttgart site is developing new production facilities for fuel cells as a "technological template for subsequent series production".

Chairman Martin Daum said: "The hydrogen-based fuel cell is a key technology of strategic importance.

"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."

Daimler Truck Fuel Cell has a decade of experience with the technology and has developed production methods and processes.

Working with colleagues in Vancouver, Canada, and with ongoing fuel cell development activities, the Stuttgart facility is transferring that experience to the direct preliminary stage of future series production.

Investments are being made in new facilities covering every process stage of fuel cell production from membrane coating and stack manufacturing to the production of fuel cell units.

"We will invest a very substantial sum in the coming years to achieve this," said Daum.

Andreas Gorbach, head of Daimler Truck Fuel Cell said: "As with the development of fuel cell technology, we benefit also in the field of production from our many years of experience.

"This gives us an enormous competitive advantage - we are already in a position to work specifically on one of our most important milestones, the technological template for the series production of fuel cell systems on a large industrial scale."

Conventional industrial production processes cannot be directly transferred to the highly complex and highly sensitive fuel cell stacks.

Processing of numerous delicate components takes place in the micrometer range where the smallest contamination could impair the functionality of the fuel cells so a clean room with filtered air is being set up for some of the work in the planned pre-series production.

Optimising ambient air in production is also 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.

However, the greatest challenge is to achieve short production cycles essential for cost effective production.

For this reason, Daimler sometimes relies on technology from the packaging industry which is generally not used in conventional engine production.