Daimler Truck AG, Stuttgart, Germany, is consistently driving forward series production of fuel cells with Daimler Truck Fuel Cell GmbH & Co. KG. In the past ten years, experts from Daimler have already built up extensive know-how in this field and have developed production methods and processes. In close cooperation with their colleagues in Vancouver, Canada, and with the ongoing fuel cell development activities, the Stuttgart-based experts are now transferring that experience to the direct preliminary stage 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.
“We are pursuing the 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. We will invest a very substantial sum in the coming years to achieve this,” said Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG.
Andreas Gorbach, Head of Daimler Truck Fuel Cell: “As with the development of fuel cell technology, we benefit also in the field of production from our experts’ 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, namely the technological template for the series production of fuel cell systems on a large industrial scale.”
New production technology for highly complex and highly sensitive products
Conventional industrial production processes cannot be directly transferred to the highly complex and highly sensitive fuel cell stacks. For example, the processing of numerous delicate components 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. Optimizing 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. However, the greatest challenge for the Daimler experts is 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 for example on technologies from the packaging industry, which are generally not used in conventional engine production.
Planned fuel cell joint venture between Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group
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. The production of fuel cell systems 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. 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.
Planned cooperation with Rolls-Royce plc for stationary fuel cell systems
Specific opportunities for the commercialization of fuel cell technology through the planned joint venture between Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group are demonstrated by the cooperation planned between Daimler Truck AG and the British technology group Rolls-Royce plc in the field of stationary fuel cell systems. Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems division plans to use the fuel cell systems from the planned joint venture between Daimler Truck AG and the Volvo Group, as well as Daimler’s many years of expertise in this field, for the emergency power generators of the MTU product and solution brand it develops and sells for data centers. A comprehensive cooperation agreement is to be drawn up and signed by the end of the year.