Tony Taylor and Brian Bowers of the Applications Development Team answered questions about the group’s role in enabling successful integration of Nuvera products into customers’ applications.
As Nuvera® fuel cell engines are being introduced into vehicle platforms around the world, we asked the Nuvera Applications Development team to describe their role in helping customers incorporate fuel cells into their products.
1. What are your team’s responsibilities? What do you consider to be among your most important functions?
The Applications Development team assists customers with the integration of Nuvera® fuel cell engines into their electric vehicles and other green power systems. Our team works with customers to assess their application, select a configuration, and offer advice on optimizing their power system.
One of our most important functions is to help our customers be successful in their applications. Our team is the central point of contact for technical information and the support required by customers as they integrate our engines. We assist clients worldwide utilizing Nuvera personnel in the US, Europe, and Asia.
2. What do you learn from working closely with customers?
We are always excited to learn about a customer’s application. We work together with each customer to understand the unique aspects of their application, such as the usage profiles and power demand. We then leverage Nuvera’s extensive experience to help the customer integrate our engines into systems that meet the needs of the application. Through this work, we have learned that customers appreciate solutions that are robust and easily integrated. This ‘voice of customer’ information flows back into Nuvera’s design process for our product roadmap consideration.
3. What role does Nuvera’s core stack technology play in differentiating the fuel cell engine?
Nuvera’s fuel cell stack has several features that provide advantages for the engine:
- Metal bi-polar plates offer high resistance to shock and vibration.
- An open flow field helps hydrogen and air flow with minimal restriction, which boosts the efficiency of the stack and engine.
- Unique patented controls optimize the performance of the stack and engine over a wide range of operating conditions.
4. What are some examples of how interactions with customers have influenced the design of Nuvera products?
Nuvera has worked with customers on a variety of fuel cell applications including buses, forklifts, shipping container handlers, cars, trains, marine vessels, and utility vehicles. While each application is unique, some common themes have emerged that we apply to our designs. For example, we strive to make systems that are easy to install and operate. This has led us to incorporate proprietary algorithms that monitor and automatically control our fuel cell engines using an embedded controller and CAN communication. From a packaging standpoint, integration of the coolant pump and air compressor in the engine simplifies the installation requirements.
5. What do you see as common themes in integrating Fuel Cell engines and how do we streamline the process?
While each application has distinctive aspects, we find there are common steps to integrate a fuel cell engine into the overall system. These include gaining an initial understanding of the usage profiles, participating in the system design and development, making recommendations for components and solutions based on experience, and verification of the installation and operation in the system including assistance with the system controls tuning.
We also enjoy teaching others about fuel cell technology and the benefits it can provide. We have created training programs for customers that include everything from fuel cell basics to instructions for integrating and operating the engines.
6. What are the most promising applications you see for fuel cells? Are there unique benefits for specific markets?
There are many great applications for fuel cells and we continue to learn about new possibilities. Applications where fuel cells really shine include operations that require a long operating period and fast refueling. These include heavy-duty vehicles such as forklifts, passenger buses, port vehicles, delivery trucks, and more. Besides the benefit of zero toxic emissions, we see economic benefits as well. For example, major warehouses have switched from traditional batteries to fuel cells because refueling a fuel cell forklift can save time and money compared to battery swapping and charging.
7. What is your perspective on the interaction of fuel cells and batteries?
We find that an energy storage system (ESS), typically a battery pack, and fuel cells complement each other and provide advantages when combined in a hybrid power system. Although the term “electric vehicle” (EV) is sometimes associated with battery-only vehicles, it is worth noting that fuel cell hybrid electric vehicles (FCHEV) are also fully electric. The fuel cell generates electricity onboard the vehicle, which avoids the need to plug in for recharging and enables the use of a much smaller and less expensive battery pack. Moreover, since hydrogen can store more energy than a battery pack, fuel cells can enable a longer operating period. The battery pack can be sized to capture regenerative braking energy and assist with acceleration, but it no longer needs to hold all the energy required to operate the vehicle for the entire operating period. This hybrid arrangement also maximizes fuel efficiency and can allow the fuel cell size to be optimized as well. Overall, fuel cells and batteries combine their strengths in hybrid systems and enable zero-emission vehicles to refuel quickly and achieve a longer range.
8. How does Nuvera’s engine approach differ from competitors?
All Nuvera® fuel cell engines incorporate Nuvera stacks that have the advantages mentioned above: Robust metal architecture, high-efficiency open flow field, and patented controls. In addition, we have arranged the engine components into a single package that includes items that other engines require to be added separately. For example, we include the air compressor and coolant pump in the same package as the stack and controls. This tight packaging simplifies the installation and allows our control system to more efficiently manage the operating conditions in the fuel cell without the use of a humidifier, saving space and component cost.
9. What role has Nuvera’s ownership by Hyster-Yale Group had in delivering value to the customer?
Nuvera has been part of the Hyster-Yale Group (HYG) since 2014, which has combined Nuvera’s strengths in fuel cells with experience from HYG’s global operations and 100 years of producing industrial vehicles.
Nuvera and HYG continue to work closely to integrate fuel cells into HYG industrial vehicles, which affords Nuvera invaluable experience from first-hand insight into the design aspects that are important to an OEM and its end-users. In addition, our collaboration with HYG has helped expand Nuvera’s manufacturing capabilities and ability to support our customers. For example, Nuvera plans to expand its manufacturing with a facility in China that is co-located with another HYG brand. The China office will allow us to provide direct support to customers in that growing market.
10. What do you see as the most significant market trends affecting fuel cell adoption for vehicles?
We are excited to see momentum growing for zero-emission vehicles. Many countries, major cities, and industry sectors have announced plans to reduce or phase out the use of diesel or gasoline engines. This of course leads to questions about which technologies will replace these traditional powertrains.
While some applications are well-suited for battery-only electric vehicles, there are many applications where fuel cells can be the zero-emission solution that enables all the vehicles in a fleet to meet the duty cycles of the application. This has led to efforts around the world to ramp up the use of fuel cells, especially in heavy-duty vehicles. The use of fuel cells is well underway in multiple vehicle types, including forklifts, passenger buses, taxis, and port equipment, and we hope this trend will continue.
11. What programs are you working on?
We have ongoing programs for fuel cell engines around the world including the U.S., Europe, and Asia. They are all driven by efforts to ramp up the adoption of zero emission vehicles. For example, we are working with a partner in China on fuel cell passenger buses. We have been assisting them with the integration of the fuel cell engine and with testing required by the Chinese government. It’s an exciting moment as we help them bring fuel cells into their products.
We are also working with Hyster Yale Group to provide fuel-cell-powered container handlers for shipping ports. One program is for the Port of Los Angeles and is funded by a California Air Resources Board (CARB) grant through California Clean Investments (CCI), a statewide program that puts billons of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. Another program is for the Port of Valencia, Spain, which is receiving funding from the European Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCHJU) as part of the European Horizon 2020 program and H2Ports project, and aims to help the European port industry transition to effective low-carbon/zero-emission technologies.
These publicly-announced programs are some of the activities currently in progress. In addition, we continue to review new opportunities and are encouraged by the momentum we see for fuel cell technology.
12. What else do you want people to know?
We are very excited to see the trend toward green technologies and to have an opportunity to play a part in this important transformation. Fuel cells can enable zero emission electric vehicles that refuel quickly, sustain longer operating periods, and increase productivity. Our team is always happy to have the opportunity to work with customers interested in incorporating these benefits into their products.