20. September 2016

Turbo compressors for fuel cell vehicles

The Swiss fuel cell company Swiss Hydrogen is already using the Celeroton oil-free air bearing turbo compressor CT-17.1000.GB with converter CC-120-1000 for the air supply of a 10 kW fuel cell range extender in a Fiat 500.

Swiss Hydrogen, a Swiss provider of mobile and stationary fuel cell systems, has started the development of a highly efficient fuel system, initially in 2008, based on hydrogen and pure oxygen (H2/O2 fuel cell), followed by a hydrogen and air fuel cell, under the name Belenos. While in 2013 the first prototypes were ready, the question regarding air supply hadn’t been solved. For the prototype systems in the laboratory, large and heavy compressors could be used. However, in the Fiat 500, that Swiss Hydrogen equipped with a fuel cell system, the space is even more limited than in common cars.

This requires the blower for the air supply to be very compact. At the same time, high pressure has to be reached – which increases the power density of the fuel cell and thus allows reducing the fuel cell stack size and cost. Another logical requirement is the need for a compressor with the highest efficiency possible, as the energy generated by the fuel cell is needed in the power train of the car and should not be wasted by inefficient auxiliary equipment such as the compressor.

Fiat 500 with fuel cell system
Figure 1: Fiat 500 with fuel cell system

In 2011, Swiss Hydrogen became aware of Celeroton and its highly efficient turbo compressors which are characterised by their high pressure capability at low input power. During initial tests with ball bearing turbo compressors, the power density of the fuel cell stack could be increased by 20 – 30% compared to conventional blowers. Furthermore, the electrical subsystem of the fuel cell could be simplified as Celeroton is able to offer not only the turbo compressor, but also the converter for the control of the compressor. The converter is equipped with two different voltage inputs, allowing Swiss Hydrogen to omit one DC/DC converter – which additionally saves space and costs.

In the meantime, a Celeroton air bearing turbo compressor CT-17-1000.GB, together with the converter CC-120-1000 has been commissioned in the car. As of today, more than 2,000 test kilometers have been driven on the road with the Fiat 500 with a fuel cell range extender and the Celeroton air bearing turbo compressor.


Installed turbo compressor with air bearings
Figure 2: Installed Celeroton turbo compressor with air bearings

Mr. Alexandre Closset, CEO of Swiss Hydrogen, says: “The Celeroton turbo compressor CT-17-1000.GB with air bearings is worldwide unique based on its size, weight, high pressure capability and efficiency. Furthermore, Celeroton also offers the electronics for the control of the compressor out of one hand which reduces additional interfaces and therefore cost. In summary, it is a very satisfying and successful collaboration, which we look forward to maintain also in the future“.

Do you have an application in the fuel cell area, in which you can use Celeroton turbo compressors with gas bearings? Contact us for a personal conversation about your requirements at moc.notorelec@ofni or call us on +41 44 250 52 20.