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Fuel cells (FC) is a technology that generate electricity from hydrogen, having only water as a byproduct, thus creating no local pollution. This technology, having a high conversion efficiency, and hydrogen, allowing renewable electricity storage, have a great potential to contribute to address energy challenges facing Europe. In particular they can allow renewable energy technology to be applied to transportation helping Europe to cope with the intermittent character of renewables such as wind power. Thus major automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) are working on the technology and some production model of a fuel cell car have been announced to be introduced in 2015. [1]

OEM targets


However, from the automotive OEM’s point of view, two main targets are mandatory for the vitality of the fuel cell vehicle market [2]:

  • Fuel cell stack and system compactness

  • Specific power (stack) > 2 kW/kg for the 2012 Annual Implementation Plan of the FCH-JU (2012-AIP) and the USA Department of Energy (DoE)
  • Power density (stack) > 2 kW/L for 2012-AIP and 2.5 W/L for DoE

  • Fuel cell system cost (on the basis of 500 000 fuel cell systems per year)

  • 100 €/kW in 2015 and 50 €/kW in 2020 for the fuel cell system from the Multi Annual Implementation Plan of the FCH JU (MAIP)
  • < 40-30 €/kW for the stack from the Auto-Stack project requirements [3]
  • 15 $/kW for the DoE

The only way to reach these targets is to use metallic bipolar plate for automotive fuel cell stacks and most of the automotive OEM’s have already chosen this technological option.



Cost factor - metal BP

FCH JU funded project Auto-Stack [3] aimed (in particular) to give a precise evaluation of the cost of each component of the PEMFC . The bipolar plate was also addressed during the project. The project showed that the effect of scale was strong at low production rate and decrease with high production rate. Raw materialsf or coating represents the main cost contributors of bipolar plates raw materials cost. Also the project report demonstrate that “Embossing” and “Coating” are the most expensive process steps at low production rate (1.000 vehicle a year) and that “Coating” step become the most costly step from 10.000 vehicle/year (mainly due to slow production rate and equipment cost)

That is why the COBRA project will focus its research on the improvement of the forming process and on the coating (new processes and new materials). COBRA will address the cost evaluation and optimisation of the bipolar plate production process. The cheapest production process will be selected (as the same level of bipolar plate performance) in order to reach the 2.5 €/kW cost target at high production rates. At intermediate production rates corresponding at the emerging markets in the earlier years of commercialisation, process options will be also evaluated in order to allow PEMFC to share significantly the electric automotive market.

[1] Kubota, Yoko. "Toyota says slashes fuel cell costs by nearly $1 million for new hydrogen car". Reuters, Oct 10, 2013 Lienert, Anita. "Mercedes-Benz Fuel-Cell Car Ready for Market in 2014". Edmunds Inside Line, 21 June 2011 Jump up^ Korzeniewski, Jeremy (27 September 2012). "Hyundai ix35 lays claim to world's first production fuel cell vehicle title". Retrieved 2012-10-07.

[2] FCH-JU Annual Implementation Plan 2012 - final.pdf
MAIP FCH-JU revision 2011 final.pdf

[3] Auto-Stack was funded by the FCH-JU under the Project grant agreement #: 245142 (2010-2012)