2018 / On the way to future mobility

On a mission: system integration challenge

    Dr. René van Doorn has a mission. He wants to help the fuel cell drive to be widely used in series production. His mission is born out of conviction:

    Oil resources are finite and the realization of comprehensive mobility just with battery technology alone is hardly possible. I am convinced that fuel cell technology is the only way to complement purely electric drivetrains

    Wednesday afternoon, 4 pm. René casually leans against a bar table in the PSW canteen and sips his coffee. His tallness and serious, carefully chosen words lend a certain emphasis to what he has to say, and his charming Dutch accent means you can’t help liking him. At PSW, he is a specialist in fuel cells and is helping the company to build up the necessary know-how to support Audi in integrating this drive system in vehicles.

    He was born with an aptitude for chemistry and technology: Already in his childhood, René had been concerned with chemical and physical processes while his peers were still playing with Lego.
    “As a little boy, I always liked soda mixed with acetic acid. This foams very strongly and hisses. Like a small volcanic eruption”, he says and laughs.

    Ein Portraitbild von Dr. René van Doorn
    Dr. René van Doorn, fuel cell specialist at PSW.
    Der Audi h-tron quattro concept
    The Audi h-tron quattro concept: PSW supports the integration of the fuel cell system.
    His career took him to Utrecht, where he studied chemistry. After receiving his doctorate in electrochemistry, he worked for three years in the USA. In 1999 he went to Mannesmann and carried out fuel cell research together with a small team. After working at Volkswagen and Audi, René joined PSW in early 2018. During his time at Mannesmann, the technology was still in its infancy:
    “At that time, it was not clear how the hydrogen would be stored nor what a refueling infrastructure would look like”, he explains. “Fuel cells at that time had an in-car service life of perhaps 200 hours. Since then, a lot has happened. In the meantime, a fuel cell will last a whole car’s life if used correctly. In Japan, they are even used in the home and have been in use for over 100,000 hours.”
    Fuel cell

    On a mission: system integration challenge

    Core competence system integration

    That a TV in a German household is powered by electricity from a fuel cell, is – as of today – rather rare. However, fuel cells play an increasingly important role as a propulsion technology for vehicles. Audi is developing the fuel cell system in Neckarsulm and is working with PSW to integrate the system in vehicles. This is because integration is a great challenge and at the same time a core competence of PSW. The required hydrogen is stored in cylindrical tanks, yet vehicles have a rather angular shape. Accordingly, the integration must be designed so that space is used as optimally as possible. “Integration can only succeed if the drive is viewed and understood in its entirety. PSW is developing a simulation model called modular longitudinal dynamics simulation.”

    It can be used to calculate all dependencies within the vehicle such as fuel consumption, acceleration, range, rolling resistance, speeds, threshold operating conditions and temperatures. “These findings help Audi to make the fuel cell drive fit for series production”, says René. “Ranges of up to 600 kilometers can be achieved, there is a very high degree of efficiency in the overall system, and all that’s left is mainly steam.” Most importantly, PSW achieves a holistic understanding of the technology through simulation. This understanding forms the basis for further development of expertise in the field.

    “On the one hand, we have to understand the technology and, on the other hand, we have to understand the legal situation. To this end, we are creating teams at our facilities in Gaimersheim and Neckarsulm, thus setting the course for the future in the long term as an innovative engineering development partner.”

    Setting the course for the future

    Furthermore, PSW deals with the issue of legal compliance: “There are hundreds of laws and regulations on the subject of high-voltage and hydrogen safety, which are relevant for the approval of a fuel cell vehicle”, says René. “Depending on the country, the laws are different, so you have to work out country-specific safety concepts.” The same applies to the operational safety of hydrogen. Again, there are numerous requirements and laws. For example, an EU regulation states that emissions may not exceed four percent hydrogen. In China, however, it is three percent.

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