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Steinbeis 2i supports project partners optimize automotive fuel cell systems

Fuel cell technology is ready for widespread use in the automotive sector, a belief shared by the partners of INN-BALANCE, an innovation project funded by the EU working on improvements of enhanced, series production fuel cell systems for automotive applications. The EU project is focusing on auxiliary components, so-called Balance of Plant (BoP) components, used within fuel cell systems. To do this, the partners are developing new technologies and concepts, such as different ways to provide hydrogen and oxygen to fuel cells, innovative heat management and monitoring concepts to ensure smooth functioning of the overall fuel cell systems. As a partner in the project, S2i is responsible for the communication and dissemination of the project findings.

There is much potential to improve BoP components, especially in terms of how components interact with each other. The aim of the INN-BALANCE project is to deliver high-performance BoP components best suited for their integration in fuel cell systems. This will improve the efficiency, reliability and costs of fuel cell powered vehicles and boost hydrogen mobility.

BoP components are essential for the performance of fuel cell systems. They control the fuel cell system and regulate the amount of hydrogen in the fuel cell stack. The first step taken by the project partners was to determine the most important parameters of the BoP components used within fuel cell systems, to analyse the interaction between the different components, and come up with an overall system design. Similarly, the designs of the fuel cell stack housing and the anode, cathode, and a cooling unit modules were defined.

The cooling module is responsible for the thermal management in the fuel cell stack, which has a crucial impact on water management, performance, and the operating life of fuel cells. It ensures that BoP components are always kept at the right temperature and, if required, direct heat into the car interiors.

The INN-BALANCE team has also improved the flushing method of the anode module by using an integrated injector and ejector system that raises stack efficiency and keeps hydrogen losses to a minimum. Because the system is more compact, it requires less space and saves energy as it no longer relies on a mechanical recirculation pump. The next step was to test an air compressor prototype and combine all data gathered from the components to create a robust model for calculating costs.


Some project partners have already conducted initial lab tests on the new components. The next step will be to keep optimizing component designs based on the results of this testing before sending the re-engineered parts to PowerCell, a Swedish fuel cell manufacturer that will test the performance and compatibility of components with the rest of the system on a test rig. Testing is scheduled to take place by mid-2020.

“The tests allow pinpointing flaws in the individual components’ design and in the system architecture, thus telling us exactly where to put our focus in re-engineering. Our goal is to deliver components that in terms of durability and lifetime do not lag behind pieces in conventional cars” explains Thibaud Mouton, project coordinator at Fundación Ayesa in Spain.


In July 2019, China Euro Vehicle Technology (CEVT), a company belonging to the Geely Holding Group joined the project, thus expanding the technological know-how of the consortium by bringing internationally recognized manufacturing expertise on board. CEVT will provide access to its compact modular architecture (CMA) to simulate integration of INN-BALANCE components in an actual car.

Installing the components into the CEVT vehicle platform will make it possible to observe how the overall system performs, also in terms of efficiency and reliability.

“The platform already serves manufacturing of conventional cars today and could do the same for future Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, using the components of INN-BALANCE.”, says Benjamin Harwood, who leads the INN-BALANCE activities in CEVT. “At CEVT we are excited to be a part of this project and contribute to setting manufacturing standards for future Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles”, he adds.

The project partners expect to present their findings beginning of  2021. Insights gathered from the vehicular platform simulation will prepare the way for the commercialization and exploitation of INN-BALANCE components in products ready to go into series production.


INN-BALANCE has received funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and is coordinated by the Spanish partner Fundación Ayesa . Further project partners are:

  • Brose Vehicle Components
  • China Euro Vehicle Technology AB
  • Powercell Sweden AB
  • Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V. (DLR)
  • Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya
  • Steinbeis 2i GmbH
  • Celeroton AG
  • AVL List GmbH


Steinbeis 2i is also involved in other projects focusing on hydrogen technology:

For further information, go to www.steinbeis-europa.de/branchen-und-projekte/nachhaltige-mobilitaet.html.


Paul Haering (author)
Project manager for energy management and smart networks
Steinbeis 2i GmbH (Stuttgart)

Dr. Marie-Eve Reinert (author)
Senior project manager for mobility, fuel cells and hydrogen
Steinbeis 2i GmbH (Stuttgart)