Fuel cell technology can contribute to emission-free and sustainable mobility through the use of so-called "green" hydrogen. Challenges to a successful market introduction exist due to the still high manufacturing costs resulting from the inefficient production processes. For most fuel cell systems available on the market, the focus during development was on product design and performance. Efficient production technology has not been a priority. However, this is of central importance if not only the performance of the fuel cell but also its production is to be designed efficiently and sustainably. The aim of the "InduREX" research project is therefore to develop an industrial production technology for a fuel cell range extender that increases the range and extends the operating time of electric vehicles, while reducing production costs.
In order to master the complex process of producing a fuel cell and the associated stack components, it is important to understand how product design and production technology interrelate and what of this needs to be taken into account when designing the production technology. A variety of design and process parameters, such as material thickness and forming pressure, must be identified experimentally and through simulations so that they can be used in the form of mathematical functions to optimize the system and process. The range extender being developed in the "InduREX" project is designed to increase the range and operating time in combination with a battery. This reduces the demands on the dynamics of the fuel cell. The research project aims to investigate which savings potential can be offered for the production costs of the fuel cell.
In the "InduREX" research project, Fraunhofer IPT is developing and characterizing the manufacturing technology for the bipolar plates as well as for the end plates. For this purpose, equipment already available at the Fraunhofer IPT for milling, forming, stretch forming, cutting and welding is being used for rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping allows the iterative design processes of formed bipolar plates to be quickly validated. Experimentally and in numerical simulations, the interactions between different process parameters and the design properties of the components are determined, optimized and transferred into key figures using existing machines, tools and processes. Reducing the wear and tear effects during the forming of metallic bipolar plates is one of the primary goals. To this end, the Fraunhofer IPT is designing a progressive die that can be used in an existing servo press line. Another task of the Fraunhofer IPT in the "InduREX" project is to implement a hybrid design for the end plates for fuel cell stacks, using thermoplastic fiber-reinforced plastics and light metals.