Auto industry giants to pilot vehicle fuel cells for stationary energy generation


Mercedes Benz and technology firm Rolls-Royce have partnered through their subsidiaries to pilot the use of vehicle fuel cells for stationary power generation.

Rolls-Royce’s business unit Power Systems and Mercedes-Benz’s innovation lab Lab1886 will develop an integrated MTU solution for a sustainable off-grid generation. The solution will be based on fuel cell modules built by Mercedes Benz Fuel Cell GmbH.

The pilot will begin in early 2020 with the construction of an emergency power plant for Rolls-Royce’s data centres in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

The solution will be aimed at providing continuous and emergency energy for safety-critical applications such as data centres, one of the biggest energy consumers, to safeguard global internet traffic.

Generator sets currently being used are powered by diesel and have large carbon footprints hence the need to develop sustainable models.

“As a supplier of integrated solutions, the decarbonisation of our drive, propulsion and power generation systems is a key strategic aim. In pursuing it, we’re open to all technologies. Hence fuel cells are set to become a key technology for us,” said Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems.

Dr Martin Teigeler, R&D chief of Power Systems, added, “The idea behind the fuel cell is as ingenious as it is simple and we’re all pretty familiar with it. But implementing it in practice can still be a difficult challenge. Now that fuel cells have reached series maturity, they’re ready for the commercial market.”

Alongside fuel cell technology, Rolls-Royce is researching the manufacture of hydrogen and other synthetic fuels using renewable energy sources – also for use in fuel cells. “Used in this combination, fuel cells promise to make an even bigger contribution to the energy turnaround,” said Teigeler. “And we’re delighted to have Lab1886 as our partner, because their technological mindset fits ours perfectly. We’re confident that Mercedes-Benz fuel cell modules have the potential to open up new application possibilities in stationary power generation as well, and that’s our market.”

Mercedes-Benz has developed expertise in hydrogen-powered electric vehicles through its work on many generations of vehicle, while Rolls-Royce has long-standing experience of fuel cell systems using other technologies.