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Cyber-physical platform for hybrid Fuel Cell systems


The overall objective of the topic is to develop a validated fuel cell system model and its hybridization, and use it to assess design-point, part-load, dynamic performance and customized energy management strategies for automotive applications (also using results and data of previous research activities in this area). The proposal should address both numerical development (design and validation of an open-access modelling tool) and technological development (design, achievement and validation of the physical platform) with the following possible and successive steps:

  • Design of a multi-application physical platform consistent with a wide variety of applications and hybridized architectures;
  • Building and qualification of such a platform and validation of coupling with the open access software to be developed in parallel;
  • Testing and validation of the platform with a real example (e.g. hybridized bus, truck, ship etc.) to validate the robustness of the platform. This step should produce optimised components of the FC system from the preliminary dimensioning steps and then should test them on the platform with operating conditions as close as possible to real operation conditions; some adjustments of both numerical and physical components of the platform might be foreseen.

In a first step and with the support/feed-back of an end-user, the most critical issues related to hybridization (e.g. energy management, system and component lifetime etc.) should be identified. The impact of system design and energy demand profile on the system performance, reliability and the durability should also be assessed. This should rely on two aspects:

  • An open, seamless and highly integrated development platform for fast prototyping described as X-in-the-Loop (XiL) where X stands for model, software or hardware (MiL, SiL or HiL) of complex hybrid FC systems which goes far beyond existing specific simulation and experimental tools. Such a development platform should enable the combination and utilization of best in class or specialized tools, integrate XiL and real-time systems, allow massively parallel simulations and experimental tools for optimization and complex multi-scenario validation, fully support high performance and cloud computing as well as cross-company product validation, based on technologies like co-simulation and experimental testing as a service;
  • Creating a common simulation, experimental and validation platform to exchange code libraries, models and best practices; UML 2.0 standard [1] should be used. Physical based model for lifetime prediction should also be included as well as an off-line (based on on-field data provided by end-users) or on-line (experimental characterisation at approx. 1kWe scale) study of different strategies on the system behaviour.

The system definition should start from the stack level to optimize the operating conditions of the fuel cell and to minimize the degradation of the MEAs. Therefore, a hybrid fuel cell system could be developed with a reduced time comparable to development time frames of today’s conventional powertrains and taking into consideration the aspects from the material performance and durability (using experimental and model-based development approaches) and up to the assembly process and control strategies development. The integration and validation of advanced control including physical or signal treatment-based models, specifically for lifetime optimization (as state observers), should be validated both experimentally and in a modular mixed virtual/physical XiL platform. The modularity of this platform should allow the continuously and seamlessly integration of already developed components of the fuel cell system, including controllers, Balance of Plant (BoP) components, power electronics, etc. with the stack, even with different fuel cell system architectures.

Finally, the environment should also allow the consideration and investigation of hybrid systems to optimize the sizing of fuel cell and battery hybrid systems simultaneously within their constraints, including on-line power management strategies.

Real time capability of emulators and related numerical models for the components and the entire environment should be a prerequisite to validate the different algorithms (fuel cell system control and power management) and control strategies.

The increasing complexity of models on various levels (from subcomponent to system-of-systems level) should be approached with automated parameterization functionalities and algorithms, and a seamless switching between real and emulated parts.

Fuel cell technology would profit from such a development platform significantly, as product development and optimization could be performed here “ab initio” on these new standards rather than needing to replace existing classical development routes and in development time frames suitable for typical industrial product cycles in the range of 36 to 60 months.

The XiL platform should be open regarding the interfaces to other third party simulation and testing modules and tools (including co-simulation etc.). The XiL platform should also consider interfaces for future web-based services and data exchange.

It is expected that at least several end-users or vehicle manufacturers to be part of the consortium.

TRL at start: 4-5 and TRL at end: 6.

Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD and the Hydrogen Event and Lessons LEarNed database, HELLEN.

Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B ""Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2019""), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 1.8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.

Expected duration: 3 years.

[1] UML = Unified Modelling Language

One of the most important objectives of FCH 2 JU is the support of the industrialization of fuel cell technology and systems for all kinds of applications, mobile and stationary. In many of these applications, fuel cell technology is and will be competing with other well-established technologies. The market price, durability and performance of the established technologies (internal combustion engines, gas turbines, partly batteries) have been optimized over many years, so that it is hard to compete with for the rather new fuel cell technology, which is a complex and highly integrated mechatronic and chemical system of systems.

Durability and performance, especially for transport applications with high dynamic performance requirements are ‘must-haves’ for fuel cells, and both production and development cost will influence a fast market penetration significantly. To reach these goals, drivetrains are usually an optimized hybrid system composed of a fuel cell system and a battery.

The way and the degree of coupling between batteries and fuel cells is the result of trade-off between autonomy range, weight and costs, and up to now limited analysis/development of hybridization strategies has been performed (see example of project SWARM). The development of a model-based tool and its experimental validation for designing a hybrid system in early phases is of particular importance to accelerate the understanding and development of new products. This environment needs to be available soon to enable the European fuel cell industry, in particular the SMEs to develop and optimize fully functional, highly reliable and cost-effective products. Such highly integrated product design and development environment should combine virtual (i.e. simulation based) and physical (i.e. experiment based) aspects seamlessly over the whole development process. For example, numerical/physical models used in the first phase of fuel cell system development have to be continuously replaced by emulators for physical components that do not yet exist and combined with already available real hardware. This versatile mixed virtual / real development environment serves as a basis for control development, pre-calibration, functional and performance optimization and validation, sensitivity analysis etc. throughout the entire development process.

Expected impacts of the project should include:

  • Significant reduction of development times from >60 months down to 36 months for new fuel cell – battery hybrid systems;
  • A better understanding of hybridization strategies on the performance, reliability and durability, for reference cases representing typical transport industrial applications. This includes a benchmark of current optimization algorithms (off-line and on-line);
  • The expected tool/platform will be not only a software but an optimized and versatile combination of real or emulated components of the complete FCEV propulsion system (stack and BOP, battery pack, power electronics, electric engine…) associated with XiL open to any users of the value chain from component suppliers to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for different transport applications (land, air, water etc.);
  • Development of high-performant real-time BoP-emulators surrogating and realistically emulating the highly dynamic behaviour of real components or sub-systems needed for transport applications;
  • Create a modular open development platform (SiL, MiL, HiL) for hybrid fuel cell systems with integration capabilities for BoP components, controllers, energy management strategies, etc. and corresponding simulation models along with analytical tools and advanced instrumentation to validate the different methodologies developed;
  • Enable multi-tool combinations with massive parallel computing;
  • Exchanging best practicing and harmonizing models and algorithms to optimize hybrid fuel cell system architecture and power management strategies and validation in a XiL platform in order to achieve at least 5,000 h durability, a hydrogen consumption lower than 1.15 kg/100km for fuel cell light duty vehicles and at least 20,000 h durability, a hydrogen consumption lower than 8 kg/100km for large vehicles (bus, trucks, ships, trains);
  • Promote the exchanges and create sound links between software development, software implementation as well as experimental tools and FC industry along the entire supply chain;
  • Enable the establishment of a EU based supply industry for hybrid FC system simulation and experimental tool environment (XiL platform) to order to boost the competitiveness of EU FC industry. At the end of the project, open and free access to the platform it is expected for EU industry, in particular SMEs with limited costs to the operational costs.

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action

The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.