Eaton Joins Heavy-duty Truck Fuel Cell Technology Partnership

The Vehicle Group of power management company Eaton has partnered with the global Ballard Fuel Cell Systems and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop heavy-duty truck fuel cell technology.
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a digitized style rendering of a truck surrounded by car dash graphics
Eaton’s TVS technology will provide precise airflow for prototype hydrogen fuel cells. // Courtesy of Eaton

The Vehicle Group of power management company Eaton in has partnered with the global Ballard Fuel Cell Systems and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop heavy-duty truck fuel cell technology.

The partnership is the result of a grant Eaton’s Vehicle Group, based in Galesburg (east of Kalamazoo), received from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop highly efficient hydrogen fuel cells capable of powering heavy-duty machinery.

The new fuel cell technology will leverage Eaton’s Twin Vortices Series (TVS) technology to improve fuel efficiency. This marks another important step in Eaton’s commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector, building on its more than two decades of investments and solutions that help to mitigate climate change, the company says.

“Our TVS supercharger technology provides fuel cell manufacturers with a precise amount of controlled air to increase power and efficiency,” says Karl Sievertsen, vice president and chief technology officer at Eaton’s Vehicle Group. “The efficiency of competitive fuel cells is lower because most hydrogen fuel cells use simple fans for air flow, which produces less pressure and is not controllable.”

Eaton will leverage its Corporate Research Labs in Golden, Colo. and Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Southfield to produce the technology, using cutting-edge power electronics and advanced 3-D printing. Eaton will design and test a subscale, proof-of-concept system prototype utilizing its TVS technology that should deliver a significant reduction in air system power consumption and fuel cell efficiency for heavy-duty truck applications.

Eaton’s TVS technology is ideal for harsh environments, as it can tolerate water, has operating maps with broad efficiency, and provides accurate air flow control in proportion to speed. These properties enable a water applicator to replace the humidifier to achieve higher operating pressure ratios and isentropic efficiencies.

“The innovation will be demonstrated in a laboratory setting and will become a springboard for U.S. advanced manufacturing capabilities and technology leadership,” Sievertsen adds.

Eaton is a global leader in supercharger technology, having produced more than 9 million units over more than 30 years. All Eaton supercharger components are produced in-house utilizing state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and feature a patented rotor coating for improved efficiency. Eaton’s powder coating fills gaps between rotor lobes, tips and faces to mitigate air leakage and creates a near-zero clearance between components, resulting in optimal performance.

“We’re honored to be partnering with Ballard and the NREL to build this new, innovative technology that will address global climate change,” says Sievertsen. “Eaton has a long history of working with our industry counterparts and federal research organizations to create sustainable solutions, reduce our footprint, and advance our vision of improving the quality of life and the environment.”

In addition, Eaton’s Aerospace Group’s fuel and motion control divisions operates facilities in Jackson and Grand Rapids.

For more information on Eaton’s sustainability goals, visit here.

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