ElringKlinger was an early mover. In fact, the Group’s track record in the fuel cell sector now spans more than two decades. In 2021, the go-ahead was given for the establishment of EKPO Fuel Cell Technologies GmbH (“EKPO” for short), a company operated jointly by ElringKlinger and French supplier Plastic Omnium. Since then, EKPO has been pressing ahead with the production of fuel cell components and stacks, in addition to stepping up the wide-ranging efforts in R&D. Benefiting from the market-leading metalworking expertise of its parent company ElringKlinger, EKPO can build on more than 20 years of experience in the research and development of fuel cell technology. EKPO’s order book continued to fill up in the 2022 financial year. With a multitude of customer orders secured by the company, the investments made in R&D are clearly bearing fruit.
In the 2022 financial year, EKPO consistently drove forward the development and production of bipolar plates. EKPO’s technology was deployed in the context of several customer projects, consisting of both newly developed products and series production orders. EKPO regularly outperforms other competitors by virtue of the high power density and compact design of its market-leading bipolar plates. For example, EKPO has been tasked with supplying prototypes to a major car maker for planned deployment in a fuel cell vehicle. EKPO’s newly developed bipolar plates are intended for use in future stack generations.
Metallic PEMFC bipolar plates offer tangible advantages with regard to costs and – an aspect that is particularly important for mobile applications – power density and the cold-start capability of fuel cells. Using high-precision, progressive tooling suited to volume production, EKPO produces bipolar plates in a fully automated, interlinked manufacturing process. Both development and production of the prototypes to be supplied to the car maker are handled at the company’s site in Germany.
Fuel cell stacks for logistics vehicles
Fuel cells also represent an attractive alternative drive technology for logistics applications. With this in mind, EKPO and Globe Fuel Cell Systems GmbH (Globe) signed a development and supply contract covering fuel cell stacks for drive systems used in logistics vehicles. As part of this cooperation, EKPO contributes its expertise relating to the stack periphery, its interfaces, and the parameters for maximum efficiency and service life. Once the development stage has been completed, EKPO will be exclusively responsible for the industrial ramp-up and subsequent series production of the stacks. The agreement with Globe Fuel Cell Systems highlights the wide range of applications for EKPO’s fuel cell stacks.
A fledgling greentech company based in Stuttgart, Germany, Globe emerged from the innovation division of Mercedes-Benz in 2020. It develops modular and digitally networked fuel cell units for a wide range of applications, such as intralogistics, the marine sector, and stationary systems.
EKPO’s NM5-evo stack platform (see above illustration) meets customers’ exacting requirements for a durable, compact fuel cell stack design combined with high power density. The compact, high-performance stacks are based on proton-exchange membrane (PEM) technology and convert chemical into electrical energy using hydrogen and oxygen. Achieving in excess of 6.0 kW/l in the cell block, the EKPO stack family is seen as a market benchmark. The stack design also offers the best possible basis when it comes to scaling and modularization.
Development and supply of stack components and prototypes for the aerospace industry
EKPO also boosted its development activities for fuel cell technology applications outside the automotive industry and secured another large-scale order for fuel cell applications in the aviation sector from Aerostack GmbH, Dettingen/Erms, Germany, a company owned by Airbus and ElringKlinger. As part of the agreement, EKPO provides development services and supplies fuel cell stacks optimized for aerospace applications.
As a follow-up order to successful collaborative efforts in the past, this contract confirms EKPO’s standing as an important development partner. The stacks based on the NM12 platform will be integrated within the customer’s wider development process to make fuel cells usable for aviation. The NM12 stack family is the most powerful in EKPO’s product portfolio, with an output of up to 205 kWel and an exceptionally high power density of over 6.0 kW/l in the cell block. Furthermore, the stack design offers the best possible basis when it comes to scaling and modularization, thus allowing the customer to design its specific usage application with maximum flexibility and efficiency. With these features, the platform provides the perfect launch pad when it comes to meeting the unique performance expectations in the field of aviation.