Schaeffler relies on the immense potential of green hydrogento achieve a CO2-neutral and sustainable future. The company covers a wide range of applications for the industrial production of green hydrogen using electrolysis is produced to the use of hydrogen in fuel cells for mobile and stationary applications. To this end, the company is currently setting up series production in Herzogenaurach.

Schaeffler Hydrogen Car




1 MW PEM electrolysis stack and green hydrogen

27.06.2024 | At the Connecting Green Hydrogen Europe trade fair in Madrid, Schaeffler presented its latest innovations for the green hydrogen production The focus was on the new 1 MW proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysis stack.

The PEM electrolysis stacks with an electrical output of up to 1000 kW are currently being launched on the market. These stacks can produce up to 500 kg of high-purity hydrogen per day and thus represent a key technology for sustainable hydrogen production. Florian Windisch, Head of Hydrogen at Schaeffler Bearings & Industrial Solutions, emphasizes: "We supply key systems and components to make hydrogen technology future-proof. Our PEM electrolysis stacks are an essential building block for sustainable and efficient hydrogen production."

Flexible system integration for industrial applications

The PEM electrolysis stacks are versatile and suitable for various industrial applications. By arranging the stacks in arrays, Schaeffler can offer flexible and powerful solutions from 50 kW to multi-MW. The focus is on integration into systems for hydrogen production on both small and medium as well as large industrial scales.

Industrial series production of PEM electrolysis stacks is currently being set up at the headquarters in Herzogenaurach. With core competencies in precise forming, joining and coating technology, and automated assembly technology, Schaeffler relies on proven processes and standards to produce key components for Hydrogen Technology to develop. Industrial series production of the stacks is currently being set up at Schaeffler's headquarters in Herzogenaurach.

Innoplate starts production of bipolar plates

06.06.2024 | Innoplate, a 50/50 joint venture founded by Schaeffler and Symbio, today opened its new plant for the production of bipolar plates (BPP) for fuel cells in Haguenau, France. The new production facility is intended to accelerate the production of new generation bipolar plates for the entire PEM fuel cell market.

Innoplate represents an efficient cooperation between two industrial companies in order to effectively use the technological and manufacturing expertise of both sides. joint Venture will start operations with an initial capacity of currently 4 million bipolar plates, which is to be increased to 2030 million per year by 50. Innoplate is thus making a decisive contribution to the expansion of hydrogen mobility in Europe.

Metallic bipolar plate generation with 20% more performance

Schaeffler bipolar plate18.08.2023 | Bipolar plates are the heart of every fuel cell system. With a new generation of these metallic bipolar plates for PEM fuel cells Schaeffler is demonstrating its innovative strength in the field of hydrogen mobility. The new plates feature a design optimized for large-scale production. They use an advanced coating process that ensures a particularly long service life.

The stacks equipped with these bipolar plates achieve a power density that is around 20% higher than the previous generation. "Schaeffler is also using hydrogen to power commercial vehicles, especially for long-distance travel. We are developing both individual components and subsystems for fuel cells and are preparing for their industrialization," says Matthias Zink, Member of the Executive Board responsible for Automotive Technologies at Schaeffler AG. 

Fully automated pilot production facility

At the Herzogenaurach plant, Schaeffler produces new bipolar plates for various prototypes and small series for international vehicle manufacturers. Production capacities range up to several tens of thousands of units. The established Pilot production plant is an integral part of Schaeffler’s Hydrogen Competence Center, which also has extensive test benches and test facilities.

Seven good reasons for hydrogen propulsion and fuel cells

The automated production facility in Herzogenaurach is designed to produce not only bipolar plates for fuel cells, but also larger Plates for electrolyzers In this way, Schaeffler supports both sustainable mobility and the efficient production of green hydrogen. Schaeffler's comprehensive system know-how enables the development of customized bipolar plates and components for fuel cell systems in close cooperation with customers.

New plate design for more power density

Schaeffler bipolar plateAt first glance, bipolar plates may seem inconspicuous. They are about the size of a DIN A4 envelope and weigh around 60 g. But their role in a fuel cell is crucial: they separate and distribute the process gases and the coolant and drain the water produced during the chemical reaction.

“Schaeffler has developed an innovative design that makes optimal use of the available surface area of ​​the plates. The finer and more precise the structures on the bipolar plates are, the more efficiently they work,” says dr Jochen Schroeder, Head of the E-Mobility business division at Schaeffler.

Thanks to the innovative design, Schaeffler achieves a power density of the fuel cell stack of 4,6 kW / l, based on the stack volume including the end plates and the bracing. In a vehicle drive, several hundred bipolar plates are layered alternately with membrane electrode assemblies (MEA) to form a fuel cell stack.

These bipolar plates make up to 80% of the stack weight and 65% of the stack volume. A stack consisting of up to 400 such cell composites can have a total electrical output of up to 140 kW which is sufficient to power light commercial vehicles. Heavy commercial vehicles weighing up to 40 t usually require the energy of two such stacks.

Mass production and a very special coating system

Schaeffler Bipolar PlateSchaeffler has optimized its latest generation of bipolar plates specifically for large-scale production. Design for Manufacturingprinciple, the company aims to enable cost-efficient and series-ready production that will further advance hydrogen mobility. Thanks to its many years of expertise in Punching and forming technology Schaeffler achieves a particularly high level of precision in the production of ultra-fine embossed structures on plates that are only 50 to 100 µm thick.

A special feature of the metallic bipolar plates is the innovative coating system, which ensures high electrical conductivity over the entire service life of the fuel cell. Enertecfamily, Schaeffler has developed several high-performance coating systems that, depending on customer requirements, are designed for high durability, low CO2-Footprint or an optimal price-performance ratio. "Thanks to our expertise in surface technology, we are able to offer each customer an application-specific coating development and balance costs, performance and CO2 emissions during production as required," says Dr. Schröder.

The layer systems are produced by physical Vapor deposition (PVD), a technology that originates from the mass production of highly stressed valve train components and has been further refined. Another key quality and safety criterion for fuel cells is tightness. Schaeffler uses a proprietary Laser welding processwhich makes the cells gas- and watertight. In addition, injection-molded or screen-printed seals are used, depending on the specific requirements.

Steel instead of titanium: Enertect coating wins

Schaeffler Materialica Award18.10.2023 | The Motion Technology Company Schaeffler has won the Materialica Design + Technology Award 2023 in the Category Material Enertect enables cost-optimized and even more sustainable production of metallic bipolar plates for hydrogen applications.

The high-performance coating system is used in metallic bipolar plates with proton exchange membrane for fuel cells and electrolyzers. The coating maintains high electrical conductivity over the entire service life of the fuel cell and protects the base material from corrosion.

In combination with the coating, easy-to-process steel can be used instead of titanium. The proprietary coating is particularly thin and free of precious metalsThanks to its special nanostructured design, it is as robust and powerful as a solution containing precious metals, but significantly more sustainable and cost-effective.

This means that the CO2-Footprint of the coating can be reduced by over 90% and that of the entire metallic bipolar plate by 20%. Schaeffler will produce bipolar plates with the Enertect PC+ coating from the beginning of 2024 in the Innoplate joint venture founded with Symbio in Haguenau, France. Schaeffler is also developing the product further for additional applications.

Components for the hydrogen drive in the mass market

Oct 15.01.2020, XNUMX | Schaeffler strengthens its commitment around the Hydrogen power: The automotive and industrial supplier joined the global hydrogen interest group Hydrogen Council based in Belgium in 2020 as a steering member. The Hydrogen Initiative consists of 81 leading companies from the fields of energy, transport and industry. The aim of the members is to advance hydrogen technology in the direction of industrialization.

Schaeffler fuel cell


“We want a CO2-neutral, sustainable mobility, taking the entire energy chain into account. We are banking on the enormous future potential of green hydrogen along the entire value chain," says Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG. "Joining the Hydrogen Council enables us to further advance hydrogen cars and fuel cell technology together with strong partners and establish it worldwide."

Maximum sustainability and CO2-Neutrality is the goal when it comes to mobility and the associated energy chain. "Hydrogen technology offers huge potential for emission-free drive solutions and energy storage," says Klaus Rosenfeld. "With our core competencies in material, forming and surface technology, efficient large-scale production of key components for the future hydrogen economy should make a significant contribution to our company's success."

Interview: Digital service for rolling bearings

The further establishment and expansion of research and development partnerships for the further development of components for fuel cells is an important strategic concern. To the Hydrogen Bündnis Bayern joined Schaeffler last year.

Key components for the fuel cell

The automotive supplier has been focusing on the value chain of key components for the fuel cell for a long time. Through precise forming and coating in Thin film area bipolar plates are produced, which are stacked in stacks and are an important part of the fuel cell.

The fuel cell stacks are energy converters that allow H₂ and O₂ to react to form water. This produces the electricity needed to drive the electric motor of the fuel cell car. Other competencies such as special High performance bearings, electronic Controllers, smart thermal management modules or components for passive hydrogen recirculation expand Schaeffler’s portfolio for optimized fuel cells.

Frequently asked questions

How does a fuel cell car work?

A fuel cell vehicle converts Hydrogen and oxygen into electrical energy, which then drives the electric motor. The process begins in the fuel cell, which consists of two electrodes: the anode and the cathode. The hydrogen is fed into the anode, where it is split into protons and electrons. The protons pass through a proton exchange membrane to the cathode, while the electrons pass through an external circuit, generating electrical energy. At the cathode, the protons and electrons combine with oxygen from the air to form water as the only waste product. This process is not only efficient, but also environmentally friendly, as no harmful emissions are produced in the fuel cell car.

What are the disadvantages of the fuel cell?

These are the known disadvantages of the fuel cell:

  1. High manufacturingCosts: The production of fuel cell vehicles is currently costly. The materials and technologies required to manufacture fuel cells and hydrogen storage systems are expensive and complex.
  2. Infrastructure: A comprehensive infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cells is still largely lacking. Hydrogen filling stations are rare, which severely limits the range and possible uses of fuel cell-powered cars similar to electric cars.
  3. Energy Efficiency: The entire process of hydrogen production, storage and conversion into electricity is less efficient compared to battery-powered E-carsA considerable amount of energy is lost during the electrolysis, transport and storage of hydrogen.
  4. storage and Transport: Hydrogen must be stored under high pressure or at extremely low temperatures, which is complex and expensive. This makes the transport and storage of hydrogen complicated and energy-intensive.
  5. MaterialRequirements: The fuel cell requires special materials such as platinum for the catalysts, which are expensive and in limited supply. The production of the bipolar plates also requires high-quality materials and precise manufacturing techniques.

Which fuel cell is used in the car?

In cars, mainly proton exchange membrane fuel cells are used PEMFC This technology is ideal for hydrogen vehicles because it offers high power density, short start-up times and efficient operation at low temperatures. PEM fuel cells use pure hydrogen and produce only water as a waste product, which makes them particularly environmentally friendly. 

How much does 100 km cost with a hydrogen car?

The cost of driving 100 km with a hydrogen car is currently around 9 to 12 EuroThis is based on the average hydrogen price of around EUR 9 to 12/kg and the consumption of around 1 kg of hydrogen per 100 km of driving distance. These values ​​may vary depending on the vehicle model, driving style and local hydrogen prices. Hydrogen prices and efficiency are evolving, so costs may fall in the future, especially as infrastructure grows and technology improves.

How long does a fuel cell last in hydrogen cars?

The service life of a fuel cell in a car is usually between 5000 and 8000 operating hours, which corresponds to a mileage of about 160.000 to 240.000 km These values ​​may vary depending on usage conditions, maintenance and technological progress. 

What does a bipolar plate do?

A bipolar plate in a fuel cell fulfills several crucial functions: It separates the individual cells in the stack, directs the process gases (H2 and O2) to the electrodes, distributes the coolant and dissipates the heat generated. It also dissipates the electrical energy and ensures that the water generated is effectively drained away. Due to its conductive properties and structural integrity, the bipolar plate makes a significant contribution to the efficiency and longevity of the fuel cell.

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Angela Struck

Angela Struck is editor-in-chief of the development scout and freelance journalist as well as managing director of Presse Service Büro GbR in Ried.