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18th September 2019, Munich

Lightening the burden of high pressure for FCEV

Pressure vessel. © Cevotec

Pressure vessel. © Cevotec

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), powered by hydrogen, beat battery-powered cars in several dimensions. Fuelled up in only a few minutes, they have a longer range and still feature all performance benefits of the electric powertrain. But the technology is still young and has to master some challenges. From a composites’ point of view, the significant amount of fibres needed for the hydrogen storage vessel, is a particular one.

Engineers at Munich-based Fibre Patch Placement (FPP) specialist Cevotec have designed a solution to save 20% of time, material and cost to build composites-based high-pressure vessels.

“The automotive industry has invested billions in fuel cell electric vehicles, but only very few cars are on our streets yet. One of the larger challenges is to efficiently and safely store hydrogen in the vehicle,” said Thorsten Groene, CEO of Cevotec. “There is working pressure of up to 700 bar in the tanks, which translate into approx. 10 kg of carbon fibre for 1 kg hydrogen storage – a very high ratio.”

Saving costs

Obviously, manufacturers are interested in using less of the expensive fibres to reduce the vessel’s weight & cost. “Wrapping endless fibres around the liner is best for the cylindrical part,” explained Dr Neven Majic, Executive VP of Cevotec. “But filament winding at the domes means redundant material on the cylindrical part – which translates into excess weight and cost of the final product.”

Cevotec’s solution is to apply carbon fibre patches in the dome areas, using the same material, just in patch form. “The patches are designed to exactly cover the areas causing problems in filament winding,” continued Mr Majic. With patch reinforcements on the liner domes in a first step, the patched liners are passed over to the filament winding process, which subsequently needs less material and production time for the dome areas.

Investment in patch technology

Patching of the domes is done by Cevotec’s Samba Series production systems. “The Fibre Patch Placement technology cuts patches from fibre material and places them individually on positions calculated by CAE software Artist Studio,” said Mr Majic. “The investment in patch technology pays off from the first day of production,” added Mr Groene.

One FPP system can reinforce vessels for several winding machines. Manufacturers can realise at least 20% material and cycle time savings. “When manufacturers combine winding and patch placement in series production, the FPP capital investment amortizes within the first year already. It’s a fairly simple calculation that we present to our interested customers.”

By consequently applying FPP technology to today’s composite manufacturing challenges, Cevotec supports the advancement of composites for a green mobility revolution. Applications areas for FPP also include many components in aerospace and new urban air mobility, all of which are currently produced manually.

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