A prototype hydrogen fuel cell-powered van

Hydrogen technology is a driving force in the transition to renewable fuels in transportation. It takes special safety precautions to put this forward-looking technology to productive use. In recent years, we have gained a great deal of experience assuring the safety of hydrogen technologies. Our success as a development partner in various projects is rooted in this expertise.

Bosch prototype hydrogen fuel cell-powered van
© Robert Bosch GmbH

Bosch Powertrain Solutions and Bosch Engineering unveiled groundbreaking prototypes at the IAA Transportation show in Hanover, Germany. In the spotlight were two street-legal vans powered by hydrogen fuel cells. This type approval for road use marks a milestone in sustainable mobility.

Bringing ITK’s functional safety experts on board was a key success factor in realizing these street-legal prototypes. 

Dr. Bertram Sugg, head of the PS-DI/PJ-H2HTR project to develop prototype light commercial vehicles equipped with Bosch fuel-cell systems

The challenge: Develop an effective safety concept for hydrogen technology

To convert the electric vans, engineers installed a fuel cell, five tanks holding around ten kilograms hydrogen in total, and a smaller lithium-ion battery to replace the large battery in each vehicle. This type of conversion presents some daunting challenges.

The greatest hurdle is that an effective safety concept for hydrogen technologies requires a combination of structural and electrical/electronic modifications. These are very different tasks that demand different skills. For one, engineers have to be well-versed in the ISO 26262 functional safety standard. For the other, they have to have experience applying specific standards and guidelines for hydrogen-powered vehicles such as UN GTR 13.

Bosch Engineers working on the hydrogen fuel cell-powered van
© Robert Bosch GmbH

The solution: Deliver a multi-stage, alert-to-full-shutdown safety concept

Nearly all components of the fuel-cell system are made by Bosch. The company also developed the control unit. Another enterprise, Abt eLine GmbH, adapted the cooling system, the electronic vehicle control unit, and the electrical system to the new technology. As part of this development team, our experts were on board to provide support and work out a safety concept for the tank system.

To address the risks of using hydrogen as a fuel, the ITK Safety team worked closely with Bosch Engineering experts to develop multi-stage safety concept. It features multiple safeguards, including structural modifications to provide venting in the event of a leak and advanced surveillance sensors to monitor the tank system.  These sensors not only watch over the individual components of the system; they also detect leaks.
Hazardous situations trigger quick and effective responses to potential safety risks ranging from alerts to full system shutdowns.

The safety concept was the product of a collective effort that saw the overall project manager, tank system experts, and fuel cell specialists collaborating closely. This joint effort was instrumental in getting the vehicle certified by the German technical inspection agency TÜV.

The added value: Hydrogen serves as a climate-friendly alternative

This hydrogen drive harbors great potential for commercial vehicles. The conversion gives the vehicle a remarkable range of up to 540 kilometers. What’s more, it takes just six minutes or so to refuel the hydrogen tanks. In terms of range and recharging times, fuel cell-powered vans are an interesting alternative or complement to purely battery-powered electric vehicles.

The ITK team has the skills to determine the safety measures needed for the given vehicle and use case, as well as the assets to support your development project.

Drawing on our experience across a wide range of projects, we develop solutions tailored to meet your individual needs and rise to your unique challenges. 

Key Takeaways

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Climate-friendly commercial vehicles

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Holistic safety concept

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Hydrogen technology

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