Rolls plans line of hydrogen fuel cell solutions

By Jack Burke08 November 2021

Data centers key market

Rolls-Royce said it will develop complete mtu hydrogen fuel cell solutions based on cellcentric’s hydrogen fuel cell modules.

Germany-based cellcentric is a joint venture set up by Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Group AB. The company’s fuel cell modules that emit nothing other than water vapor, which enables C02-free, climate-neutral generation of emergency power, especially for data centers. Rolls-Royce is among the world’s top three suppliers of emergency gensets for data centers. Both Rolls-Royce and cellcentric said they are convinced that the technology – and time – are right for successfully launching commercial fuel cell applications for the mass market.

Each fuel cell module will deliver a net power output of around 150 kW and can be connected together into scalable fuel cell power plants with outputs in the megawatt range, capable of providing clean back up power for large data centers. Rolls-Royce commissioned a fuel cell demonstrator earlier this year and plans to bring a further demonstrator plant on line in 2022, based on modules providing approximately 100 kW each. The first pilot plants with customers will be installed in 2023, with Rolls-Royce launching standard production fuel cell systems in 2025. A fuel cell module is currently on display on the Rolls-Royce stand at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

Operators of the very large data centers that handle telecommunications and internet traffic are considered a key customer group and the market is growing rapidly, the company said.

“Electrical generators based on fuel cells represent the next leap forward in the energy transition, both for us and our customers,” said Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems. “That’s why we’re investing a three-digit million amount in R&D over the next few years and we hope that this strong commitment will encourage governments and politicians to promote and support this pioneering, extremely climate-friendly, technology. When they run on green hydrogen, meaning hydrogen made using renewable energy sources, fuel cells are climate-neutral. For this reason, and also because we’re simply convinced by fuel cell technology, we also want to look into how green hydrogen can be produced cost-effectively in the quantities we need.”

Perry Kuiper, president Sustainable Power Solutions at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said his company is among the world’s top three suppliers of emergency gensets for data centers.

“We’ve declared it our mission to have over half of data centers supplied by emergency power from fuel cells in the future,” Kuiper said.

Development of CO2-free solutions using hydrogen technology is taking place at Rolls-Royce Power Systems in its new Power Lab division.

Rolls-Royce will use fuel cell modules from cellcentric in the future as the basis for integrated and CO2-free emergency power supply solutions of the mtu product and solution brand for data centers. A corresponding contract has now been signed by (from left) Perry Kuiper (President Sustainable Power Solutions at Rolls-Royce's Power Systems business unit), Andreas Schell (CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems), Dr. Matthias Jurytko (CEO cellcentric) and Prof. Dr. Christian Mohrdieck (CKCO of cellcentric). First pilot installations at customers are planned for 2023.

“The hydrogen-based fuel cell is a crucial building block to achieve the goal of a CO2-neutral society,” said Dr. Matthias Jurytko, CEO cellcentric. “With Rolls-Royce, we have an important partner at our side with whom we want to achieve further economies of scale to help the technology achieve a breakthrough. Our cooperation sends a clear signal to politicians and industry: both companies are convinced of the benefits of fuel cells and are working hard to commercialize them. The right framework conditions for this must therefore now be put in place. This applies in particular to the issue of infrastructure and thus the generation, storage and transport of hydrogen.”

Partnership with cellcentric offers Rolls-Royce the opportunity of using fuel cell modules produced by a leading supplier with long-standing experience. Its quick deployment of a large volume of fuel cells has in turn enabled cellcentric to ramp up its series production, while preparation for on-highway use is still in progress. Their installation into heavy-duty utility vehicles from Daimler Truck AG and Volvo is planned for the second half of the decade.

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