Fuel Cell Testing - NH Research (NHR)

Fuel Cell Test Solutions: Hydrogen Technologies on the Rise

The growth of hydrogen powered applications is on the rise with a global mission to reduce green-house gas emissions. Significant fuel cell R&D is taking place across transportation and large scale energy storage markets to improve product performance and manufacturing production.

Why might companies opt for fuel cells instead of electric batteries? Fuel cells are especially desirable for electric flight, heavy-duty commercial trucks and other applications in which its lighter weight or energy density is significant for product performance and efficiency. Fuel cells also offer high quality, reliable power without dependence on the grid. This benefit provides a great deal of flexibility for military or stationary applications. Other applications include drone applications because fuel cells have a high energy density that supports longer range.

Although fuel cells have been used for decades, there is still much testing and research to be conducted to optimize its performance in applications such as FCEVs. Proton-exchange membranes (PEM) Fuel Cells, specifically, are typically used in transportation and some stationary applications due to their fast startup time and power-to-weight ratio.

Selecting the Right Fuel Cell Test Equipment

NHR offers advanced, high-performing fuel cell test solutions including fuel cell life-cycle testing and fuel cell emulation for FCEV powertrain applications or electric propulsion. Key test equipment considerations for fuel cell testing include regeneration and fuel cell emulation capabilities described below.

Regeneration Capability

Regeneration is an important technical consideration for testing fuel cells and systems. Unlike batteries, fuel cells are dependent on hydrogen gas that gets delivered to the fuel cell and converted into electricity through an electrochemical process. In order to test fuel cell components or systems, companies typically use hydrogen fuel to produce electricity which gets burned off for the purposes of testing. This approach results in increased fuel costs, energy consumption and heat waste that magnifies when tests need to be repeated. Regenerative loads and sources recycle energy back to the facility or to the UUT for re-use. As a result, major benefits include increased energy efficiency, reduced testing time, improved worker productivity, and eliminates unnecessary operating costs.

Fuel Cell Emulation

There are many benefits to testing fuel cells by emulating, or simulating, fuel cell characteristics rather than using a real fuel cell stack. Fuel cell emulation dramatically reduces testing time, provides highly repeatable test results, and creates a safer test environment. Testing with a real fuel stack requires the hydrogen fuel to be delivered to the fuel stack, allowed to rest and finally tested. The significant fuel cell preparation time and costs can be avoided by using an emulated fuel cell stack. In many applications, fuel cell emulation will substantially speed up development time, reduce cost and increase energy efficiency. For example, a typical FCEV has hydrogen tank that stores hydrogen fuel which gets delivered to the fuel cell and converted into electricity. The fuel cell stack can be emulated for testing other system level components of the FCEV such as the powertrain. This capability to emulate a fuel stack removes a great deal of time and costs.

Contact NHR for fuel cell testing consultation or product information. Our application experts can help you identify the right test solutions and set up.

Download “Regenerative Loads & Sources” App Note