Emission-free fuel

Electrolysis – conversion of solar power into hydrogen

The shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources presents a challenge, particularly in the mobility sector. Hydrogen is an alternative fuel, as it can be obtained from renewable energy via electrolysis in an emission-free process. When used in conjunction with fuel cells as energy converters in vehicles, this makes the emission-free and highly effcient operation of vehicles possible.

At the 2018 Hannover Messe, the DLR Institute of Networked Energy Systems will be demonstrating the possibilities of this energy conversion on a model scale: a simple light source is suffcient to fll a hydrogen storage tank using solar cells and an electrolyser. This feeds a miniature fuel cell car with hydrogen, which takes a mighty ride in toy format. In this way, a small experimental setup can be used to illustrate the power/mobility sector coupling – and the far-reaching dimensions of this technology.

Unlike internal combustion engines, fuel cells enable emission-free mobility. There is considerable potential for optimisation – particularly with hybridisation in combination with batteries – which should increase systemic effciency and the longevity of products in mobility-related applications. Initial series models make it clear that such applications are ready for the market. However, the advent of broad-based commercialisation also shows that numerous research topics still need to be addressed in order to increase customer acceptance, including longevity, range, fuel quality and infrastructure.

The Institute of Networked Energy Systems is looking into these issues. The scientists there are developing, among other things, optimisation strategies for combining fuel cells and batteries at system level, based on driving cycles. In addition, the Institute is researching how drive technologies based on electricity, hydrogen and synthetic hydrogen compounds can effciently be fed back into the power grid. This cross-sectoral potential for flexibility is considered a key element in the design of future energy systems.

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Alexander Dyck · E-Mail: alexander.dyck@dlr.de · DLR.de/en