With the minor exception of rail vehicles, personal mobility all over the world is currently based on the consumption of fossil fuels. There are now over one billion vehicles on the roads worldwide and this number is growing, particularly in emerging economies. This has significant consequences for climate change (CO2 emissions) and air pollution (particulates and nitrogen oxides).
The various types of electromobility – including all hybrid variants and battery-electric and fuel cell drives – represent the only opportunity for achieving a fundamental shift away from mobility based on fossil fuels and towards to a mobility based on renewable energy sources, with electricity and hydrogen as energy sources of the future.
The key technologies in the electromobility sector include vehicle-compatible batteries and high-performance fuel cells, both of which are traditional areas of research at ZSW.
Hybrid drives combine an electric motor with an internal combustion engine, with a wide range of variants from micro and mild hybrids and full and plug-in hybrids right through to so-called “range extenders”. The capacity of the batteries used for hybrid drives also increases as one proceeds along this list of variants. In general, accumulators for hybrid drives must have a very high cyclic stability and a high power density. Whereas high-performance lead-acid starter batteries are still used for micro hybrids and Toyota uses alkaline nickel-metal-hydrid cells for its full hybrid vehicles, high-performance lithium-ion cells are the technology of choice for all other applications, and will remain so in the future. A strong trend in favour of also using lithium-ion cells for starter batteries is evident, too.
ZSW offers a comprehensive spectrum of expertise in all aspects of battery research – from new materials and components right through to industrial cell production technology. Post-mortem analysis, performance and safety tests, and many other aspects of battery system engineering complete the range of our battery technology services.
Battery-electric vehicles use accumulators as the energy source for their drives. Achieving the highest possible cell energy density is therefore the main goal in the development of new battery cells. There are many other associated issues here, such as the safety of cells, their cold-start properties, their rapid recharging capabilities and the reduction of material and manufacturing costs.
ZSW offers a comprehensive spectrum of expertise in all aspects of battery research – from new materials and components right through to the pilot production of cells. Post-mortem analyses, functional and safety tests and many other aspects of battery system technology complete the range of services offered by ZSW.
In the case of a fuel cell drive, the electricity for an electric motor is generated using a fuel cell powered by hydrogen stored in a high pressure tank. The high energy content of hydrogen and the simple refuelling process (compressed gas) give fuel cell vehicles a long range (400–700 km). Refuelling only takes a few minutes, similar to conventional petrol vehicles. This makes fuel cells suitable for use in all existing types of vehicle, from saloon cars and city buses right through to rail vehicles.
ZSW offers a comprehensive spectrum of expertise in all aspects of fuel cell research – from new materials and optimised components (electrodes, bipolar plates etc.) right through to production technology for cells and stacks. The range of services offered is rounded off by one of the largest test fields worldwide for fuel cell stacks up to 120 kWel, and many issues relating to fuel cell system technology, and hydrogen quality.