Fuel cell systems are soon to be introduced to the market in many application areas or else are already successfully proving themselves on the market: in the automotive sector, in domestic energy supply systems (CHP systems), off-grid power supplies, emergency power supplies, and battery chargers.




Dr. Alexander Kabza
+49 (0)731 95 30-832
System development

// Development and construction of fuel cell systems

Airpot scooter with fuel cell.
Airpot scooter with fuel cell. Source: ZSW

ZSW has been developing fuel cells for a wide range of applications for 20 years. System development includes system planning, simulation-aided system design, and the construction, characterisation and qualification of prototypes. The output range of the systems developed to date varies from a few watts to 50 kW.

The spectrum of applications includes:

  • Hydrogen, methanol-fuelled or alcohol-fuelled off-grid power supplies,
  • statiionary power supply systems with upstream fuel cell reforming,
  • H2/O2 systems for maritime and aviation applications,
  • On-board power supplies and
  • Drive systems for commercial vehicles.

In addition to this, ZSW supports industrial partners with testing and qualification of system components and with safety evaluations, packaging studies and product certification.

An overview of our 20 years of developments in the fuel cell systems sector:

  • Self-breathing systems for torches and model cars
  • Integration of fuel cell systems into airport vehicles and bumper cars
  • Construction of fuel cell systems with hydrogen and ethanol drives for off-grid power supplies
  • Domestic power supply systems for natural gas fuel
  • 10 kW multifunction systems for the aviation industry
  • 2 kW hydrogen/oxygen systems for research submarines
  • 30 kW emergency power supply system for aircraft
  • 50 kW methanol fuel cell system for a bus
CAD construction of a fuel cell system for buses. ZSW/ECS
CAD construction of a fuel cell system for buses. ZSW/ECS
System simulation

ZSW has modelling technologies available for fuel cell systems that represent an excellent approach to system optimisation and simplification. For stationary and non-stationary system states, we can provide model-based forecasts and thus develop an optimised system in iterative processes and establish it in cooperation with the customer.

ZSW can perform the following tasks, for example:

  • Design, development and construction of reformer and fuel cell systems for all applications
  • Development of system components incl. hardware-in-the-loop tests
  • System simulation and operating strategies
  • System analyses and system testing



Example of an overall system modelled with IPSE-Pro. ZSW/ECB
Example of an overall system modelled with IPSE-Pro. ZSW/ECB

// Simulation of stationary and dynamic system states

The stationary states are simulated using the IPSE-Pro software which permits comprehensive modelling even of complex systems, and thus facilitates a precise comparative evaluation of various system concepts.

ZSW can also study the dynamics of fuel cell systems. In this case, Matlab-Simulink is generally used for simulation.

See Modelling and simulation for more information.

Reformer technologies

Most fuel cells are run on hydrogen. Hydrogen offers many advantages, but - currently still - has the disadvantages that it requires a complex storage system, is not available everywhere and has a medium volumetric energy density.

There is considerable interest in liquid fuels such as methanol or ethanol because of their high volumetric energy content and easy storage. They can be converted into a hydrogen-rich gas, which is suitable for use as a fuel for fuel cells, using a chemical process (reforming with subsequent product preparation.).

CAD drawing of a highly-compact reformer for methanol fuel cells.

// Develoment and construction of highly-compact reformers

Natural gas and liquefied gas are available on a widespread basis at low cost and can also be transformed into a hydrogen-rich gas suitable for fuel cells using a similar reforming process.

ZSW develops highly-compact reformers for methanol and builds integrated reformer fuel cell systems for methanol, ethanol, natural gas and other fuels. As with hydrogen fuel cell systems, our range of services here includes comprehensive system planning, simulation-aided system design and the construction and characterisation of prototypes.