automotive industry

CADSTAR Helps Advance Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology in the Automotive Industry

Zuken has been supporting “Forze,” the Hydrogen Racing Team at Delft University, in race cars since 2011. The team of 70 has come a long way in this time, to the point where it has just completed its first full sized sports car powered by hydrogen fuel cells, using CADSTAR for the design of all the control and monitoring systems on-board.

You likely don’t associate exciting, powerful cars with renewable technology. Currently they are rather slow and dull. For petrol heads that like speed and excitement, this technology has not been cutting it. But the team at Delft University want to be at the forefront of changing this. Last week I caught up with Michel Haak, team manager from the Formula Zero group, and Tiemen Joustra, the chief of embedded systems. They updated me on their progress over the last two years.

Michel explained that things have changed considerably, they are no longer focusing on competing in the Formula Student race series, but have moved into main stream sports car racing. In 2012 the team developed their first sports car, a big step-up from the small scale Formula Student race car the previous year. They competed at the Silverstone race circuit in the UK and came out in the top half of the field. As the only car with a fuel cell system on-board, this was pretty impressive.

Since then, the team have developed the 2013 car, the Forze VI. It weighs in at 820 k, and has a peak power of 190 kW which is equivalent to 260 horsepower. The fuel cell technology has been the catalyst for various other developments. Most notably the water cooled braking system, which uses the excess water from the fuel cell to cool the breaks, rather than air cooling that creates more drag on the vehicle.

Monitoring and control system design with CADSTAR

Tiemen explained how he and the rest of his team have used CADSTAR to design the PCBs within the monitoring and control systems.

  • General purpose communication node

This is a small PCB that gathers generic information in the vehicle such as temperature in the tanks, pressure in the fuel cells and temperature of the cooling of the fuel cell etc. All this information is then relayed through a CAN bus. This CAN bus has a “lifeline” which is an electrical wire that is connected to the different systems throughout the car to detect errors. If there is a problem the car will shut down automatically.

  • Accumulator monitor system

A box of super capacitors used as an energy monitor.

  • Power electronics control unit

The main purpose of this is to transfer the fuel cell power to 24V and 12V supplies, that can be used throughout the vehicle. This is done using two PCBs, one for the main 24V line for the car and another for 24V to 12V power conversion.

  • Steering wheel communication module

This features a small PCB that relays messages like speed and energy consumption to the driver.

The future of hydrogen fuel cell technology

I was keen to learn more about how they foresee this technology reaching consumers like you and me. “We are confident that fuel cells will be used in automotive engineering much more in the future.” Explained Michel.

“Manufacturers are working on the development at the moment, with major launches expected over the next seven years. While battery powered cars are great for short distance travel, the fuel cell car is perfect for longer distances. You can refill the hydrogen in three minutes, and expect to travel around 600km on a full tank.”

His final note on the technology was:

“One of our aims is to promote sustainable energy in an attractive way, by developing a race car that can compete on a level playing field with regular race cars, we are proving the technology and making it exciting too!”

The latest car, the Forze VI will be unveiled on September 9th at Katwijk in the Netherlands. You can register to attend free here.

In the meantime, why not check out their latest video blog:

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I'm based out of my home office in the UK and currently do marketing communications for the UK, Scandinavia and Poland - in addition to managing this blog. When I'm not organizing events, and generally promoting Zuken, I'm kept busy with my two young children.

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