In 2020, there were approximately 3.5 million heavy-duty vehicles on the world's roads. Most of them were fueled by diesel, but the share of electric and hydrogen-powered commercial traffic is steadily growing.
When we speak about the electrification of the automotive market, battery electric vehicles are often the first examples that come to mind. Currently, they represent the majority of electric vehicles. However, fuel cell is another mobility alternative that is growing in importance among electric transportation, especially among medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
The growing push for a fast transition to zero-emission vehicles is accelerating the investments to improve technologies and infrastructure for electric vehicles, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV).
Whereas batteries are a great source of power, due to the fast-growing product offering and charging station network, the hydrogen-powered fuel cell has features that make it an ideal power source, especially for trucks, buses, and other heavy vehicles. Batteries take space and create a hefty extra load. The fuel cell, on the other hand, is much lighter and delivers more power. Hydrogen is also easy and fast to fill; it takes only a few minutes to fuel, just like petrol.
A fuel cell electric vehicle has a hydrogen tank that feeds a fuel cell with high pressured hydrogen gas. Then, the fuel cell converts, in a catalytic reaction, hydrogen, and oxygen, to produce electricity that powers the electric motor. The only by-product of this whole process is water.
Ahlstrom-Munksjö FiltEV® Fuel Cell Air Intake protects the fuel cell from particles and harmful gases
Ahlstrom-Munksjö understands the market challenges and is developing new commercial solutions under the FiltEV® brand, to address unmet customer needs for high-performance filtration materials for electric vehicles. This now includes a dedicated filtration solution for fuel cell air intake.
“I am very pleased to introduce our new filtration solution for fuel cell air intake,” said Cedric Vallet, Head of Business Development, Industrial Filtration & New Vehicles. “By protecting fuel cells from harmful gases and particulates, we ensure an effective operation of the fuel cell and we extend its lifetime, optimizing the cost/benefit for the end users,” he adds.
Air intake provides the oxygen to the fuel cell. Outside air can be polluted by various gases, including hydrocarbons, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and ammonia (NH3), which are known poisons of the fuel cell catalyst. Based on a new proprietary multi-layer dry technology platform and customized adsorbent blends, Ahlstrom-Munksjö FiltEV® Fuel Cell Air Intake media delivers exceptional adsorption properties on all these gaseous pollutants to reach always more challenging cathode air quality requirements.
Outside air is also polluted by a high number of particles that can enter the fuel cell, fouling the channels and the proton exchange membrane. Ahlstrom-Munksjö’s FiltEV® Fuel Cell Air Intake media integrates high particulate efficiency layers, which deliver HEPA level performance, removing up to 99.95% of the smallest particles.
In 2021, Ahlstrom-Munksjö has also expanded its testing capacity as part of the company strategy to invest and grow in the industrial filtration and electric vehicle markets. A new test bench to evaluate gas adsorption performance was installed at the R&D center of the company in France. The investment was completed to assist strategic, high-priority R&D projects to develop next-generation molecular filters for fuel cell air intake filters, premium cabin, and clean room environments.
Potential for growth
Electricity is the fastest-growing source of energy and the fuel of the future. According to LMC Automotive, it is estimated that fuel cell electric vehicles will represent approximately 4% of global commercial vehicle production in 2030.
The addressable annual market opportunity for filtration media used in electric vehicles is expected to grow at around 35% annually until 2030, reaching approximately EUR 100 million.
Electrification is a key strategic theme for Ahlstrom-Munksjö, which has successfully served the automotive industry for 50 years and has gained a leading position in filtration solutions. The new media for fuel cell electric vehicles complements the products launched earlier in the year for all electric vehicles, including filtration solutions for cabin air, transmission, and cooling systems.
Cedric Vallet is excited about the coming years. "We have major ambitions on all FiltEV® segments, providing premium filtration solutions to all electric vehicles. The customer needs are developing, and the market is heading in a promising direction. We want to be flexible and innovative, offering the best answers to our customers."