Volkswagen HyPower and SunFuel Test Vehicles

Wolfsburg, Germany – The hydrogen fuel cell can progress to being the drive design for a new era within two decades. Together with the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Volkswagen has demonstrated the status quo of the current level of technological development with a Bora HY.POWER driven by a hydrogen PSI fuel cell and an electric engine on the 2005 meter high Simplon Pass (Switzerland/Italy) in an extreme conditions test.

The new technology platform has been developed by Volkswagen’s research unit in cooperation with our project and technology partner ó the PSI in Switzerland working closely together with the Federal Technical University of Zurich (ETH) and the German FEV Motortechnik GmbH in Aachen.

The new Bora prototype was proven to have new qualities especially with regard to driving dynamics. This was achieved largely due the use of a new PSI fuel cell generation and the so-called Supercaps. This involves two high-performance condenser modules that output a considerable power boost in the peak phases of vehicle operation, for example, overtaking. This briefly provides the electric motor (255 Nm maximum torque) with 74 kW / 102 hp. This peak power enables the Bora HY.POWER to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in only 12 seconds. The Supercaps accumulate up to 360 watthours which are generated and stored by converting braking energy.

The fuel cell uses a new cost-effective bipolar plate design comprising of 125 individual cells. The manufacturing process which bypasses several basic steps is especially cost-effective. The core element of every cell is the membrane. This is positioned between the anode and the cathode. Hydrogen and oxygen react with each other and form water above the thin membrane. This ìcoldî combustion gives off electrical energy. The ìexhaustî is nothing other than clean steam. The so-celled Nafion® membranes are used in nearly every commercially-available fuel cell. However, the manufacture of this perfluoroal polymer is relatively expensive. The PSI is now developing a membrane that is more cost-effective in terms of potential and has a long operating life. Volkswagen and the PSI have made a great step towards the aim of making fuel cells affordable for the private customer.

During the test drive Volkswagen used a Bora TDI using SunFuel® for the first time. This synthetic sulfur and aromatic-free fuel has enormous potential for improving vehicle emissions. At today’s level of technical development, many diesels with SunFuel® already comply to the strict EU IV norm without any technical modifications to the vehicle. The Bora TDI, which already complies with the EU IV norm when using conventional fuels, can attain exhaust values that were not thought possible with SunFuel®. The particle measurements lay in the range of results usually found with vehicles with expensive filter technology.

In future, SunFuel® will be manufactured from renewable raw materials and will therefore be CO2 neutral. As this process is still being developed, Volkswagen is currently using SunFuel® manufactured from otherwise burned-off natural gas. The great advantage of synthetic production of fuel is the possibility of using a large number of charge materials while attaining a constantly high degree of quality.

As well as being used in piston engines, SunFuel® can also be used as a secondary energy source for operating fuel cells. SunFuel® can be used independently of fossil fuel energy sources either on or off-board via a reformer to create hydrogen for fuel cell operation.

SunFuel® is part of Volkswagen’s overall strategy for the next 20 years which foresees, among other steps, by fully exploiting the potential of petrol and diesel engines the gradual introduction of economically and environmentally viable fuel cell-powered vehicles.