MAHLE Introduces Modular Filter Concept for Fuel Cells

The new air filters protect fuel cells from harmful gases and particles, ensuring operation of the fuel cell over the entire service life of a vehicle.

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MAHLE has developed two standardized air filter solutions for fuel cells. Thanks to this new modular approach, MAHLE is able to significantly reduce development times and costs, with developers now having direct access to a fully developed off-the-shelf component instead of having to design individual solutions for each vehicle. The new MAHLE air filters for cells with an output of 25–50 kW or 80–120 kW reliably protect fuel cells from harmful gases and particles, ensuring the operation of the fuel cell over the entire service life of a vehicle and minimizing the use of expensive catalysts. With this new approach, MAHLE is bringing the suitability of fuel cell technology for the mass market a significant step closer. Hydrogen and therefore fuel cells themselves are important elements of MAHLE’s development work toward CO2-neutral mobility. 

The company says it has developed the filters to be as universally applicable as possible. Therefore, they can be used on a range of vehicles, from passenger cars to heavy-duty on- and off-road vehicles. 

“MAHLE has extensive expertise in air filtration, which we’re now benefiting from in the development and production of reliable filter solutions for fuel cell vehicles,” explains Dr. Martin Berger, head of Corporate Research and Advanced Engineering at MAHLE. “By making the design of the air tract simpler, faster, and cheaper with our new standardized approach, we’re bringing the suitability of this future technology for the mass market a significant step closer.”

Protection for highly sensitive cells minimizes manufacturing costs

Fuel cells contain platinum as a catalyst. It is used to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, with the energy generated in the reaction being released in the form of electrical energy. The fewer harmful gases entering the cell, the less platinum is needed to ensure that it remains operational over the service life of the vehicle. Platinum is rare and expensive, so using efficient filters to increase the degree of purity of the supply air means lower manufacturing costs.

In order to reliably protect fuel cells and thus make them attractive to the consumer from a price perspective, MAHLE relies on a highly effective filter medium consisting of several layers: a substrate material ensures mechanical stability, while a particulate filter layer blocks 99.9% of unwanted particles. A molecular layer prevents ammonia from entering the fuel cell, an activated carbon layer absorbs unwanted hydrocarbons, and an additional, specially impregnated activated carbon layer stops sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen oxides from reaching the cell.

Modular approach for fuel cells components

MAHLE uses its holistic systems competence in thermal and air management, power electronics, and filtration to support the development of vehicles with fuel cell drives that are suitable for large-scale production. The focus here is on lower systems costs coupled with higher operational safety. MAHLE is developing a fuel cell systems portfolio featuring a modular approach based on its current range of components. The group is thereby helping to reduce technological barriers and improve the suitability of vehicles with fuel cell drives for the mass market.