RMIT, Thales Australia develop new fuel cell system demonstrator

A DMTC project has developed a fuel cell auxiliary power unit (APU) concept demonstrator that the researchers say could potentially replace or supplement diesel generators on armoured vehicles in the field.

The demonstrator was developed by lead researcher Reza Omrani and his team at RMIT Bundoora with the collaboration of industry partner Thales Australia, and will be showcased at RMIT’s Green Engines Research Facility today.

Project leader Rami Odish, who is a design/system engineer at Thales Australia, said the system uses a hybrid hydrogen storage method by utilising metal hydrides and high-pressure tanks packaged inside a standard locker typically found on armoured vehicles.

He said that, while fuel cell technology was not new, it had never been adopted for use on Australian Army vehicles due to the Army’s single fuel policy and perceived risks associated with hydrogen.

While not actually fitted to a vehicle, the demonstration will show the fuel cell system’s capability to operate as an APU on board an armoured vehicle.

The fuel cell system demonstrator developed by DMTC partners RMIT and Thales Australia. Source: DMTC
The fuel cell system demonstrator developed by DMTC partners RMIT and Thales Australia. Source: DMTC

Hydrogen fuel cells are quiet (can be used in silent watch mode), create a very low heat signature and emit only water vapour. They require very little servicing and few repairs due to the lack of moving components. This has a direct implication on the lifecycle costs incurred by the end user, making them a favourable option compared with diesel generators.

The project team proposes that, while hydrogen infrastructure is not as common or available as conventional fuels, it can be generated onsite as required, via electrolysis. The team’s techno- economic study found that this alternative may offer a long-term cost benefit over purchasing and transporting diesel.

DMTC works collaboratively with many successful and innovative Australian industry, research and government agencies to advance technologies in priority areas.

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