Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) logo

Next generation automotive MEA development - FCH-01-5-2018
Deadline: Apr 24, 2018  

 Aerospace Technology
 Industrial Manufacturing

Specific Challenge:

Cost still remains one of the key challenges for widespread adoption of Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC ) technology in the automotive sector. The stack still represents about 50% of total fuel cell system cost and MEA components ca. 60% of the total stack cost. Therefore, despite considerable progress over the last 10 years in increasing performance, durability and reducing platinum loadings, research and development activities are still required to provide materials and designs that can address the cost issue whilst reaching other important targets like durability, reliability and operating temperature.
Additionally, even though several materials were developed that meet performance at BOL, they tend to degrade rapidly and have other issues (e.g. power instability at lower temperatures). Thus, the purpose of this topic is to address these issues by focusing on MEA development to meet all the requirements at the same time, with a greater focus on achieving a world leading power density of 1.8 W/cm2 @ 0.60 V.


As a step towards the final cost goal, proposals should focus on reducing the total platinum loading compared to current state of the art MEAs (currently in the range of 0.25 to 0.35 mg/cm2) and increasing current density to levels that enable a significant reduction of the total stack active area.
As the targets are very ambitious, the proposals will need to address several areas of development at the same time, which will include work on the following areas:

  • Catalyst: Development of new catalysts with higher mass-specific activity, durability and active surface area. The catalyst has to be capable of being integrated in a layer that allows operation at higher current densities;
  • Catalyst Support: Development of corrosion resistant supports which promote optimal layer ionomer distribution and operation at high current densities. These supports have also to meet the durability requirements during dynamic operating conditions, such as start-stop, that lead to high potentials;
  • Catalyst layer Design: New electrode designs, structured layers and additives to improve performance at high current density and increase durability. Focus to be placed on minimization of mass transport losses while ensuring manufacturability of the layer;
  • Catalyst Layer ionomer: Ionomers with higher protonic conductivity, higher permeability to O2 and stable behaviour at low RH (<50% RH) and high temperatures (80 - 110 °C);
  • Membrane: Durable membranes with reduced gas crossover and viable operation at higher temperature (to 110 °C), displaying the proton conductivity of currently available ionomers, or better, and mechanically and chemically stable under RH cycling and OCV conditions;
  • GDL (including MPL): Development of high through-plane thermal conductivity GDLs to enable low local temperatures at the catalyst layers. Higher in-plane diffusivity GDLs are also desired to reduce the effect of wide landings on bipolar plates. A combination of GDL properties are desired, including reduced thickness, to achieve optimum contact resistance, gas flows under the landings, water management and thermal conduction. Development of MPLs designed for high current densities but with a good balance of water management properties at low temperatures and current densities is needed;
  • MEA Integration: In addition to incorporating the new component materials into MEAs, it is also within the scope to consider alternative MEA designs, constructions, and deposition and assembly approaches that can contribute to the achievement of the project objectives. Novel designs should maximize the effective use of the constituent materials, enable tailoring to the stack design and minimize the interfacial losses, thereby contributing to the increased performance and reduced cost objectives. This has been addressed in the paragraph below dealing with the output of the project.

The proposal should set targets for each individual component. Those targets need to be quantifiable in single cells relevant for automotive application. The consortium has to demonstrate how the targets have been fixed and how those targets will allow the MEA to achieve the required power density (1.8 W/cm2 @ 0.6 V) in the described operating conditions (already described above).
The output of the project should be a sufficient numbers of MEAs incorporating the new constituent materials and designs that are manufactured by a commercial supplier, by methods compatible with high-volume manufacturing, (but not necessarily using processes already validated for the fuel cell industry), to enable a short-stack test (minimum 10 Cells) of a practical automotive fuel cell.
A cost estimation with assumptions on the quantity of materials, material costs and production costs of the MEA is also expected as an output at the end of the project.
Development of bipolar plates, seals, frame/sub-gasket materials and designs are not in scope of this topic.
TRL at start: 2-3 and TRL at the end of the project: 5.
The proposal is expected to contain at least one OEM as a partner, to provide system and fuel cell design points and counsel on trade off studies. Similarly, to fulfil the manufacturability requirement, it is expected that at least one MEA supplier to be part of the proposal.
Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox JRC-PTT-H2SAFETY@ec.europa.eu, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B "Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018"), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution of EUR 4 million would allow the specific challenges to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Expected duration: 3-4 Years

Expected Impact:

The proposed development activities shall reach the following collective targets, demonstrated at MEA level:

  • Decreased MEA cost: target MEA cost of 6.0 € /kW based on a production volume of 1 Million m2 per year, assuming Pt spot price of 1,200 €/ troy Oz;
  • Increased power density: target power density of 1.80 W/cm2 (reference cell voltage: 0.60 V) using Autostack Core bipolar plate as reference (which is commercially available, or a similar bipolar plate with at least 200 cm2, realized as an outcome of a previous FCH 2 JU project). For reproducibility reasons, it is expected that a short stack with a minimum of 10 cells is tested. Operating conditions should be defined by the consortium partners but are recommended to be within the following limits:
    • Pressure: inlet PCath,An<2.5 bar;
    • Stoichiometry: 1.3 < λCath,An < 1.5;
    • Humidity: 30% cath< 70% (relative to coolant inlet temperature);
    • Temperature: 60 ̊C
    • 10 ̊C
    • 100% H2 concentration at anode inlet;
  • Increased durability: MEA maximum power loss of 10% after 6,000 hours of operation under a typical customer usage profile (to be defined by consortium, preference is given to profile suggested by the JRC harmonization protocol). Extrapolations from actual durability tests are acceptable beyond 1,000 hours of tests.
  • Increased operating temperature: MEA capable of operation at coolant outlet temperatures of 105°C and current densities of 1.5 A/cm2 @ 0.67 V for 5% of the lifetime (approx. 300 h). The exact operating conditions and system component assumptions should be provided by OEMs and system integrators to ensure the target is reachable.

Type of action: Research and Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.

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