ZF reveals electric high-speed air compressor for fuel-cell-powered M&HCVs

As a result of its air bearing design, the optimised compressor co-developed with Liebherr offers several advantages, including oil-free, high-speed, efficient operation and high-power density.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 27 Apr 2023 Views icon4166 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
ZF reveals electric high-speed air compressor for fuel-cell-powered M&HCVs

As part of ZF’s latest drive towards the decarbonisation of the commercial vehicle industry, the Group’s Commercial Vehicle Solutions (CVS) division has announced the world premiere of a key next-generation eMobility product.

A new compressor pushes air into the fuel cell which enable the chemical reaction for generating electricity. ZF has also announced this to be an exclusive development agreement with the Liebherr Group’s Aerospace & Transportation product segment. The partners will develop advanced fuel cell air compressor systems for their respective customer bases, with ZF exclusively equipping commercial vehicles. 

"Decarbonisation of the commercial vehicle industry requires an open technology approach," said Dr. Peter Laier, Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for ZF’s Commercial Vehicle Solutions and Industrial Technology divisions. "Our future planning envisages a significant number of fuel cell powered commercial vehicles on our roads. Particularly for long-haul, the additional battery charging time and driving range required will need a fuel cell approach. "

"Further building on ZF’s eDrive and peripheral systems design expertise as well as our unrivalled systems integration know-how, we can offer one-stop-shop to support the commercial vehicle industry in reaching CO2-targets. Our new partnership with Liebherr gives an additional boost to fast-track fuel cell developments, " added Dr. Laier.

Electric high speed air compressor
As the performance of fuel cell systems depends on a reliable air supply, the compressor is one of the most critical components in high performance fuel cell systems. Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation SAS brings over four decades’ experience in high-power density, high-speed turbo machinery – in particular, air bearing technology – initially gained from aircraft applications as well as having developed several applications for the automotive sector.
 
Through ZF’s new joint development agreement for advanced fuel cell air compressors with Liebherr, ZF will support a wide range of vehicle platforms with a modular, compact and scalable design. As a result of its air bearing design, the optimised compressor offers several advantages, including oil-free, high-speed, efficient operation and high-power density. Durability across the compressor’s life cycle, even in the most demanding heavy-duty commercial vehicle applications, is a key focus.  

"Building on our partnership with Liebherr and incorporating their knowledge and competence into our Next Generation Mobility solutions will enable ZF to significantly shorten the time to market for commercial vehicle fuel cell air compressors," added Claus Umnus, Senior Vice President of the product line Chassis Technology with ZF’s Commercial Vehicle Solutions division.

"Liebherr-Aerospace can look back at more than 40 years’ experience in the development and production of air cycle air conditioning systems, where the air cycle machine, that is the compressor, constitutes the core of the system without any use of refrigerants," said Dr. Klaus Schneider, Chief Technology Officer with Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation SAS. "These systems, based on air bearing technology, are on board many commercial aircraft and business jet platforms around the globe and perform very successfully in the railway market. Since the early 2000s, such compressor technology was transferred to the automotive market for application in fuel cell propulsion systems."

ZF’s development agreement with Liebherr is the latest partnership from its CVS division to advance its eMobility strategy for commercial vehicles. 

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