Lightweight fuel cell vehicle enables green mobility

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

The most important feature of the Safe Light Regional Vehicle (SLRV) is a body in sandwich construction, which, despite its extremely low weight of 90 kilograms, is intended to provide a very high level of passive safety. In order to be as resource-efficient as possible, the SLRV has a highly efficient hybrid drive. For the drive train, the DLR researchers have connected a small fuel cell with a continuous output of 8.5 kilowatts to a battery. This provides an additional 25 kilowatts of power for acceleration. This combination weighs less than conventional battery systems, provides a range of around 400 kilometres and enables a top speed of 120 kilometres per hour. Also on board between the two seats is a 39-litre pressure tank that can store 1.6 kilograms of hydrogen at 700 bar. The SLRV uses the waste heat from the fuel cell to heat the interior. In addition, the good thermal insulation of the sandwich body in winter has a positive effect on the energy consumption of the vehicle’s air conditioning system.

The body of the two-seater SLRV is 3.8 metres long. In order to achieve the lowest possible air resistance, the silhouette of the vehicle is kept remarkably low. Despite the low weight, the body is light and safe, say the DLR engineers – a combination that existing vehicles in this light vehicle class (L7e) often have only limited performance. This is made possible by the so-called metallic sandwich construction: The material used consists of a metal top layer and a plastic foam inside. The front and rear sections of the SLRV are composed of sandwich panels and serve as crash zones. A large part of the vehicle technology is also located there. The passenger compartment consists of a trough with an attached ring structure. This absorbs the forces acting on the car during the journey and protects the occupants in the event of a crash.

Up to now, structures made of sandwich materials have not yet been used in the series production of vehicles. DLR has demonstrated their potential and is now working on optimising the associated production technologies.

With its futuristic, sporty design, the two-seater, weighing around 450 kilograms, is a fully-fledged vehicle in the L7e class. The SLRV is suitable, for example, as a commuter car, as a feeder in local public transport or as a car-sharing vehicle – especially in peripheral urban areas or in out-of-town areas. It can supplement public transport in suburban or rural areas, can be used as a second car and is well suited for car-sharing services thanks to its fast hydrogen refuelling.

In terms of acquisition costs, the SLRV team currently estimates the cost at around 15,000 euros. With a mileage of 300,000 kilometres, this results in a price of around 10 cents per kilometre for a service life of ten years.

In the large-scale Next Generation Car (NGC) project, a total of 20 DLR institutes are jointly developing technologies for road vehicles of the next generation but one. In addition to the SLRV, there are two other vehicle concepts that also take account of the megatrend of urbanisation: the Urban Modular Vehicle (UMV) as a modularly designed city car for private and commercial users, and the Inter Urban Vehicle (IUV) designed for longer distances between conurbations.

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