MTU Friedrichshafen and RWE Set Up Fuel-Cell Joint Venture

Posted on July 15, 2003

mtu and RWE have joined forces to advance their future fuel-cell operations through a joint venture agreement signed by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH and RWE Fuel Cells GmbH, Essen, effective July 2003 pending approval by the EU cartel authority.
  • Joint venture by the name of "mtu CFC Solutions"
  • Start of series production of fuel-cell systems scheduled for 2006
  • mtu contributes the technology, RWE its access to customers

Munich - mtu and RWE have joined forces to advance their future fuel-cell operations through a joint venture agreement signed by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH and RWE Fuel Cells GmbH, Essen, effective July 2003 pending approval by the EU cartel authority. The joint venture is called mtu CFC Solutions GmbH. Its main purpose is to introduce carbonate fuel-cell systems on a broad market base and to give the company a leading market position in the field of high-temperature fuel cells. RWE Fuel Cells holds a 25.1 percent stake in mtu CFC Solutions GmbH, an independent legal entity which formerly was a wholly-owned subsidiary of MTU Friedrichshafen.

For Dr. Rolf A. Hanssen, President and CEO of MTU Friedrichshafen and head of DaimlerChrysler Off-Highway, and Dr. Gert Maichel, member of the Board of Management of RWE AG, the joint venture is of considerable strategic and economic importance. Both men are convinced that fuel cells are the key to an environment-friendly and resource-conserving method of power generation for the 21st century: "Fuel-cell systems are a long-term, strategic addition to our present product range, especially in the area of energy-supply systems. They are the stepping stone for the next technological quantum leap in energy and drive technology and will win a global market for themselves with their outstanding technical characteristics. mtu is actively pushing this trend and playing a key role in shaping it," said Dr. Hanssen at a press conference held on the occasion of the establishment of the joint venture.

According to Dr. Maichel, the proportion of power generated by distributed small-scale power plants is set to grow, with the fuel cell playing an important role in this process owing to its efficiency and low environmental impact: "We are convinced that mtu is on the right track with its HotModule. This is why we want to participate actively in its further development. Together, we will offer customers a complete package tailored to their needs with regard to the use of fuel cells. We are proud, in collaboration with our partner mtu, to be the first mover in the industrial applications field for MCFC technology." mtu CFC Solutions plans to start the series production of fuel-cell systems in 2006.

Within the joint venture, the two partners will combine their respective strengths, which are required for the market introduction of fuel cells. mtu will contribute the necessary technology aided by its considerable lead in R&D in the field of stationary fuel cells, while RWE, as one of the leading European power generators, will provide the corresponding market access thus ensuring the broad-based introduction of the fuel cell. mtu CFC Solutions will be managed by Michael Bode (President) and by a person still to be appointed by RWE.

The HotModule, the name of mtu's fuel-cell system, is a small-scale power plant for the distributed supply of energy and is suitable for a multiplicity of applications. In addition to electrical power, the system also produces the high-temperature heat required for industrial processes, such as heat-treatment in the pharmaceutical industry and in the food industry as well as for the heating and air-conditioning of buildings. Further areas of application include telecommunications, hospitals and computer centers, in which the HotModule can additionally be used for the supply of emergency power. Moreover, the technology allows power to be generated from biogas, sewer gas and pit gas, thereby opening up new perspectives for industry and agriculture, because, at present, many of these gases are either lost or, at best, converted into heat.

mtu's HotModule is already well on the way to series production. After more than ten years of development work, the carbonate fuel cell is presently undergoing practical trials. To date, 14 systems have been installed, nine of which are currently in use. Three of the systems have already completed their testing phase, and two further systems will go into service in the near future. By contrast with other fuel cell technologies, the HotModule is already today a comparatively mature and low-cost technology thanks to its design and construction.

The markets for stationary fuel cells are the product of the possibilities opened up by this technology within the existing infrastructure. The fuel used is essentially natural gas. In comparison with conventional cogeneration plants, the HotModule has a considerably higher efficiency as well as a considerably lower environmental impact. It has an electrical mains output of 245 kilowatts with a cell block output of 270 kilowatts. Added to this is a thermal output of around 180 kW. Overall, this enables the HotModule to achieve an efficiency of over 90 percent. The level of pollution from the system is so low that, according to the German clean air code (TA Luft), the resulting emissions can be classed as 'exhaust air' instead of 'exhaust gas'. The exhaust air consists mainly of hot air and water vapor, emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides being virtually zero.