STORY Power Generation

Rolls-Royce launches pilot project in stationary fuel cells with support of Lab1886

Posted on December 11, 2019 by Wolfgang Boller

  • Sustainable, carbon-free, off-grid mtu power solution planned for data centers
  • Pilot plant in Friedrichshafen based on Mercedes-Benz vehicle fuel cells
Technology group Rolls-Royce and Lab1886 have taken the first step in cooperation on the use of vehicle fuel cells for stationary power generation. Lab1886, the innovation unit of Mercedes-Benz within Mercedes-Benz AG, are supporting Rolls-Royce Power Systems in a pilot project for stationary fuel cell systems. On the basis of automotive fuel cells, a holistic concept for future sustainable and independent (emergency) power supply is to be developed in the coming months.


Rolls-Royce and Lab1886, an innovation lab within the Mercedes-Benz group, have taken the first step in cooperation on the use of vehicle fuel cells for stationary power generation. A pilot project has now been agreed between the Rolls-Royce business unit Power Systems, which produces solutions under the mtu brand name, and Lab1886. Over the coming months, Rolls-Royce will develop an integrated mtu solution for sustainable off-grid generation of continuous and emergency power using vehicle fuel cells, focused on safety-critical applications such as data centers.

mtu generator sets from Rolls-Royce are already in service at numerous data centers worldwide, providing emergency power when needed to safeguard global internet traffic. To date, these generator sets have been diesel-engine based, but fuel cells could be a valid alternative. The pilot project will begin early next year and will include the construction of an emergency power plant for Rolls-Royce's data center in Friedrichshafen. The plant will be based on fuel cell modules built by Mercedes-Benz Fuel Cell GmbH. Mercedes-Benz has developed expertise in hydrogen-powered electric vehicles through its work on many generations of vehicle, while Rolls-Royce has long-standing experience of fuel cell systems using other technologies.

“As a supplier of integrated solutions, the decarbonization of our drive, propulsion and power generation systems is a key strategic aim. In pursuing it, we're open to all technologies. Hence fuel cells are set to become a key technology for us.”

Andreas Schell - CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems
Technology group Rolls-Royce and Lab1886 have taken the first step in cooperation on the use of vehicle fuel cells for stationary power generation. Lab1886, the innovation unit of Mercedes-Benz within Mercedes-Benz AG, are supporting Rolls-Royce Power Systems in a pilot project for stationary fuel cell systems. Pictured: Susanne Hahn, Head of Lab1886 Global; Dr Martin Teigeler, Executive Vice President R&D Rolls-Royce Power Systems

“The idea behind the fuel cell is as ingenious as it is simple and we're all pretty familiar with it. But implementing it in practice can still be a difficult challenge. Now that fuel cells have reached series maturity, they're ready for the commercial market.”

Dr Martin Teigeler - R&D chief of Power Systems

Alongside fuel cell technology, Rolls-Royce is researching the manufacture of hydrogen and other synthetic fuels using renewable energy sources – also for use in fuel cells. “Used in this combination, fuel cells promise to make an even bigger contribution to the energy turnaround,” said Teigeler. “And we're delighted to have Lab1886 as our partner, because their technological mindset fits ours perfectly. We're confident that Mercedes-Benz fuel cell modules have the potential to open up new application possibilities in stationary power generation as well, and that's our market.”

“Our innovativeness has always been one of the main drivers of our long-term success and cross-industry exchange and collaboration have always been vital to it. We're delighted to be supporting Rolls-Royce on a pilot project that will bring us closer to a successful energy transition outside the realm of the automobile.”

Susanne Hahn - head of Lab1886 Global

Fuel cells for data centers

Modern society would struggle to function without data centers, but they are also among the biggest energy consumers. Fuel cells are now a feasible proposition for the carbon-neutral generation of emergency and continuous power to keep data centers up and running. Few energy technologies offer the same level of reliability and modular scalability and include all the benefits of renewable energies without dependence on the conventional energy market. Constantly fed with hydrogen, fuel cell systems can generate continuous power. Synergies can  also be exploited for cooling purposes, since the outlet temperature of the computer system coolant corresponds to the inlet temperature of the fuel cell coolant.

About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc

  1. Rolls-Royce pioneers cutting-edge technologies that deliver clean, safe and competitive solutions to meet our planet’s vital power needs.
  2. Rolls-Royce Power Systems is headquartered in Friedrichshafen in southern Germany and employs around 11,000 people. The product portfolio includes mtu-brand high-speed engines and propulsion systems for ships, power generation, heavy land, rail and defence vehicles and for the oil and gas industry as well as diesel and gas systems and battery containers for mission critical, standby and continuous power, combined generation of heat and power, and microgrids. Medium-speed engines from Bergen power ships and power generation applications.
  3. Rolls-Royce has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces, 70 navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.
  4. Annual underlying revenue was £15 billion in 2018, around half of which came from the provision of aftermarket services.
  5. In 2018, Rolls-Royce invested £1.4 billion on research and development. We also support a global network of 29 University Technology Centres, which position Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.
  6. The Group has a strong commitment to apprentice and graduate recruitment and to further developing employee skills.

Mercedes-Benz AG at a glance

Mercedes-Benz AG is responsible for the global business of Mercedes-Benz Cars and Mercedes-Benz Vans with 175,000 employees worldwide. Ola Källenius is Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz AG. The company focuses on the development, production and sales of passenger cars, vans and services. Furthermore, the company aspires to be leading in the fields of connectivity, autonomous driving and alternative drives with its forward-looking innovations. The product portfolio comprises the Mercedes-Benz brand with the sub-brands Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Maybach and Mercedes me, as well as the smart brand and the EQ product and technology brand for electric mobility. Mercedes-Benz AG is one of the largest manufacturers of premium passenger cars. In 2018 it sold more than 2.3 million cars and over 420,000 vans. In its two business divisions, Mercedes-Benz AG is continually expanding its worldwide production network with over 40 production sites on four continents, while aligning itself to meet the requirements of electric mobility. At the same time, the company is developing its global battery production network on three continents. Sustainable actions play a decisive role in both business divisions. To the company, sustainability means creating value for all stakeholders on a lasting basis: customers, employees, investors, business partners and society as a whole. The basis for this is the sustainable business strategy of Daimler. With this, the company takes responsibility for the economic, ecological and social effects of its business activities and looks at the entire value chain.

About Lab1886

Lab1886 is an independent innovation lab within Mercedes-Benz AG. It is where new business ideas, including those outside the core business area, are identified, incubated and brought to market maturity. The aim is to proceed faster from the idea to the product or business model. By realising a portfolio of innovations, Lab1886 helps Mercedes-Benz AG to secure a sustainable and profitable future. Lab1886 combines the best of the start-up and corporate worlds. With Lab1886, Mercedes-Benz AG is committed to cross-divisional and cross-company cooperation and swarm intelligence. Lab1886 has all the necessary resources and skills as well as ten years of experience in the implementation of new business models. This freedom allows employees to work in a focused way in flat hierarchies and a  creative atmosphere. The innovation lab operates at four locations on three continents: Stuttgart and Berlin in Germany, Beijing in China and Atlanta in the USA.

Point of contact

Wolfgang Boller Spokesman Regional and Business Media
+49 7541 90 2159
Madeleine Herdlitschka Mercedes-Benz AG
+49 151 58 628 285
Mona Moll Mercedes-Benz AG
+49 176 309 25 256,
Christoph Sedlmayr Mercedes-Benz AG
+49 151 58 61 94 17,

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