Thermal and water management of evaporatively cooled fuel cell vehicles
2015-11-17T11:56:09Z (GMT) by
Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs) present a promising alternative to the conventional internal combustion engine for automotive applications because of zero harmful exhaust emissions, fast refuelling times and possibility to be powered by hydrogen generated through renewable energy. However, several issues need to be addressed before the widespread adoption of PEMFCs, one such problem is the removal of waste heat from the fuel cell electrochemical reaction at high ambient temperatures. Automotive scale fuel cells are most commonly liquid cooled, evaporative cooling is an alternative cooling method where liquid water is added directly into the fuel cell flow channels. The liquid water evaporates within the flow channel, both cooling and humidifying the cell. The evaporated water, along with some of the product water, is then condensed from the fuel cell exhaust, stored, and re-used in cooling the fuel cell. This work produces a system level model of an evaporatively cooled fuel cell vehicle suitable for the study of water balance and heat exchanger requirements across steady state operation and transient drive cycles. Modelling results demonstrate the ability of evaporatively cooled fuel cells to self regulate temperature within a narrow region (±2°C) across a wide operating range, provided humidity is maintained within the flow channels through sufficient liquid water addition. The heat exchanger requirements to maintain a self sufficient water supply are investigated, demonstrating that overall heat exchange area can be reduced up to 40% compared to a liquid cooled system due to the presence of phase change within the vehicle radiator improving heat transfer coefficients. For evaporative cooling to remain beneficial in terms of heat exchange area, over 90% of the condensed liquid water needs to be extracted from the exhaust stream. Experimental tests are conducted to investigate the condensation of water vapour from a saturated air stream in a compact plate heat exchanger with chevron flow enhancements. Thermocouples placed within the condensing flow allow the local heat transfer coefficient to be determined and an empirical correlation obtained. The corresponding correlation is used to produce a heat exchanger model and study the influence different heat exchanger layouts have on the overall required heat transfer area for an evaporatively cooled fuel cell vehicle. A one-dimensional, non-isothermal model is also developed to study the distribution of species, current density and temperature along the flow channel of an evaporatively cooled fuel cell using different methods of liquid water addition. Results show that good performance can be achieved with cathode inlet humidities as low as 20%, although some anode liquid water addition may be required at high current densities due to increased electro-osmotic drag. It is also demonstrated that both good membrane hydration and temperature regulation can be managed by uniform addition of liquid water across the cell to maintain a target exhaust relative humidity.