Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) a world leader in submarine and submarine fuel cell technology presented the 4th generation fuel system during the quadrennial SubCon submarine conference held in Kiel in Germany. TKMS has a history of 180 years in marine sector and employs 60,000 people for construction of high technology marine systems and vessels including warships, submarines, yachts and commercial ships. They has been offering fuel cell technology onboard their submarines for the last 15 years.

Dr. Rolf Wirtz, CEO of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems said, “Our customers have been using our fuel cell systems for more than 15 years now. With this 4th generation we are making something great even greater. This is the next big step with huge improvements in availability, redundancy, and stealth. I am proud that we are again advancing our customers by setting new standards.”

The 4th generation fuel cell FC4G has been tested for over 70,000 hours on test beds and offers a safer and more efficient fuel cell for submarine propulsion. The FC4G has been designed to be a high-availability modular system composed of redundant components to retain a maximum performance at all times. It uses the proven and exceptionally safe metal hydride cylinders for storing hydrogen onboard the submarine. These cylinders do not contain any active components. this further reduces chances of failure making the system safer. The cylinders of FC4G hold hydrogen molecules safe in place in the crystal lattice of the hydride.

Previous generation fuel cells and other air independent propulsion (AIP) systems like Mesma, closed cycle diesels or Stirling engines used reformer systems. These systems created CO2 out of a liquid fuel such as diesel oil and also left traces of CO2 – and potentially other by-products contained in diesel oil such as Sulphur. These byproducts had to be dissolved into the surrounding sea water by operating electrical pumps. The FC4G has done away with such systems. The only byproduct of the FC4G other than electricity is water which is stored onboard as compensating water.

TKMS believes that the hydrogen used in the system will also have a small carbon footprint as H2 is easily available where ever chemical industry is operative, typically in every customer country of TKMS. It can also be produced by utilizing green energy sources by splitting water into H2 and O2. As per TKMS, overall signatures of the FC4G are the most favorable ones on the market. It produces no byproducts which are put overboard, the thermal and the acoustic signatures are kept to a minimum while the overall system efficiency is twice as good as any combustion engine.

Philipp Schön, Head of Product Sales Submarines informed that TKMS has contracted 38 systems with 7 customer navies. TKMS is already in negotiations with customers for another 10 systems.