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H2/O2-PEM-fuel cell module for an air independent propulsion system in a submarine

Fuel Cell Technology and Applications

Current fuel cell propulsion systems

PEM fuel cell systems for submarines

  1. K. Strasser

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470974001.f311101

Handbook of Fuel Cells

Handbook of Fuel Cells

How to Cite

Strasser, K. 2010. H2/O2-PEM-fuel cell module for an air independent propulsion system in a submarine. Handbook of Fuel Cells. .

Author Information

  1. Siemens, Erlangen, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Since the end of the 1960s the German Navy has been looking for an innovative, nonnuclear propulsion technology, which allows significant increase in the submerged mission duration of submarines and simultaneously low heat and low noise signature. One of the technologies that seems to be able to fulfill such requirements is the fuel cell. During the 1980s, by order of a German consortium of different industrial companies headed by the shipyard Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft AG (HDW) an alkaline fuel cell power plant with a power output of 100 kW, based on a 6 kW FC module of the Siemens alkaline fuel cell technology, was installed on Submarine U1 of the German Navy and was tested by the Navy from August 1988 to March 1989, gathering knowledge and experience from successful tests of this new FC system. In parallel by order of the German Federal Ministry of Defence, Siemens had to develop a 30–50 kW fuel cell module, based on the polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) as a power source for an air independent submarine propulsion system. Started at the beginning of the 1980s, the development was finished in 1996. Two FC module prototypes had achieved all the requirements of the customer's specification regarding function, power output, shock, stray field, inclination, electromagnetic compatibility, noise, dimensions, weight and technical safety. By testing the dynamic and static load behavior, the outstanding properties of the FC modules were confirmed. The FC module is being used as part of the FC power plant of an air independent propulsion system on the new German Submarine Class 212 worldwide for the first time. Further developments aim to enlarge the FC module power and voltage (120–200 kW; 208–300 V) to decrease the cost. The PEMFC technology, now available at Siemens, has been further used to investigate different propulsion systems (electric buses; forklift trucks) and power supplies.


  • air independent propulsion system (AIP);
  • carbon paper;
  • connecting unit;
  • container;
  • control device;
  • coolant circulation;
  • cooling plate;
  • cooling unit;
  • current collector;
  • decentralized power generation;
  • degradation rate;
  • dynamic load;
  • dynamic water management;
  • electromagnetic compatibility;
  • fadeout;
  • fuel cell module;
  • fuel cell power plant;
  • Gemini program;
  • German submarine class 212;
  • humidifier;
  • inclination;
  • inert gas removal system;
  • load cycle;
  • load changing mode;
  • long-term behavior;
  • lower heating value (LHV);
  • media interface;
  • membrane electrode (ME) unit;
  • overloading;
  • passive water management;
  • peripheral equipment;
  • power output;
  • power source;
  • power supply;
  • power volume ratio;
  • power weight ratio;
  • pressure cushion;
  • pressure vessel;
  • product water;
  • protective gas atmosphere;
  • qualification test;
  • safety system;
  • separator;
  • shock;
  • short circuit current;
  • solid polymer electrolyte (SPE);
  • static load;
  • stray field;
  • switching off behavior;
  • switching on behavior;
  • waste heat