BMW, Delphi and Renault have agreed to develop solid-oxide fuel cells together to provide auxiliary power systems for automotive and truck applications.
The new fuel cell units will allow customers to continue to run heating or cooling systems with the engine turned off, said Burkhard Goeschel, BMW board member for development.
Goeschel said he expects cars of the future to consume at least double the amount of electricity used today, due to increased use of electronic applications such as air conditioning systems. The fuel cells will improve comfort, convenience and power consumption levels in those cars.
'The fuel cell, in its capacity as a chemical powerplant, will surely supersede the classic lead battery and the generator at some future date,' said Goeschel.
The auxiliary power unit fuel cell will be two or three times more efficient than an engine, generator and battery in combination, said Jose Maria Alapont, president of Delphi Automotive Systems Europe. He said it will also result in 'significantly reduced emissions.'
The three-way cooperation agreement is expected to be finalized within 60-90 days.
Delphi has had a joint venture program with BMW since April 1999 to develop auxiliary power units with gasoline engines.
The new agreement will be extended to include Renault's medium and heavy trucks.
The first commercial application of the new fuel cell technology is expected within five years.
BMW wants to be the first to introduce the technology, but Delphi says it will not be exclusive to the manufacturers who have signed the agreement.