The D2Service project aims at simplifying fuel cell systems for both residential and commercial applications with respect to easy, fast and save system service and maintenance. The primary objective is to significantly reduce costs and labour for maintenance work to promote the distribution of energy-efficient fuel-cell-based micro-CHP, supplemental power and backup power technology throughout Europe.

Fuel cells are a very efficient technology for generating electricity from natural gas or hydrogen. Compared to combustion-engine based generators, they feature high efficiencies and low pollutant and noise emissions. When used in micro-CHP units in building energy systems, a significant portion of waste heat from the electricity generation can be recovered and used to supply heat to the buildings. A different application is back-up power in case of power outages, where fuel cell-based systems provide clean electricity with high efficiency and reliability. With their high efficiency and low pollutant emission, fuel cell appliances can make a valuable contribution to a cleaner energy supply.

As high-tech devices, this type of fuel cell systems currently still require specially trained service personnel for maintenance work and often non-standard components specialised for particular system models. In case of system failure, it might be necessary that a specialist has to travel a long distance to check and possibly repair the unit, which in turn is not producing energy during this time. This leads to unnecessary high operational costs of the systems.

The D2Service project aims at facilitating the service procedures addressing several aspects already in the design of the systems:

  • The system layout is improved so components can be exchanged and leaks can be detected and fixed more easily, improving the overall reliability.
  • Individual components are improved and standardised so that they are easier to exchange and are more durable, enabling longer service intervals.
  • Remote monitoring systems are improved so that failures can be detected more easily and expensive service visits are avoided.
  • Manual guidelines are created to allow non-specialised technicians to perform routine service tasks.

A consortium of project partners with many years of experience in fuel cell technology from four European countries works on the development of the aforementioned improvements. Two different fuel-cell technologies – PEMFC and SOFC – are employed in different systems that are improved in the project. In a first phase, the systems that are to be further developed in the project are analysed with respect to the cost and effort structure of their maintenance aspects. Experiences from earlier national and European field trials involving this type of fuel cell appliances are incorporated. In a second phase, systems, components, service procedures and manuals are revised and improved. The improvements are evaluated both in laboratory as well as in a field trial involving in total six systems taking place in different European countries.