When Mercedes-Benz opened the world’s first “automated” hydrogen-fuel-cell production facility, the company tapped company veteran Klaus Berger to manage the complex undertaking.
What he and his team are doing in the Burnaby, B.C., facility is “very untypical” for automotive related production.
In traditional auto production, an OEM could leverage a sophisticated supply industry. Not so with the fuel-cell team at Burnaby, which has to develop and evaluate almost everything it needs, and work to encourage the development of a supplier community for the future.
“This makes it a little more tricky,” says Berger.
“The hurdle is higher.”
The other main difference over traditional production is the materials used. Berger says his team is still learning the nuances of dealing with them.
Currently, the plant creates up to 1,000 cells a day. A full stack for a car, depending on the size, requires 200-450.
Membrane electrode assemblies are fully automated; sealing applications, at this stage, are semi-automated.
Is the plant at the forefront of fuel-cell production technology? Berger, who doesn’t seem prone to hyperbole, would only say, “we are not behind any one” and that the program is “on track.”