BMW, Renault and Delphi Automotive Systems recently signed a memorandum of understanding that will speed development of vehicles that use a solid-oxide fuel cell as
auxiliary electric power for cars and trucks.
A co-development agreement among the three companies is expected to be reached within a few months. The proposed partnership expands the existing development agreement reached last April between BMW and Delphi under which they are jointly developing a fuel-cell system to be used as an auxiliary power unit for gasoline engines for passenger vehicles. Now diesel-fuel solid-oxide fuel cell reformers for Renault light- and heavy-duty trucks will also be included. The technology will allow BMW and Renault to offer vehicles with more electrical and electronic features that will be able to operate with the engine off.

The technology also has the potential to reduce most of the emissions of an internal combustion engine.
Delphi will develop the gasoline and diesel fuel cell systems, and BMW and Renault will integrate the system into their respective vehicles within the next five years.
The solid-oxide fuel cell unit will provide more energy into the vehicle to enhance its electrical systems.
The use of the solid-oxide fuel cell has three main advantages:
* Provides power when the engine is not running. This is helpful for drivers stuck in congested traffic who may want to run heating or cooling with the engine turned off, thereby saving energy and reducing emissions.
* Creates an environmentally friendly system. Delphi sees the potential to combine fuel and hydrogen, resulting in significantly reduced emissions.
* Promotes higher efficiency, which improves fuel economy. Renault engineers say the fuel cell APU is "almost twice as efficient as an engine, generator and battery combined. This high efficiency translates into better fuel economy, which from Renault's perspective is especially important for diesel-powered light- and heavy-duty trucks."
The solid-oxide fuel cells do not contain precious materials, and BMW and Renault anticipate volume production.