Dynamic Control of Fuel Cell Air Supply System

with Power Management
Lakmal Karunarathne, John T. Economou and Kevin Knowles
Intelligent Propulsion and Emissions Lab (IPEL)
Aeromechanical System Group
Department of Engineering and Applied Science
Cranfield University, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham
Swindon, Wiltshire, SN6 8LA

Corresponding Author, Email: J.T.Economou@cranfield.ac.uk
Abstract—A power management system is introduced to con-
trol the current flow between a Polymer Exchange Membrane
fuel cell and a Li-Ion battery. Depending on the load current
and the battery state of charge, the power management system
decides the amount of the load power shared with each power
source. The hybrid system operating power is divided into three
categories which are named as Start-up state, Charging state
and High power state based on the propulsion motor current.
A unidirectional DC/DC power converter boosts the fuel cell
system voltage and operates in voltage control mode or current
control mode depending on the operating power state. Similarly,
a bidirectional power converter is developed to boost the battery
voltage to the DC bus voltage during the high power state.
The bidirectional converter operates in buck mode during the
charging power state.
Based on the fuel cell current decided by the power manage-
ment system, the fuel cell air supply system controller varies the
inlet air pressure and flow rate to prevent the fuel cell oxygen
concentration loss. The referenced model is used to obtain the
optimum air pressure which produces maximum net power from
the fuel cell system. Then, the air supply system is controlled
to obtained the optimum pressure ratio and hence maximized
the net power output. The fuel cell system power output with
optimum compressure power is compared with the constant
compressure power. The results shows that, the dynamic control
of the air supply system with the power management decisions
increase the fuel cell system net power output considerably.
Index Terms—fuel cells, power management, power converters
, fuel cell air supply system
I. INTRODUCTION
Electric propulsion system with long endurance capability
is an emerging trend in automobile and aviation sectors. The
hybrid power system which consists of a polymer exchange
membrane (PEM) fuel cell and a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery
shows considerable increase in the endurance capability of
the propulsion system. The power management of the electric
propulsion system is a crucial challenge for the developers.
Initiatives have taken by many researchers to minimize the
energy losses and improve the power sharing efficiency. A
permeant magnet brushless (PMBL) DC motor as the electric
drive of the propulsion system shows considerable improve-
ments in mechanical efficiency and weight reduction [1]. Due
to the high efficiency of the PEMFC system, it has a great
potential to replace conventional engines from light weight
vehicles and small aircrafts [2]. The main advantage of the
PEMFC system powered electric propulsion system is higher
fuel economy which consequently increases the range of the
vehicle compared to the combustion engines driven vehicles.
In addition to that, the PEMFC powered electric propulsion is
an environment friendly propulsion concept which emits only
pure water from the vehicle.
In the hybrid configuration, the PEMFC system combines
with the secondary power source which is the Li-Ion battery
to supply the additional power demand during the high load
power state. The hybridization the PEMFC system with a
Li-Ion battery forms a high power and high energy density
power plant which is suitable for light weight automobile and
small scale aircraft applications [2]. However, the battery and
power converters add extra weight and volume to the vehicle
propulsion system. Therefore, a novel power management
architecture is necessary to improve the propulsion system
performances while minimizing the weight and the volume
of the power devices.
The proposed paper describes the hybrid power architecture
with an advanced power management algorithm to distribute
the load power between the power sources. In addition to that,
a dynamic fuel cell air supply control system will introduce
to obtain the maximum net power output from the fuel cell
system. The section (II) of this paper will discuss the electric
propulsion and the power management. The operational prin-
cipals of the power management system will be presented in
section (III). The section (IV) will focus on the fuel cell air
supply controller and the simulation results will be analyzed
in section (V). Section (VI) will be the conclusion.
II. ELECTRIC PROPULSION
In the electric propulsion, the power management is an
important technique to optimize the power flow between the
propulsion system and the power plant. Fig. (1) shows the
schematic diagram of the hybrid power plant which consists of
a PEMFC system, a Li-Ion battery, a DC/DC boost converter, a
bidirectional converter and a permanent magnet DC brushless
motor with an three phase inverter. The PEMFC system
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Figure 1. The hybrid power plant and propulsion system
operates as the primary power source and the Li-Ion battery
is the secondary power source. The unidirectional and the
bidirectional power converters regulate the voltages and the
currents of the PEM fuel cell and the battery in order to control
the DC bus power distribution.
The hybrid system power control architecture is mainly
divided into two subsystems called, power management sys-
tem (PMS) and power electronic interface (PEI). The power
management system decides the operating power state of the
hybrid power system based on the algorithm developed for
hybrid power sharing. The PEI is the implementation protocol
of the power management system’s decisions through the
power converters.
A. Power Management System
The power sources hybridization process can be imple-
mented as an unregulated and a regulated hybrid power
architectures[3]. In the regulated power architecture, the DC
bus voltage and the current are controlled by varying the UDC
and the BDC PWM signals. The current flow controllability is
the main advantage of the regulated hybrid system. In addition
to that, the bidirectional converter can charge the battery at
desired power stage of the propulsion system. However, the
regulated architecture components such as the UDC and the
BDC increase the overall weight of the propulsion system. In
addition to that, the UDC and the BDC converters internal
losses reduce the system energy efficiency. In the regulated
hybrid system, the battery power usage is lower than the
battery used in the unregulated architecture. Therefore, the
size and the weight of the battery used in the regulated power
architecture are lower than the battery used in the unregulated
hybrid system [3]. The regulated hybrid power configuration
is selected for this propulsion power application due to the
reduced size of the battery. Fig. (2) shows the schematic
diagram of the regulated hybrid power system.
A power management algorithm is developed to response
the three power states of the propulsion system called, start-
up state , battery charging state and high power state. The
proposed power management decisions flow chart is shown
in fig. (3). The PMS changes its operating state based on the
feedback received from the battery terminal voltage and the
load current. The start-up process is activated at initial stage of
the propulsion and later the operating mode is varied between
the high power mode and the charging mode.
• Start-up State: Before the FC system generates the elec-
tricity, the FC system balance of plant (BOP) is powered
PEM
Fuel Cell
System
DC/DC boost
Converter
Li/Ion
Battery
FC compressor
&
Other loads
PM Brushless
motor
Inverter
DC bus
Bidirectional
Converter
Figure 2. The regulated hybrid power system
II Bat Vol
~10
Start
BDC boost mode
Fuel cell start
Rated Load
II Bat Vol ~
12
Flying
mode
Fuel Cell Rated Power
BDC buck mode
Charge battery
BDC boost mode
II Altitude
÷ Altdesired
II Velocity
÷ Velodesired
Full load power
1R
<HV
High velocity, acceleration
and climb mode
Endurance,
Cruising and slope
mode
1R
1R
<HV <HV
Start-Up State
1R
<HV
High Power State
Battery Charging State
External Power
supply
Figure 3. Power management system decision flow chart
to accelerate the fuel cell chemical reaction. The FC
system requires settling time at least 30 seconds before
it connects to the load current. Initially, the controller
measures the battery terminal voltage and assures that the
battery has enough power for the startup condition. If the
battery terminal voltage is less than cut-off voltage 10V ,
an external power supply is used to start the PEMFC
system balance of plant (BOP). After 40 seconds, the
propulsion motor is connected and increases the motor
978-1-4577-0123-8/11/$26.00 ©2011 IEEE 857
speed until the FC system power output reaches to the FC
rated level 15.4V @ 4A. At this stage, the BDC controller
reduces the HV side voltage and starts the UDC boost
mode.
• Charging State: The charging power state is activated,
when the propulsion system power demand is lower than
the 62W rated power and the battery open circuit terminal
voltage is lower than the 12V . During the charging state,
the FC system supplies the load power and charges
the battery simultaneously. When the battery terminal
voltage reaches V
b
= 12V , the battery charging mode
is deactivated. The BDC is operated in the buck mode
throughout the period of charging state.
• High Power State: When the load power is increased
beyond the 62W power, the PMS system changes its
operating state to the high power state. At this condition,
the FC system and the battery provide the propulsion
power simultaneously. During the high power state, the
controller monitors whether the propulsion motor is
reached to desired velocity or torque. The load power
shared with each power source is decided by the PMS
system.
The current boundary condition between the high power
state and the charging power state is depended on the FC
system power capacity. Fig. (4) shows the DC bus current
at rated and the maximum power capabilities of the hybrid
power plant. During the charging power state, the propulsion
system power is increased up to the 62W DC bus power.
When the propulsion system is operated in higher velocity or
higher motor torque that needs power more than 62W, the
PMS operating state is switched to the high power state. Fig.
(4) shows that the charging power state is changed to the high
power state after 2.4A.
B. Power Electronic Interface
The Power Electronic Interface (PEI) makes a common
platform for the both power sources in order to response
the propulsion power demand. The PEI is consisted of an
unidirectional boost converter for the PEMFC system and
a bidirectional converter for the Li-Ion battery. Non-isolated
PWM controlled DC/DC power converters are developed to
R
a
t
e
d

p
r
o
p
u
l
s
i
o
n

p
o
w
e
r
DC bus power
DC bus current
62W
2.4A
High power mode Charging power
100W
4.2A
Figure 4. Boundary conditions for the operating modes
Table I
OPERATING MODES OF THE POWER CONVERTERS
Power Converter 0 < I
dc
≤ 2.4 2.4 < I
dc
UDC Voltage Mode Current Mode
BDC Current Mode Voltage Mode
regulate the power flow of the hybrid system. The UDC and
the BDC are operated in voltage control mode or current
control mode depending on the DC bus current. When the DC
bus current is lower than the propulsion system rated value,
the UDC is operated in the voltage control mode and the BDC
is operated in the current control mode. If the DC bus current
is higher than the rated value, the UDC is operated in the
current control mode and the BDC is switched to the voltage
control mode. The amount of load current distributed between
the PEMFC and the battery is changed by varying the PWM
signals duty ratios. The voltage and the current compensators
generate the errors between the referenced values of the DC
bus voltage/current and the actual values . Based on the current
or the voltage error, the PWM signal duty ratio is varied.
Fig. (5) shows the schematic diagram of the voltage and the
current regulation processes at the DC bus. Table (I) shows
the control modes of the UDC and the BDC at high power
and the charging power states.
III. OPERATIONAL PRINCIPLE
The DC bus current profile which is shown fig. (6) is
included with all the possible power stages of the hybrid
system. During the start-up state, the propulsion motor current
is gradually increased up to the rated DC bus current 2.2A at
time t
1
. Initially, The load current is remained in a constant
value from t
1
to t
2
. Then , the DC bus current is increased
to 5.2A and the PMS switches to the high power state. After
t
3
minutes, the current is reduced to the DC bus rated value
2.4A. At t
4
, the DC current is reduced 2.2A. Again the DC
bus current is increased to maximum value after time t
5
. The
PMS operates in the high power state between the t
5
to t
6
.
The load current profile is ended at t
7
.
At time t
1
, the the BDC high voltage is V
HV
BDC
= V
DCbus
.
The start-up state is last long until t
2
where, the BDC current
is zero and the UDC operates in the rated power. After t
2
,
FC
System
UDC
BDC
Battery
PWM
PWM
PMS
+
-
DC bus
UDC
ref V
DC
ac V
UDC
er
V
DC
ac V
BDC
er V
BDC
ref V
load I
Bat Voltage
H
L
+
-
UDC
ref I
DC
ac I
UDC
er I
+
+
-
-
DC
ac I
BDC
er I
BDC
ref I
BDC controller
UDC controller
Figure 5. DC bus regulation control process
978-1-4577-0123-8/11/$26.00 ©2011 IEEE 858
Time (min)
6
2
t1
C
u
r
r
e
n
t


(
A
)
0
4
t5 t4 t3 t2
t6
t7
Figure 6. DC bus current profile
the PMS activates the high power state and the UDC supplies
the maximum current while operating at current control mode.
During the t
3
to t
4
, the charging power state is activated and
the UDC operates in the voltage control mode. The period
between t
5
to t
6
, the BDC operates in the boost mode and the
voltage controller brings the V
DCbus
= V
HV
BDC
. Fig. (7) shows
the UDC and the BDC current distribution with DC voltage
changes.
IV. CONTROL OF FUEL CELL AIR SUPPLY SYSTEM
The PEMFC air supply system controller is developed to
achieve maximum net power output from the fuel cell system.
When the FC system air supply pressure and flow rate are
increased, the cell voltage is increased due to the minimization
of the oxygen concentration loss [4]. However, the FC system
compressor consumes additional power for the pressurization.
Hence, the power gained due to the increase in pressure is
reduced by the additional power consumed by the compressor.
The relationship between the power gained P
net
and the
compressure pressure ratio

P2
P1

described in [5] as shown
in equation (1).
P
net
= n.i

Cln

P
2
P
1

−3.58 ×10
−4
×

η
m
η
c

P
2
P
1

γ−1
γ
−1

Watts (1)
n is the number of cells and i is the fuel cell current. C is
a constant for the FC system. T is the cell temperature and
VDC
ÌUDC
ÌBDC
0
0
0
t2 t3 t5
VUDC
VBDC
VUDC
t1 t4
t6 t7
VBDC
Time
Time
Time
Figure 7. The DC bus current distribution between the UDC and the BDC
efficiencies of the compressor and compressor motors are η
m
and η
c
. The FC system net power gain at different pressure
ratios and the FC currents are plotted in fig. (8). Initially, the
P
net
is gradually increases to the maximum level and starts
to decrease due to the power consumption of the compressor
motor. The optimum compressor power that needs to produce
maximum FC net power output for the different FC currents
are shown in table (II). By using the curve fitting analysis, the
optimum compressure power is obtained as a cubic function
of the FC current as shown in equation (2). Fig. (9) shows
the variation of the optimum compressure power with the FC
current.
P
op
com
= −0.0035I
3
fc
−0.007I
2
fc
+ 1.6I
fc
+ 0.02 (2)
The optimum compressor power can be represented as the
optimum compressure motor voltage by considering the rela-
tionship of the compressor and the compressor motor char-
acteristics. The compressor map is used to determine the
optimum air flow rates for the different pressure ratios. In
order to generate the optimum pressure ratio and the flow rate,
the compressor motor speed needs to be changed according
to the FC current variation. By varying the terminal voltage
of the compressor motor, the required optimum air flow rate
and pressure can be achieved. However, the investigating
of the compressor characteristics and the compressor motor
control methods deviate the scope of this paper. Therefore,
the optimum compressor power is considered for the control
architecture analysis.
V. SIMULATION RESULTS
The PEMFC and Li-Ion battery hybrid system is developed
in Matlab Simpower system toolbox. The PEMFC system
rated power was 62W and the maximum power was 100W.
The PEMFC system rated current and the voltage were 4A
and 15.5V . The FC system operating temperature was 298K.
The Li-Ion battery nominal voltage and rated capacity were
was 12V and 2.1Ah. The battery initial charge was considered
as 90%.
The propulsion motor was loaded with the different torque
values and obtained the DC bus current profile which is shown
in fig. (10). The high power state was applied after 100 seconds
of the simulation time. Then the PMS activated the charging
state at 150 seconds and last long until 8 minutes. In between,
0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
1.2
1.4
1.6
Pressure ratio (P
2
/ P
1
)
N
e
t

P
o
w
e
r

(
W
)


3Amp
1Amp
5Amp
8Amp
Figure 8. Net power variations with the pressure ratio
978-1-4577-0123-8/11/$26.00 ©2011 IEEE 859
Table II
OPTIMUM COMPRESSOR POWER
FC current Optimum compressor
(A) power (W)
1 1.67
2 3.06
3 4.48
4 5.88
5 6.92
6 7.60
7 8.18
8 8.48
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Current (A)
P
o
w
e
r

(
W
)

y = − 0.0035*x
3
− 0.007*x
2
+ 1.6*x + 0.02
Figure 9. Optimum compressure power
8 to 9 minute period, the PMS switched to the high power
state.
Fig. (11) shows the voltage variations of the DC bus in
different power states. The UDC voltage controller regulated
the DC bus voltage at 24V during the start-up process. When
the high power state was applied, the DC bus voltage reduced
to 23V at the charging power state, the UDC voltage was
increased up to 24V . Fig. (12) shows that the UDC HV side
current was regulated to the maximum limit 4.2A during the
high power state of the PMS. The UDC current was reduced to
2.4A and 2.2A during the charging state. The BDC contributed
1A current at the high power state and the battery charging
charging current was 25mA. The FC system voltage and
the current variations with the DC power profile are shown
in figs. (13) and (14). The FC system voltage reduced to
the minimum 12.5V during the high power state. When the
charging state was activated, the FC system voltage remained
between 14V and 16V . The FC system current profile shows
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
−1
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Time (min)
C
u
r
r
e
n
t

(
A
)
Figure 10. DC bus current variations
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
15
20
25
30
Time (min)
V
o
lt
a
g
e

(
V
)
Figure 11. DC bus voltage variations
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
−1
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
Time(min)
C
u
r
r
e
n
t

(
A
)
Figure 12. The UDC current variations during the simulation
that the maximum current was reached to 8A during the high
power state. The FC system current remained less than the
rated value during the charging power state. Fig. (15) shows
the battery state of charge (SoC) has reduced at the period
of higher propulsion current and the SoC increased at lower
propulsion power.
Based on the FC current, the air supply system changes
the compressor power to obtained the maximum power output
from the FC system. Fig. (16) shows that the optimum
compressor motor power variation according to the FC current
shown in fig. (14). The compressor motor power was increased
during the high power state and lowered at the charging state
of the PMS. The maximum compressure power was 6.25W at
high power state and minimum was 4W after the start-up state.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Time (min)
C
u
r
r
e
n
t

(
A
)
Figure 13. Fuel cell voltage variations
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0
4
6
8
10
Time (min)
C
u
r
r
e
n
t

(
A
)
Figure 14. Fuel cell current variations
978-1-4577-0123-8/11/$26.00 ©2011 IEEE 860
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0.905
0.91
0.915
0.92
0.925
0.93
0.935
Time (min)
S
o
C
Figure 15. The battery SoC variations
The PMS and the FC controller performances are compared by
operating the compressure in the optimum compressor power
and the constant 6.25W compressor power. Fig. (17) shows the
net power of the FC system with optimum compressor power.
The FC system net power variation with constant compressor
power is shown in fig. (18). The comparison results of the FC
system power output with optimum and constant compressor
power are shown in fig. (19). The results shows that 2.6%
energy can be saved during the charging state by optimizing
the compressor power.
VI. CONCLUSION
In this paper, the power management system is proposed to
share load power between the PEM fuel cell and the Li-Ion
battery. The load power is divided into three states such as
the start-up state, the charging state and the high power state.
The power management system start-up state activates the fuel
cell BOP to generate the electricity. The power management
system high power state changes the bidirectional converter
into the boost mode and responses to the load power from
both power sources. When the charging mode is activated, the
bidirectional converter steps down the DC bus voltage to the
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Time (min)
P
o
w
e
r

(
W
)
Figure 16. Optimum compressor power
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0
20
40
60
80
100
Time (min)
P
o
w
e
r

(
W
)


Compressor power
Fuel cell power
Net power
Figure 17. FC system net power output with optimum compressor power
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
Time (min)
P
o
w
e
r

(
W
)


Compressor power
Fuel cell power
Net power
Figure 18. The FC system power output with constant compressor power
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
−10
0
20
40
60
80
100
Time (min)
P
o
w
e
r

(
W
)


Optimum net power
Constant net power
Figure 19. The FC net power comparison between the optimum and the
constant compressor powers
battery charging voltage. The power electronic interface is the
implementation protocol of the power management decisions
through the power converters. The voltage control mode and
the current control mode regulate the voltage and the current
outputs of the power converters.
The fuel cell air supply system controller is developed based
on the FC current decided by the power management system.
The optimum compressure power which maximized the net
power output of the FC system is obtained as a function of
the fuel cell current. The referenced model based controller
is developed to follow the optimum compressure power. The
energy saved by the optimum compressor power mode is
compared with the constant compressor power and identified
2.6% energy saving from the optimized compressor power
configuration.
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978-1-4577-0123-8/11/$26.00 ©2011 IEEE 861