Garrett Motion Advances Clean Energy Tech with Fuel Cell Air Compressors 

Garrett’s efficient, powerful and lightweight compressors fuse leading-edge automotive technologies to boost next-generation fuel cells and promote the adoption of zero-emission vehicles. 

In the automotive industry’s quest for sustainable and eco-friendly energy solutions, hydrogen fuel cells stand out as a promising alternative to traditional power sources. These devices electrochemically convert hydrogen fuel into electrical energy, producing only water and heat as by-products. This makes them a cornerstone of clean energy initiatives, particularly in the development of zero-emission vehicles. Central to the efficiency and functionality of a fuel cell system is the fuel cell air compressor, a component in which Garrett Motion has made significant advancements, reinforcing its commitment to sustainable mobility solutions. 

What is a Fuel Cell Air Compressor? 

A fuel cell compressor is critical in fuel cell systems and Garrett Motion, a leader in clean energy technology, designs compressors combined with inverter controllers that optimize air pressure to feed the fuel cell stack, helping it produce energy. 

This process enables the necessary reaction between oxygen (from the air) and hydrogen, producing electricity, water, and heat. Garrett’s fuel cell compressors are engineered for continuous and controlled air supply, ensuring stable and efficient fuel cell operation. 

How does a Garrett Fuel Cell Compressor Work? 

Garrett’s approach to fuel cell compressor design incorporates several key processes: 

  • Air Intake: Drawing ambient air efficiently through advanced intake systems. 
  • Compression: Utilizing differentiated techniques to compress air to optimal pressure levels, the high-pressure ratio electric compressors significantly increases the power density of Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells while reducing compressor noise. 
  • Air Delivery: Directing compressed air to the fuel cell stack’s cathode side, facilitating the electrochemical reaction that generates electricity and water vapor. 
  • Thermal Management: Implementing innovative thermal management solutions to dissipate excess heat generated during compression, preserving fuel cell system performance and longevity. 
  • Recirculation: Enhancing system efficiency through the strategic recirculation of air, optimizing the temperature and humidity conditions for the fuel cell. 

How Efficient is a Garrett Fuel Cell Compressor? 

The efficiency of a fuel cell compressor is crucial for the overall performance of the fuel cell system. Garrett’s engineering focuses on optimizing the balance between power consumption and air pressure delivery. 

By developing compressors that maintain high efficiency without sacrificing fuel cell performance, Garrett plays a pivotal role in advancing hydrogen fuel cell technology. Innovations in component design, material selection, and engineering have yielded compressors that are not only efficient but also lightweight and durable, contributing to the enhanced performance of fuel cell systems. 

Designed to meet the specific demands of fuel cell systems, Garrett’s compressors ensure a consistent supply of pressurized air, essential for stationary and automotive applications. Garrett’s compressors have a compact, low-vibration design which allows for seamless integration, further advancing the potential of PEM fuel cells in various sectors. 

Innovation Award for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Compressor Technology in China 

Garrett’s newest generation hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle air compressor recently won a prestigious innovation award at the 2023 International Automotive Technology Congress in China. The technology, featuring a turbine expander that reduces hydrogen consumption and increases range, earned the Automotive Innovation Technology Award, supported by specialist auto industry media organizations Vogel Business Media and Automobil Industrie. 

Garrett’s latest modular high-pressure ratio electric compressor architecture is more than 30% smaller than the predecessor design yet delivers the same fuel cell stack output in a quieter, more efficient package, thanks to a 50% increase in rotational speeds compared to previous generations. Incorporating the optional high-pressure turbine expander can lead to a reduction of electric power usage by up to 20%, decreasing hydrogen consumption and extending the range. 

The outcome is a hydrogen fuel cell electric compressor that delivers high mass power density performance, while offering greater reliability and durability compared to similar technologies. 

Michael Xu, Garrett China Fuel Cell Compressor Business Leader, said: “We are thrilled that our second-generation hydrogen fuel cell air compressor with its turbine expander, developed by Garrett’s China team, has won the Innovation Technology Award. 

“Hydrogen fuel cells have been recognized as an essential building block for achieving zero emissions in the automotive industry. Garrett’s electric air compressors, with constant iteration and continuous performance and cost optimization, are key contributors to this goal by boosting the wider application of hydrogen technology in passenger cars, commercial vehicles and other automotive sectors.” 

Garrett’s air compressors for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) fuse leading-edge aerospace and automotive technologies, with engineers exploiting the company’s turbo aerodynamics expertise to achieve rotational speeds beyond 150,000 rpm. The design also employs state-of-the-art patented airfoil bearings to eliminate the risk of fuel cell stack degradation due to oil contamination, while delivering class-leading durability of more than 1 million start-and-stop cycles over 25,000 hours of life. 

Garrett’s Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology Bolsters HYVIA’s Green Mobility Ambitions in Europe 

Garrett’s hydrogen fuel cell technology is set to play an instrumental role in realizing Europe’s hydrogen-powered transportation vision. Its innovative electric compressor for hydrogen fuel cells stands ready to enhance the efforts of HYVIA, a promising hydrogen transport solutions ecosystem. 

Recently, HYVIA confirmed its strategy for green hydrogen mobility in Europe. The initiative, backed by Renault Group and Plug Power among other key stakeholders, aims at providing a comprehensive green solution — from hydrogen production to hydrogen-fueled vehicles. 

Garrett, with its robust hydrogen fuel cell technology, aligns seamlessly with this objective. The company’s fuel cell compressor, designed for high-powered fuel cell electric vehicles, can enable a significant boost in the power density of fuel cell systems by over 50%. This technology, backed by Garrett’s vast experience, ensures FCEVs that are not just functional but excel in performance, thereby offering enhanced range, reliability, and a superior driving experience. 

“At Garrett, we believe in innovation that fosters real-world change,” said Lutz Glaeser, Garrett’s head of fuel cell compressor development. “Our fuel cell electric compressor is more than just technology; it’s a testament to our commitment to a sustainable future. Collaborating with partners like HYVIA underscores our dedication to advancing hydrogen-powered mobility in Europe.” 


As HYVIA’s mission is to establish hydrogen as a major player in Europe’s sustainable energy narrative, Garrett’s market-leading technology is an essential enabler within this transformative journey. “In an industry that’s rapidly evolving, it’s partnerships like these – blending vision with technological prowess – that will set the pace for a cleaner, more efficient transportation future in Europe,” said Glaeser. 

To discover more about Garrett’s hydrogen fuel cell solutions, click here. See here for more information about HYVIA

About Garrett Motion: 

Based in Switzerland and with operations worldwide, Garrett Motion is a cutting-edge technology leader delivering differentiated solutions for emission reduction and energy efficiency with products including advanced turbochargers and electric boosting technologies for hybrids and electrified powertrains. It has been involved in fuel cell technology innovation for more than 40 years. Additionally, Garrett’s automotive power electronics and software solutions address global macro issues including cybersecurity, energy management and guided diagnostic technologies. Revenues were $3.9 billion in 2023. Operations include 5 R&D centers, 13 manufacturing facilities with 1,300 engineers and more than 130 million Garrett turbos in use globally.