Powering the future – TKMS submarine battery developments

TKMS’s Fuel cell solution exhibited at UDT 2023

At UDT 2023, Naval News sat down with Peter Hauschildt, Head of Research and Technology at TKMS, to discuss the different types of batteries they are developing – fuel cells and lithium ion – to continue enabling submarine propulsion.

TKMS’ unique selling point is Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) based on fuel cells, a technology that the company was the first to introduce over 30 years ago. “We think that fuel cells provide great benefits to submarine propulsion because they are very quiet, have high efficiency and this means you only need to take a small amount of oxygen with you,” Hauschildt said.

It is this belief that drove TKMS to develop a new generation of fuel cells produced by TKMS itself – where previous generations were developed by Siemens. The key innovative feature of this new generation is that fuel cell stacks can now be replaced onboard. “In fact, if customers have the spare parts with them onboard, they can change the stacks even during the mission,” Hauschildt comments. This greatly increases operational availability.

“Where before our customers had to bring the submarine for maintenance and had to wait for the fuel cell stacks to be available, today the work can be done in a few hours.”

Peter Hauschildt, Head of Research and Technology at TKMS

The new generation fuel cell batteries will be integrated into the German Navy’s Type 212CD submarine.

TKMS’s Fuel cell solution exhibited at UDT 2023

But this strong suit for fuel cell battery technology does not mean that TKMS is not also looking to the future. In partnership with Saft, a French company, TKMS is also working on the development of lithium-ion batteries. “We believe that lithium-ion batteries hold great potential for customer navies, notably a greater power output, a faster charge that can also be done while at sea, a longer autonomy, and, last but not least, they are now a lot safer than led acid to charge,” according to Hauschildt. This is why TKMS is offering the lithium-ion battery to the German navy for its future submarines.

Finally, TKMS is also keeping an eye on future technologies such as solid state batteries. These batteries hold significant capacity potential, according to Hauschildt, and if the technology matures fast enough they may even render AIP redundant. “No longer needing oxygen and hydrogen, which are indispensable for AIP, solid-state batteries would offer much greater operational flexibility,” Hauschildt concludes.