Australia’s first fuel cell bicycle

Thought some of you would like this article from my local university...

http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-technology/australia’s-first-fuel-cell-bicycle

Technical specifications for the Hy-Cycle
  • Range: 125km at 20km/hour.
  • Maximum speed: 35km/hour.
  • Battery: 518 Wh Lithium-ion battery that is continuously recharged by the fuel cell and hydrogen canister. The battery itself can be recharged in six hours on mains power.
  • Fuel cell power: 100W
  • Canister: 738 Wh capacity. It can be exchanged for a new canister in 30 seconds.

Cheers :)
 

Shea N Encinitas

Active Member
Hey cool stuff, thanks for posting.

One kilogram of the standard metal hydride is capable of storing 100 litres of hydrogen, but Aguey-Zinsou and colleagues at the Material Energy Research Laboratory in nanoscale (MERLin) at UNSW are now developing borohydrides that could store the same amount of hydrogen using just 50 grams of storage material.

50 grams @ 100 watt, so maybe 500 grams @ 1000 watts? Anyway the next gen seems promising. We have huge boron reserves in the desert Southwest. -S
 
Hey cool stuff, thanks for posting.

One kilogram of the standard metal hydride is capable of storing 100 litres of hydrogen, but Aguey-Zinsou and colleagues at the Material Energy Research Laboratory in nanoscale (MERLin) at UNSW are now developing borohydrides that could store the same amount of hydrogen using just 50 grams of storage material.

50 grams @ 100 watt, so maybe 500 grams @ 1000 watts? Anyway the next gen seems promising. We have huge boron reserves in the desert Southwest. -S
Yes, there are many opportunities for alternative fuel storage and release... The next decade is going to be very exciting...
 

David Herbert

New Member
I think this thread must acknowledge the huge journey that separates scientific laboratory from product in a retail store. My grandchildren may ride a fuel cell bike at some time before they die, but I am unlikely to do so.
Anybody interested in engineering wants new technology to succeed and this desire sometimes leads to exaggerated claims. I think the Tech Specs listed by Craig are based on ambitions rather than test results.
The battery is bigger than you would normally see on a standard E-Bike (10 Ah at 50 Volts or 13 Ah at 36 Volts), so is it the primary energy source or is it just there to smooth out the power delivery from the fuel cell?

The hydrogen side looks a bit flaky to me. How do you squeeze the hydrogen into the metal hydride? How do you store it safely in the retail store and how do you release controlled amounts of hydrogen into the power conversion process? Safety would be an issue with the hydrogen conversion process, because the unplanned release of 100 litres of hydrogen could have ugly results. Some time ago, I worked with a weather man who had been burned a year or two earlier when a Met balloon containing about 100 lit of hydrogen exploded as he was getting ready to launch. His face was like the lunar landscape and he made Al Capone look like a botox addict.

I work in the hydrocarbon industry and we are all a little wary of hydrogen. It has the smallest molecule, so it is hard to contain and leaks abound. It has the lowest ignition energy of any hydrocarbon we work with, so precautions are intense and equipment rated for hydrogen is the most expensive. (As I write this a nagging voice in my head says the hydrogen process is pointless if you still need a big lithium ion battery). Hydrogen fuel cells need oxygen for their reaction. This is normally obtained from air, so your bike would need room for an air compressor as well

You may have guessed that I'm a sceptic, but I would be delighted to see the hydrogen bike in its laboratory. And the next day I'd probably be a sceptic again.

Around 2010, Perth, Australia was host to three experimental fuel cell busses. These were full size busses made by Mercedes Benz, with the hydrogen side supplied by some fuel cell specialist company. One evening I scored an invitation to the bus depot and had a wonderful few hours learning about the machines and taking a ride on a normal bus route. I was impressed by its performance, which seemed on a par with normal diesel busses, but the hydrogen side imposed significant limitations. Hydrogen was stored in cylinders on the roof. Three tons of cylinders - and this reduced the payload from 14 tonnes to 11 tonnes. I was surprised how small the fuel cell was. It seemed to be a 500 mm cube, made up of many, many wafers. Each wafer was the thickness of a thin slice of bread. The wafer contained the magic. Hydrogen on one side and compressed air on the other. The result of the reaction was water, nitrogen (left over from the air) and electricity, There may have been some kind of catalyst in the wafer, which got poisoned or consumed over time, because the life of a fuel cell was only 1,000 hours. In a bus, that's only about 120 eight hour shifts. Hydrogen was fed into the space between every second wafer and compressed air was admitted on the other side, If you guess there were 100 wafers in the fuel cell, hydrogen had the opportunity to escape from the cell in 50 parallel paths. You'd have to sack your diesel mechanic and employ a Swiss watchmaker instead. And the hydrogen was sourced from the BP refinery at Kwinana, so it began life as a product of the hydrocarbon industry.

When I stopped worrying about the difficulties of making a profit with that machine and focussed on the star wars technology, I had a good time

I am reminded of the time I visited the Clark Chapman Factory in Newcastle on Tyne with a bunch of engineering graduates to see a 5500 kW super conducting motor they were about to supply to the Fawley Power Station in Southhampton. We saw the motor running and were duly impressed byall the Flash Gordon technology. That was in 1968. I don't know what happened after delivery, but here we are 46 years later and there are still no large superconducting motors in industrial service. Technology evolves slowly and we must give it time to develop.