Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bicycles

Several companies in the past have showcased their plans to use hydrogen fuel cell technology to power a bicycle. Recently, Chinese company Pearl Hydrogen became the latest company to showcase the idea, at a recent technology convention in Shanghaimart. The 20″ wheel prototype weighs 32kg and is powered by a PEM fuel cell and brushless electric motor. The top speed is 25km/hour and the 600L twin cylinder fuel cells have a maximum range of 100km. Some trial orders have already been placed for 20,000 Yuan (about US$2,650). The company is optimistic that their hydrogen bike will be successful enough to begin mass producing bikes for the mainstream Chinese market, for a more affordable 4,000 Yuan (US$530).

Of course there are still technical challenges to overcome, like where people will refill the fuel cells. At present there is no hydrogen refueling infrastructure in China, so customers will have to purchase refills from local suppliers. However, there is talk of expanding the fuel network in China to accommodate future hydrogen powered cars. The electric bicycle industry still has a long way to go in terms of battery technology and efficiency, so there are likely to be many electrical and mechanical flaws to discover and overcome as they produce more bikes. Bicycles take a beating, so the systems will have to be rugged enough to endure the daily commute.

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