Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Despite doubts about its feasability, hydrogen is finding its way into niche applications.
Fill ‘er Up
In July, Shell opened New York City’s first hydrogen fueling station for cars. Located at John F. Kennedy Airport, the station has a single hydrogen dispenser, available 24 hours a day. Currently, there is no charge to refuel: most users are expected to be participants in Project Driveway, a General Motors demonstration project for fuel-cell cars. Another refueling station is already in operation to the north of the city, and a second station within New York city limits is expected to open soon.
Product: Shell hydrogen fuel
Companies: Shell, General Motors
Not long after the U.S. Department of Energy moved to end most federal support for fuel-cell transportation, the U.K.-based startup Riversimple has dived into the uncertain waters of the hydrogen economy with a tiny fuel-cell-powered car. The prototype of the hydrogen-powered vehicle is about the size of a golf cart. Though small, the body, made from carbon composites, is tough. Each wheel is powered by its own electric motor, and ultracapacitors store energy captured during braking. The car has a range of 320 kilometers and a top speed of 80 kilometers per hour. Riversimple is releasing the design under an open-source license. Its business model will be to lease cars to owners, with the cost of the hydrogen fuel included in the lease price. Owners will refill their cars at stations that Riversimple plans to build in urban areas.
Product: Riversimple hydrogen car
Mercedes-Benz’s B-Class F-Cell cars are racing–sort of–toward consumers. Twenty of them are being supplied to the city of Hamburg, Germany, as part of a municipal fuel-cell project. The cars have a range of 400 kilometers and a top speed of 177 kilometers per hour. The B-Class F-Cell was first announced in 2005 but has been slow to move into showrooms.
Product: B-Class F-Cell
The first human-piloted hydrogen-powered aircraft, developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and built by Lange Aviation, made a 10-minute maiden flight in July in Hamburg, Germany. Don’t expect fuel-cell-based jetliners anytime soon; actually, the most likely ETA for such aircraft is never, since fuel cells have a power-to-weight ratio that makes large planes impractical. But the Antares DLR-H2, which uses a 25-kilowatt fuel cell, has far less lofty ambitions. It is a motor-assisted glider, capable of taking off by itself. Lufthansa Technik Group, an independent spinoff of the airline that focuses on aircraft repair and overhaul, will use the aircraft as a test bed. The company is looking ahead to a day when fuel cells will supply planes with onboard electrical power.
Product: Antares DLR-H2:
Companies: Lange Aviation, BASF Fuel Cells, Serenergy AP Photo/Fabian Bimmer