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Fuel Cells/Transportation/Fuel Cells Road 051203
Fuel Cell Transportation Moves to the Road
by Shirley Georgi

The Ride & Drive is always a highlight for a conferences centering on the next transportation technologies, in this case, fuel cells and hydrogen.  Vehicles from several top auto manufacturers, including Honda, General Motors (GM), Nissan and DaimlerChrysler demonstrated their working fuel cell  prototypes  at the 2005 Fuel Cell Seminar so that attendees could truly experience hydrogen  and fuel cell transportation.   A fuel cell scooter, the latest fuel cell powered bus and a truck with an auxiliary power unit (APU) powered by a fuel cell were also part of the experience.  

Honda’s FCX (upper left)  - The 2005 Honda FCX is the second-generation fuel cell vehicle (FCV).  It is the first to be powered  by a Honda designed and manufactured fuel cell stack (FCS).  The 2005 FCS achieves a nearly 20-percent improvement in its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy rating and a 33-percent gain in peak power (107 hp vs. 80 hp) compared to the 2004 FCX.  It is powered by gaseous hydrogen and has a range of approximately 160 miles.   

Nissan’s X trail FCV (upper right) has an all-wheel drive.  It has a United Technologies fuel cell stack and a 350 bar storage for gaseous hydrogen and can travel at a  top speed of approximately 90 m.p.h.  It is equipped with  Lithium-ion batteries which helps power the Super Motor.

This past summer (2005), UTC Power, a division of United Technologies, completed   a successful  25,000 mile road-test of  the Nissan 2003 model of the X-Trail FCV.

Nissan has recently developed its own fuel cell stack for future vehicles and a 700 bar hydrogen storage system which increases  the range of miles.  

DaimlerChrysler’s F-cell vehicle (left of center) is being used for daily UPS package delivery.  The vehicle has a range of about 100 miles and a top speed of 85 m.p.h.  The 85 kiloWatt fuel cell stack system  has been developed by Ballard Power Systems. A 65kiloWatt electric motor drives the front wheels.   The entire F-cell fuel cell system is housed in the floor.  Southern California Edison is one of the companies driving this vehicle in every day use to collect data for the DOE (Department of Energy) Hydrogen Learning Demonstration Project.    

Microsoft Excel ChartVehicle fuel cell markets in 2005 represent the beginning of commercial introduction of cars that use fuel cell systems.  

Commercialization challenges for the  automotive fuel cell industry relate to making vehicle fuel cells cost competitive with existing gasoline engines.   (Data is from “Fuel Cells for Vehicles Market opportunities and Forecasts” by Research and Markets.) +

GM's HydroGen 3 a compact minivan that seats five, operates on liquid and compressed hydrogen. It can store the hydrogen at up to 10,000 PSI which can give it a top range of 250 miles.  The vehicles’s top speed is 99 m.p.h..  It is being tested by the United States Post Office as a daily delivery vehicle in the Washington, D.C. area.  The hydrogen has the capacity to operate in below-freezing temperatures, but continual and repeated usage in cold weather   will provide more information on performance.  

Honda’s FCMC scooter - Vectrix  (lower left) This vehicle is based on a 125cc scooter. Honda notes that space has been conserved by placing the electric drive system on the rear-wheel swing arm, and by placing the fuel cell stack in the centre of the vehicle, with auxiliary systems compactly arranged around it. The result is a scooter comparable in size to an internal combustion engine vehicle of the same class.  

The Van Hool A 330 Hydrogen Fuel Cell bus (lower in center) - This bus was manufactured in Belgium by Van Hool.  The fuel cell was designed by United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Fuel Cells.  The fuel cell was “integrated” or installed by ISE Corporation in California.  Sunline Transit, which provides public transportation in Palm Springs and the Cochella Valley in California,  received the bus on November 4, 2005. The transit agency will demonstrate  and test and bus on its regular service routes.  

The bus has holds a maximum of 30 passengers seated and  can travel 350 miles before hydrogen refueling is needed.  Maximum vehicle speed is 65 m.p.h.   

Truck with fuel cell powering APU ( Auxiliary Power Unit) (center) -  In the area of heavy-duty vehicle applications, fuel cells are being examined as auxiliary power units (APUs) that could provide power to on-board electronics, or "hotel loads," while a truck’s diesel engine is shut off, without draining a battery.  The fuel cell in this truck was built by UTC.

In 2000, the University of California (UC) Davis and Freightliner conducted a study and reported that  auxiliary power trucking costs per vehicle can reach $4169/year.  Additional study by UC Davis in 2002 revealed that the price of a fuel cell, used as an auxiliary power unit, could be recovered in as little as 2 and 1/2 years, as reported in The Fuel Cell Review, June/July/2004.

California -a demonstration project with a growing hydrogen highway

As we look at the progress of fuel cells over the 10 past years, these road worthy vehicles demonstrate the transition of the technology  from research to the development and the demonstration mode.   California was a perfect location for the conference where the  Fuel Cell Partnership  and the California Hydrogen Highway Network are  allowing more fuel cell  vehicles accessible to fleets and ultimately  to consumers.