Could this be the first affordable hydrogen-fuelled vehicle?

6th February 2014
Nat Bowers

In partnership with UK motorsport entrepreneur and manufacturer Spencer Ashley and the DYPDC centre for automotive research in Pune, Birmingham City University will be showcasing the concept and design behind what they believe could prove to be the world’s first affordable hydrogen fuel-cell powered mass transport vehicle at Auto Expo Motor Show, in India.

Following the Indian government’s Hydrogen Highway initiative (which aims to ensure that there are at least 1m hydrogen-fuelled vehicles on the roads by 2020), this project has been in development since last summer. Possibly providing a primary mode of public transport in India in the future, the model and plans of a Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle will be showcased at the event. This joint project will produce a four-wheeled replacement for the popular auto-rickshaw vehicle, affectionately known as the Tuk-Tuk utility vehicle.

Producing zero exhaust emissions, the powertrain consists of a hydrogen fuel cell, an electric motor and a complex control system. The hydrogen is stored in a cluster of low pressure metal hydride cylinders, providing a safe means of fuelling the system. This hydrogen is retrieved by a thermal compressor which splits water into its component elements - hydrogen and oxygen - via solar energy. As well as powering an electric vehicle, these hydrogen storage cylinders can then be used to power equipment including mobile phones, computers and lighting in remote and developing areas or in a humanitarian disaster situation.

Parmjit Chima, Head of the School of Engineering, Design and Manufacturing Systems at Birmingham City University, comments: “With the current climate agenda of a low-carbon economy and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, the way vehicles are reliant on fossil fuels needs to change. With an abundance of sunshine in India, we have also been developing a 'Hydrogen Tree' concept with a simple and aesthetically elegant design which would be capable of charging multiple hydride stores to power not only vehicles but other appliances and devices too. This research into extracting and storing hydrogen is a real game-changer.”

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