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News Suzuki Looks to a Fuel Cell Powered Motorcycle Future

Discussion in 'Motorcycling News' started by NetriderBot, Mar 2, 2016.

  1. Electric vehicles are all the rage at the moment and according to a new report from Bloomberg, electric cars will comprise 35% of all new vehicle sales by 2040. But around the turn of last century, the next big thing in transportation was supposed to fuel cell cars – or cars powered by simple hydrogen. Suzuki has just filed new patents showing they’re still keen on the idea.

    In a nutshell, a fuel cell vehicle uses electricity created by oxygen and compressed hydrogen to power an electric motor. The reason that hydrogen powered vehicles haven’t caught on is that like conventionally powered cars, they require refueling and the infrastructure required hasn’t been developed. Instead, fuel cell cars have been leapfrogged by electric charging stations on the road and at home.

    While fuel cells are a promising technology, they’re lagging behind battery technology where all the money and therefore development has gone. But that’s not to say it’s a dead-end and there are definite benefits to the idea of fuel cell equipped motorcycles.

    The latest patents from Suzuki show a scooter, similar in appearance to the Bergman and it discusses the options of both air cooled and water cooled fuel cells. This is by no means the first time Suzuki has shown an interest in the technology – way back in 2007 they unveiled the Crosscage – a futuristic looking hydrogen powered machine. Since then, they’ve filed numerous patents on fuel cell powered motorcycle and scooters showing the technology is available and capable – it’s just that the infrastructure is lagging well behind.

    It was expected that Suzuki may actually put a fuel cell powered scooter into production last year, although any such mass production of a hydrogen sipping motorcycle or scooter is realistically a while away yet – especially when electric cars and motorcycles are making such massive leaps in capability each year.


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  2. Seems to be some confusion in this article about the difference between a hydrogen powered internal combustion engine and a fuel cell.

    The former simply burns compressed hydrogen gas in the same way as LPG or petrol but with the only emissions being water vapour, so very clean. The main downsides are that the hydrogen is usually sourced from the electrolysis of water so it's quite energy intensive and if you're burning fossil fuels to power the process you're potentially no further forward in terms of emissions and hydrogen is a very small molecule which is difficult to contain, it tends to leak out pretty easily, which has fairly important safety implications. Google "Hindenburg disaster" and you'll get the picture.

    Fuel cells don't use combustion, they use oxidation and reduction reactions, usually in solution, to create electrical energy directly from the fuel, which can be hydrogen, but could be other fuels too, such as methanol. Fuel cells, not being based on combustion processes don't waste huge amounts of energy as heat, and mean that you can run an electric vehicle where you refuel it rather than recharge it eliminating the major inconvenience of recharge time from electric vehicles. Electric vehicles need to be able to deliver quite a lot of power quite quickly and there are engineering challenges to get a fuel cell small enough to do this in a motorcycle. They've been working on fuel cells in the space programme for some years, not usually for propulsion though. So if Suzuki are patenting a fuel cell based power plant for a bike that's pretty interesting.

    There has also been a recent development in lithium battery technology, which will allow lithium batteries to use standard metal electrodes instead of carbon, this makes a large difference to charging and discharging rates and may also mean that recharge times for battery operated vehicles ceases to be an issue in the uptake of electric vehicles in a few years time.
  3. I still don't see cheap and readily available hydrogen becoming available for quite some time, unless there are some big scientific breakthroughs. And then there are the safety concerns.

    In my imagination I had always assumed that the recharging time issue for electric would be resolved by the fast swapping of batteries at a plethora of stations around the countryside, in some ways similar to ordinary refuelling. Perhaps technicalities were a hurdle. It would have resolved the issues around redundancy of vehicle due to worn out OE battery, and provided the energy industry with an adjustable source of income to replace fossil fuels.
    Perhaps future battery technology will make it feasible.
  4. Yes absolutely agree with respect to the Hydrogen. As to the battery swap outs, I think getting the manufacturers to standardize on a battery format is the major hurdle. Plus it's actually a lot of weight and bulk to distribute around the country, particularly if you have to double up on multiple configurations. Fuel cells avoid that completely. The logistics for bulk transport and storage of liquid fuels are already in place.