Lately, we at Treehugger have reported some negative things about the potential future of fuel cell cars. While I don't personally feel that fuel cells would be best used in cars and am more of a proponent of developing battery technology so that we can have electric-only cars (or plug-in hybrids with the gasoline engine kicking in only during emergencies and long trips), I feel that the recent developments in fuel cell technology are exciting.
So here's an update made up from announcements from the past few months. It gives a good idea of how far along some of the companies working on fuel cell vehicles are:
- Nissan has designed its first in-house fuel cell stack and hydrogen storage system. "Nissan's new stack can be reduced in volume to approximately 60% of the previous stack while providing the same level of power." It has not been announced yet what are the exact real-world specs of the new fuel cell, but the 2003 X-Trail powered by a fuel cell has a top speed of 145kph (90mph) and an operational range of 350 km (218 miles) and it has got to be more than that.
- Ballard Power Systems announced (Febuary 2005): "significant progress in three areas crucial to the commercialization of automotive fuel cell stack technology– freeze start capability, durability and cost reduction – without compromising performance. Ballard scientists and engineers have demonstrated a stack design that can start repeatedly from -20 ° C (-4ºF) and operate for more than 2,000 hours at a substantially reduced cost with no performance tradeoff." Green Car Congress has an excellent summary of the "hat trick" and some explanations on Ballard's roadmap.
- DaimlerChrysler announced (March 2005) about their new B-class fuel cell vehicle: "the high-torque electric motor will develop more than 100 kW; this amounts to 35 kW more than the power unit of the predecessor generation [...] Thanks to a reduction in fuel consumption and a further enhanced storage capacity, the operating range has now been increased to almost 400 km (250 miles). The components' reliability and longevity have also been further improved."
- Toyota recently announced (May 16, 2005) a breakthrough in hydrogen storage: "The new Toyota high-pressure hydrogen tanks employ an anti-leak liner made of high-strength nylon resin with superior hydrogen permeation-prevention performance. The tanks also feature an all-composite structure concealed by a carbon fiber exterior, making them light and extremely strong [...] the 70MPa tank, also designed and sized for the TOYOTA FCHV, can store approximately 1.7 times more hydrogen than the previous 35MPa tank, resulting in a cruising range of more than 500km [310 miles]"
Thanks to ::Green Car Congress and ::Fuel Cell Works for being such great sources of news on fuel cells and for most of these links.
Fuel Cell Update
Lately, we at Treehugger have reported some negative things about the potential future of fuel cell cars. While I don't personally feel that fuel cells would be best used in cars and am more of a proponent of developing battery technology so that we can