Swarthmore College Students Build Hydrogen-Powered Motorcycle

hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle photo
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Hydrogen Fuel Cell Motorcycle
Alex Bell (right on the photo) and Andres Pacheco (left) are studying engineering at Swarthmore college. They've worked worked very hard on an ambitious project: "Our goal was to design and build a hydrogen fuel cell powered motorcycle to test the efficiencies of hydrogen fuel cell, internal combustion, and battery propulsion."

They've succeeded, with videos (below) to prove it. Read on for more details.

hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle photo

Technical Details

The motorcycle is built around the chassis of a Buell cyclone which was purchased at a salvage yard. In the original internal combustion form the engine served as a structural member. Therefore when the motor was removed a piece was designed to provide the structural support needed for the swingarm, frame, motor, and rear shock connection.

The fuel cell is made by Ballard. It is a Polymer Exchange Membrane (PEM) stack that can generate 1.2 kw (1.6HP) and the electric motor is a 1.2kw AC 6-pole induction motor built by CFR Italy (so they won't be drag racing this thing).

hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle photo

The pure hydrogen is stored in two Ergenics metal hydride cylinders. The metal hydride cylinders each hold 900 std. liters of hydrogen. Unlike compressed hydrogen storage the metal hydride cylinders store hydrogen by taking advantage of a chemical reaction involving the loose hydrogen bonding of gas and certain materials. The inside of the cylinders are filled with a metal powder consisting of Lathnium, Nickel, and Aluminum. The metal reacts with hydrogen to form a hydride thereby storing large amounts of hydrogen at low pressure in a small volume. However to release the hydrogen requires energy in the form of heat.

CleanTechnica reports: "Bell and Pacheco estimate that the motorcycle has an average efficiency of 50%. After averaging in losses in propulsion, total vehicle efficiency is expected to be 46%."

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Motorcycle Videos
Below are videos of their first test run (they were still working on fixing the power limiting software problem in the motor controller, so the motorcycle couldn't run at full power):

Great work guys, but don't forget to wear a helmet!

If you want to contact them, their email is at the bottom of this page.

Via Swarthmore, CleanTechnica
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