The students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario Canada are not making their last stand but their first in developing a hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrid vehicle that one day may be commercialized. Now, a couple of the major automakers have already come up with such a vehicle such as the Ford HySeries Edge and the Chevy Volt Hydrogen.
But, at the university level building a plug-in hybrid fuel cell vehicle is a bit of a novelty as it is more complex than one would imagine. The University of Waterloo team has some experience with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles building one a few years earlier for the Challenge X competition.
Now into the third year of the EcoCar Challenge the students and faculty have turned a Saturn Vue into not only a hybrid, but a plug-in hybrid that also runs on hydrogen fuel cell.
According to team captain Michael Giannikouris the challenge is, “You have the fuel cell which operates at a certain voltage, and the battery at a different voltage. If we just took a big cable and hooked it from the fuel cell to the battery to the motor and turned it on, our fuel cell would charge our battery uncontrollably, because the voltage is too high. We use a D/C to D/C power converter. They’re new and there’s little available commercially, so we decided to build our own. It’s been unbelievably difficult, but we have a few people who are very good at this.”
The University of Waterloo may not win the EcoCar battle, but the “War on Oil” is on and university students everywhere will be an important part of this “Decade of Rage” against the fossil fuel industry which is holding us hostage with high gasoline prices. We want our energy independence now and the University of Waterloo is helping us take one small step towards this goal.