At Swarthmore College, in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, engineering students Andres Pacheco and Alex Bell are getting in gear and putting their hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle through its paces. The two are using a Ballard PEM fuel cell stack with hydrogen stored in two metal hydride tanks.
The bonded hydrogen is released from the metal powder inside the tanks by using waste heat from the fuel cell, which extends the run time. The bulk of the motorcycle is a Buell cyclone that was retrieved from a scrap yard for this project.
According to Andres, “The aim of the whole project was just to make a functional hydrogen motorcycle with a 1.2kW PEM fuel cell and two metal-hydride containers. The motorcycle could then be used as a point of comparison to other technologies in terms of efficiency, range, speed, etc and confirm the viability of a hydrogen economy.
“As of right now we have the motorcycle working and expect (based on bench tests) a maximum of one hour of operation at full-throttle (worse case) and a max speed of maybe 30mph. However, we are working on fixing some issues with the data logging system and microcontroller that logs data into a USB drive so that we can then analyze all this data after the test rides. After fixing the data-logging we will probably try different gear ratios to get higher speeds or better torque.”
Now, one of my favorite subjects is talking about how the youth of today will be the hydrogen engineers of tomorrow. Andres and Alex are just on the edge of venturing into this marketplace.
Today at the Detroit International Auto Show, GM and SAE will be introducing the Fuel Cell Challenge to students in middle school. This will be part of SAE’s World in Motion program and encourage our youth to pursue careers in fuel cells and other alternative fuel technologies.