It’s no secret that hydrogen car lovers and battery electric car enthusiasts rarely get along. There have been many heated debates about which type of vehicle the world needs going forward.
But, what if the answer were both and not, both separately, but both as in one vehicle. Now, it’s well-known that most hydrogen fuel cell cars are also hybrid electric vehicles as well, employing batteries to partially power the vehicles. The inverse is not true, however. Most battery electric cars do not use a fuel cell.
Well the engineers at GE Global Research want the best of both worlds encapsulated inside one vehicle, using multiple batteries and a fuel cell. The combination of a Durathon sodium battery, a set of lithium batteries and a fuel cell mean that GE buses can offer quick acceleration plus endurance. In addition, because of the powerful batteries, the size of the fuel cell can be reduced and overall costs cut by around 50-percent.
According to the press release, “Most types of batteries today come with a trade-off between power and energy storage. For example, lithium batteries, provide a lot of power for acceleration, but are not optimized to store energy for driving range. Sodium batteries, like GE’s Durathon™, are on the opposite side of the spectrum. They store large amounts of energy, but are less optimized for power. GE’s dual battery combines the best attributes of both chemistries into a single system. In the hybrid transit bus demonstration, the lithium battery focused on the high power acceleration and braking, while the Durathon™ battery provided an even electric power flow to extend the bus range.
“Many of the 846,000 buses registered in the U.S. (including most of the 63,000 transit buses and 480,000 school buses) travel less than 100 miles per day. Enabling more of these buses to transition to a fuel cell-battery, zero emissions platform would dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and petroleum fuel consumption.”
Equities.com has a little more information about the Durathon sodium battery, “GE’s next-generation Durathon battery, for example, contains 30 patents. The sodium battery can recharge 3,500 times over its 20-year lifetime, ten times more often than standard lead acid batteries. It is also non-toxic and fully recyclable. Ten new customers from Africa, Asia and the U.S. have placed Durathon orders valued at more than $63 million since its launch last summer.”
GE Global Research scientists may have just come up with an energy management system that will work in most zero emission vehicles. Combining hydrogen fuel cells with two different kinds of battery power may accelerate the industry tremendously. By lowering the cost of fuel cells while employing 3 different complementary sources of power in one vehicle, the pathway to commercialization is not very hard to imagine.
Here’s a short 1:53 video that speaks about this very topic on their high tech eco bus.