Cycling Industry News reports:
The German Aerospace Center is currently developing a “fuel cell range extender” that can completely substitute the battery of an electric bike. In development at present, the prototype “makes sense for applications requiring 2 – 5 kWh”. Björn Offermann says “The FCREX is designed as module that fits in different frame concepts of cargo bikes and can substitute the battery. Batteries are quite a good solution for the range of between 0,5 and 1,5kWh, but this cell offers a greater level of power. There are none of the issues found with batteries, such as short life cycles and issues with low temperatures. All things considered, this is a great solution for commercial transport.”
The Centre is now looking for partners to:
- test the prototypes
- manufacture in large quantities
They are confident that the fuel cells can be supplied at an economic price:
“Tom Assmann from the University of Magdeburg did the math and calculated the total costs of ownership depending from the required amount of energy in comparison to batteries. He assumed economies of scale of a production of 1,000 FCREX. The result shows, that from an economic perspective our fuel cell technology compares favorable against batteries from 2kWh onwards. This is the outlook if our technology comes into broad application.”
One of the main advantages of fuel cells is their rapid charging time:, just two to five minutes.
The biggest hurdle for wide adoption is the supply of hydrogen, the fuel the cells need:
“We have to deal with the insufficient hydrogen infrastructure that was a veritable showstopper in the past,” explains Offermann. “We are still not counting on enough hydrogen stations coming up in the near future. Currently, there are interesting alternative developments. We are in exchange with Airbus and Linde who have developed a small, efficient and payable electrolyser with compressor that can produce and provide enough hydrogen for a fleet of cargo bikes.
“Alternatively, Dr. Marcus Tegel from the Fraunhofer IFAM institute has developed a paste – PowerPaste – that reacts with water to hydrogen and provides a very high energy density. We plan validation projects with both technologies next year. Thus, together with our partners we can provide a holistic concept that enables cargo bikes to deliver a much more efficient logistic chain. Energy is now longer the limiting factor.”