Smart Fuel Cell Car Only Mildly Innovative

By reading the Smart Fuel Cell (SFC) press release one would think that its hydrogen fuel cell range extender for a battery electric vehicle plus combined heat and power (CHP) technology is earth shattering news. But, it’s only mildly newsworthy and I’ll tell you why.

SFC has joined forces with EFOY Pro fuel cells to create a full hybrid car that uses a fuel cell as a range extender and to supply heat to start the batteries when the vehicle is in cooler climates.

According to Dr. Peter Podesser, CEO of SFC, “This concept represents a quantum leap for battery vehicles. In winter, powering vehicles by batteries alone has not been a convincing solution for many users: the performance of a cold battery is insufficient, while at the same time power demand is dramatically increased by heating requirements. We offer a worthwhile solution to this problem by intelligently combining battery and fuel cell in a hybrid system. In addition, we enable fully automatic recharging independent of the power grid, thus freeing the customer from the ever present fear of not finding a power outlet when needed.”

Is this a breakthrough? Most hydrogen fuel cell cars today are also hybrid electric vehicles as well. In 2006, the Peugeot ePure was unveiled that is a hydrogen hybrid vehicle that uses its fuel cell to charge the batteries which supply energy to the electric motor. In today’s world we could call this a battery electric car with a fuel cell range extender.

In February 2010 I had talked about Proton Power Systems and Smith Electric Vehicles developing an “electric car with fuel cell range extender”. It seems like since the public sentiment has swung towards battery electric cars for the moment that manufacturers are emphasizing the battery part and de-emphasizing the hydrogen fuel cell part.

The only byproducts of a hydrogen fuel cell are a little bit of steam and heat. Some of the heat comes out of the tailpipe with the steam and in some vehicles some of the heat is rerouted to help the fuel cell start in cold weather. In some FCVs some of the steam is also used to add moisture to the fuel cell.

In SFC’s fuel cell hybrid vehicle, some of the heat from the fuel cell is used to warm the battery pack. This so-called CHP technology may at most be called a minor innovation. Don’t get me wrong. Any new hydrogen car is welcomed. But, when you overhype a technology is just takes away from others that are truly innovative and ground-breaking.


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