I’ve seen hydrogen fuel cells being tested as range-extenders and as full-blown propulsion systems, but I kind of like this setup, as an energy recovery device, improving the fuel economy of a motorcycle.
Granted, motorcycles are already some of the best vehicles, only two-wheels granted, but they still suffer from the exact same inefficiencies that every ICE-powered vehicle does. In spite of the fact that motorcycle fuel economy can be upwards of 100mpg, their ICEs are still somewhere around 25% efficient. In order to improve fuel economy, automobile manufacturers have turned to lightweght materials, hybrid electric powertrains, and improved engine design but, since motorcycles are already lightweight and electrically simple, there’s not a whole lot of room to improve in these areas.
Instead of resorting to electric powertrains, such as in ZERO Motorcycles, Atsumitech Company, in Japan, looked to energy recovery systems. Atsumitech’s unconventional approach mates a thermoelectric device and a solid oxide fuel cell, through which passes the hot exhaust gases from the motorcycle’s ICE. The motorcycle, which was shown at Innovation Japan 2013, was equipped with some 300 Synergy Cells, so-called for the combination of thermoelectric element and hydrogen fuel cell, and generates up to 200W of electricity, which is fed back into the motorcycle’s electrical system, maintaining battery charge and reducing the load on the alternator, resulting in up to 3% fuel economy improvement.
What’s most interesting is the fact that the hydrogen fuel cell portion of Atsumitech’s Synergy Cell doesn’t use any external source of hydrogen, that is, a tank or bin of hydrogen-rich fuel, but the remaining hydrocarbons in the exhaust stream. Additionally, the high exhaust temperature, as high as 650°C, is in the right operating-temperature range to activate and run the cell. Could a similar device improve fuel mileage on conventional vehicles?
Image © HydrogenCarsNow