LONDON (Reuters) - A new hydrogen-powered fuel cell hybrid electric scooter will enable city commuting ease without harming the environment, the chief executive Intelligent Energy (IE) said at the bike’s launch in London.
The Suzuki Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter, made by clean power systems company IE and Suzuki Motor Corp., will be tested in Loughborough from this month, with further road tests planned for London later this year.
“We see a market pull for more energy-efficient products and there is a real drive to bring hydrogen vehicles to market en masse by 2015,” Henri Winand, IE’s chief executive, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
Motorcycle manufacturers face a clampdown on air pollution and climate-warming emissions in the European Union, and the industry says it is ready for pan-European rules.
Climate officials of the 27-country bloc have put transport emissions at the top of their agenda for 2010 as the EU pursues its goal of cutting carbon dioxide to a fifth below 1990 levels over the next decade.
Hydrogen has long been touted as an alternative energy source to carbon-hungry fossil fuels but one of the biggest obstacles to wider adoption of fuel-cell vehicles is the lack of hydrogen fuelling stations.
The Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter is fueled by a cylinder of hydrogen, which reacts with oxygen to produce electricity and water. A lithium-ion battery and fuel cell provide the vehicle’s power and the only gas emitted through the exhaust is water vapor.
Unlike other fuel cell vehicles, the battery does not need recharging. It can recharge itself when accelerating or decelerating and continues to produce power as long as it has hydrogen and oxygen.
The bike can go up to 220 miles — comparable to a conventional Burgman scooter — without the need for refueling. This then takes less than five minutes at a hydrogen fuelling station, the companies said.
The London Hydrogen Partnership (LHP) aims to have six or more such stations running by 2012 which will be enough to fuel fleets until then, Winand said.
However, he would expect more refueling stations to be deployed by 2015, to coincide with mass production of the Burgman scooter and other hydrogen vehicles.
“There is a growing consensus among governments, utilities, auto manufacturers and oil and gas companies that hybrid vehicles will be in use by 2015,” he said.
IE is also involved in the manufacture of hydrogen-fueled taxis for London. The LHP hopes to have 50 on the roads by 2012, and will start trialing five hydrogen buses from next month in East London.
Hydrogen is in abundant supply and the scooter only requires a few hundred grams to go 350 km, keeping the fuel cost comparable to no more than petrol today, Winand said.
“Every year there is about 50 million tonnes of hydrogen going around and nobody notices. If we utilize a few hundred grams per 350 km you don’t need any heavy infrastructure. An awful lot of industries produce hydrogen which they don’t do anything with,” he said.
IE raised $30 million of financing in July last year which is sufficient for its current plans, though the company hopes to issue an initial pubic offering at an undisclosed time, Winand added.