How would you like to race a go-kart without polluting? A Dutch
company is moving in that direction by building and racing hydrogen-fuel-cell
go-karts. FormulaZero BV, Amsterdam, plans to establish the "ultimate
zero-emission race" class to develop the technology and demonstrate
it to the public.
With numerous partners and suppliers, the company has developed
the Formula Zero fuel-cell kart. The Mark 2 is designed for powerful
acceleration with unprecedented power density for a hydrogen-fuel-cell
vehicle. Maximum boosting power of 700 kW (for 8 sec) comes courtesy
of the 8-kW Hydrogenics HyPM7 fuel cell and Boostcap modules.
A 5-liter cryogenic tank of liquid hydrogen provides 8 min of
clean, powerful racing. The Mark 2 can hit 100 km/hr (over 60
mph) in under 8 sec, making it the world's fastestaccelerating
fuelcell vehicle, the company claims.
Demonstrations in which a driver races against the clock give
the public a firsthand experience of fuel-cell racing and hydrogen
refueling. There are even plans for a Formula Zero World Championship.
Interested parties can order a factorybuilt kart or build their
own, in compliance with FIA (Formula One) regulations.
These regulations stipulate that karts must be single-seated
and hydrogen-fuel-cell powered. Any technology based on hydrogen
and fuel cells is acceptable. The oxygen must be extracted from
the air and the only allowable emission is water.
Every vehicle receives the same amount of hydrogen at the start
of the race. Hybrid propulsion is allowed but any batteries or
ultracapacitors must be empty at the start. Races comprise a minimum
of eight laps run within 8 min. Strict safety regulations covering
the use of cartridges, maximum voltages, maximum currents, and
so forth, apply.
The karts measure 2.2 X 1.45 X 0.7 m. Electric motors provide
instant torque, accelerating the karts faster than internalcombustion
engines. And because they're quieter, drivers can hear how the
tires are gripping the road. Of course, there's no shifting, either.
Regenerative braking makes the electric motor a dynamo.
Instead of losing all the kinetic energy created by applying
the disc brakes, the energy is stored in the ultracapacitors and
released when needed. According to Formula Zero spokesperson Eiso
Vaandrager, this adds an additional competitive element: The driver
who brakes better than his opponent has extra power at his disposal.
(A boostbar, like those in computer games, shows the driver how
much power is left.)
To reach a large number of people, the company is building a
600-meter (0.37 mile) mobile racetrack that can be set up at large
public venues. The purpose, the company says, is to "create breakthrough
innovation by harnessing the force of the market to stimulate
demand for clean vehicles." There are no plans for any kind of
An on-location demonstration costs 10,000 ¤ (12,500 USD), while
15,000 ¤ (18,800 USD) buys an on-location demonstration race.
But if it's your own Mark 2 kart you're after, 250,000 ¤ (313,000
USD) will put you behind the wheel. To date, only one Mark 2 kart
has been built. But Formula Zero hopes to have at least five top-quality
teams confirmed for the 2008-09 Series.
Look for the company to set a fuel-cell vehicle-acceleration
record in Rotterdam on Aug. 20th by going from 0 to 100 km/hr
in under 8 sec. To date, safety considerations have prevented
the kart from exceeding 100 km/hr.
The fastest acceleration has been 0 to 68 km/hr in 3.2 sec with
a top speed of 93 km/hr. Formula Zero expects to shatter the fuel-cell-vehicle
record of 10 sec from 0-to-100-km/hr held by the Honda FCX-4.
A Dutch company hopes that taking its fuel-cell-powered gokart
(Mark 2) on the road will stimulate interest in zeroemission
The Mark 2 gokart hits 60 mph in under 8 sec.
The H2 is a plug-and-play storage concept for medium-size
mobile fuel-cell applications. It consists of a sophisticated
reducer and module mounted on a composite pressure cylinder.
Click and Go, a quick-disconnect system, from Bradford Instruments
BV, Heerle, The Netherlands, simplifies cartridge removal and
refilling. Besides the automotive sector, home generators and
small transportation systems are promising markets for fuel-cell
applications. Mobile power generators and short-range vehicles
such as gokarts, scooters, and forklift trucks may apply the
WHY FUEL CELLS?
Instead of burning it, a fuel cell chemically divides the fuel, creating
an electrical current that powers an electric motor. There are two ways
of producing hydrogen in a sustainable way and without-producing emissions:
biomass and electrolysis with sustainable energy sources. In these go-karts,
hydrogen is converted into electricity and no harmful emissions are
released. The Mark 2 is more efficient than a conventional combustion
engine, even one that runs on hydrogen.
A fuel cell splits hydrogen (H) into protons and electrons. The protons
can pass through a membrane that the electrons cannot. The electrons
will pass as electricity from the negative side of the membrane through
the engine and enter the fuel cell again on the positive side of the
membrane. Here they facilitate the reaction of oxygen (O) with the protons
Formula Zero is betting on hydrogen for several reasons. First, hydrogen
can be made from various sources including oil, gas, biomass, direct
conversion from light, electrolysis, heat, and so forth. Hydrogen can
also be stored and easily transported over great distances. For example,
if Dubai were to start producing cheap hydrogen, it could ship the material
all over the world in tankers. That way, says Vaandrager, Dubai could
remain an energy supplier to the world. What's more, fuel cells are
scalable and will be inexpensive to produce, he claims.
The ultimate goal, however, is to develop the technology to power a
full-sized vehicle. The cost, says Vaandrager, will be about 30 million
¤ (37.6 million USD) and six years of development time. By 2015, Formula
Zero hopes to have developed a 350-kW fuel-cell-stack-powered race car
performing about as well as current Formula 1 cars.
Hydrogen joins the Shell game
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development predicts that
6% of the cars in the U.S. will be hydrogen powered by 2020. By 2050,
the number could approach 100%. To this end, Shell Hydrogen B.V., in
partnership with Connexxion Holding N.V. and MAN Truck & Bus
Co. N.V., is developing the world's largest hydrogen-fueled public-transport
operation, in Rotterdam. The largest hydrogen bus fleet in a single
region should be operational before the end of the decade.
Connexxion, a Dutch public transport company, will operate more than
20 hydrogen/internal-combustion-engine buses under the proposal. The
buses will be fueled from a combined gasoline-hydrogen service station,
the first in the Netherlands. The station should be built and the buses
operational by 2009.
The five-year project will evaluate public reaction as well as the
reliability and economics of using hydrogen to fuel public transport
in major urban areas. It will also help establish technical standards
for operating hydrogen-fuel outlets. The Rotterdam project follows a
successful three-year trial in Amsterdam, where Shell Hydrogen and its
partners worked on infrastructure and operated three fuel-cell hydrogen
buses. Rotterdam already has a welldeveloped hydrogen infrastructure
for industrial applications.
The plan is intended as a platform for transition to hydrogen transport
fuel. The gasoline-hydrogen retail station is intended to show Shell's
commitment to providing sustainable energy. "We will showcase hydrogen
as a reliable, safe and sustainable fuel which lowers air pollution
and strengthens economic growth," explains Rein Willems, Country Chairman,
Shell, in the Netherlands.
Fuel cells in space
Every U.S. manned space mission during the past four decades has used
fuel-cell power plants built by a division of UTC Power, a United
Technologies Corp. company. The Space Shuttle fuel cells — there
are three per orbiter — have accumulated more than 91,000 hr of flight
Shuttle fuel cells not only produce electricity, they also produce
drinking water for the astronauts. Each alkaline fuel cell produces
up to 12 kW and is more than 70% efficient, two to three times better
than a typical combustion engine. Cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen feed
each of the self-contained units, which are installed under the payload
bay, aft of the crew compartment.
Bradford Instruments BV, bradfordinstruments.com
Formula Zero BV, formulazero.nl