Germany Researchers Power Vehicle with Direct Methanol Fuel Cell

1.3 kilowatts DMFC stack and lithium-ion batteries part of hybrid system used to propel the vehicle, which will be displayed at the Fuel Cell Forum in San Antonia, Texas in early November...

Published: 06-Oct-2004

This nippy little four-wheel vehicle has an interesting inner life: and that is meant quite literally! Scientists from Research Centre Jülich have equipped a commercial electric vehicle with a fuel cell that drives the conveyance via an electric motor. The chief attraction: the fuel cell used is a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC), which – in contrast to many other types of fuel cell – does not use gaseous hydrogen, but rather converts liquid methanol into electricity. The advantage is quite obvious - liquid methanol is easier to handle and store than gaseous hydrogen; you can fill up the vehicle in the normal manner.

"The grand challenge consisted in designing the overall system comprising the fuel cell and all the components necessary for operation in such a way that it fitted in a vehicle. The vehicle itself should not have any major external modifications – and this is exactly what we have done", Professor Detlef Stolten, head of the Institute for Energy Process Engineering (IWV-3) describes his team's achievements. "This engineering is an indispensable part of modern fuel cell research."

Getting the electromobile with a fuel cell drive system on the road was only possible through a real team effort by several working groups within IWV-3 and the Central Technology Division (ZAT). Instead of three conventional lead-acid batteries, as installed by the manufacturer, the vehicle is now powered by a hybrid drive consisting of a fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery. In normal operation, the fuel cell drives the vehicle's electric motor. The battery is called upon in cases of special load such as when starting or driving uphill. The fuel cell then continuously recharges the battery. With a full tank, the vehicle has about twice as great a range amounting to an estimated 120 kilometres and, moreover, there is no need to "fill it up" at an electric socket. The vehicle is ready for use at any time.

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