Electric bicycle gets 60-mile range with portable hydrogen fuel cell

October 6, 2010 by Lisa Zyga, Phys.org weblog
SiGNa Chemistry's range extender is shown on this Pedego® electric bicycle. Image credit: SiGNa and Pedego.

Claiming to have developed "the most energy dense power solution for electric bicycles," SiGNa Chemistry, Inc., is hoping to greatly improve not only electric bicycles, but many other electric applications. The New York City-based company has developed a cartridge containing sodium silicide, a stable metal powder. When the powder comes in contact with water (including polluted water, sea water, and urine), it instantly produces hydrogen, and the hydrogen is then converted into electricity. According to the company, one cartridge can power a bicycle for a range of up to 60 miles without pedaling.

Compared to advanced Li-ion batteries that have an energy density of about 65 Watt-hours per kilogram, SiGNa's cartridges have an energy density of more than 1,000 Watt-hours per kilogram. The cartridge produces up to 200 Watts of continuous power, and excess energy is stored in a Li-ion battery for climbing hills and energy-intensive acceleration.

SiGNa Chemistry demonstrated the "range extender" power system at the Interbike International Trade Expo in Las Vegas at the end of last month. Although the company used the system on a Pedego® electric , the system is compatible with most other models. Since the fuel cells weigh just 1.5 pounds and are reusable, cyclists can easily replace them on long rides if they have more than one, eliminating the need to stop and recharge.

The hydrogen system is also safe, as the hydrogen is produced at just 50% of the pressure of a soda can. The system's only emission is water vapor, and sodium silicate, an environmentally safe byproduct of sodium silicide, is fully contained in the cartridge.

According to SiGNa President and CEO Michael Lefenfeld, the company plans to take this technology beyond bicycles to serve as a primary or back-up power source for other transportation applications. Other applications include generators, lawn mowers, golf carts, consumer electronics, and any electric application that uses 1 W to 1 kW of power.

SiGNa is currently taking pre-orders for the cartridges (no price listed), and plans to have the product commercially available next summer.

Explore further: Sanyo rolls electric bicycles into US market

More information: via: Wired

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not rated yet Oct 06, 2010
Okay, so are fuel cells going to happen or not? I keep hearing that they are, then they are not, back and forth. I've also heard that the main problem is storing hydrogen effectively and safely. But apparently, they have a great way to do it. So is this the final word on the subject? If so, strap a couple of these on the Xos2 Exoskeleton.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2010
$90/kg isn't what I'd call inexpensive.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2010
Advanced lithium-ion cells have densities up to 250 Wh/kg.

And the energy density of the hydrogen cartridge is diminished by the fact that the fuel-cell/battery hydrid system wastes over half of the energy.

So instead of delivering over 15 times the energy like the article suggests, the hydrogen cartridge may deliver only about twice as much energy as state of the art lithium batteries, and about 2/3 of the continuous power.

And frankly, how do you recharge the cartridge at home? I imagine reducing the metal back to its original state would require some really high temperatures in a vacuum chamber of sorts, or molten salt electrolysis.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2010
what about the speed?? worthless if it's under 30km/h which would be an average speed for a biker.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2010
The durability of the power source will make defense contractors one of the interested customers.

If DOD contractors purchase the intellectual property, or invest enough product development to receive new patents, the technology can be classified and removed from the public domain entirely.
not rated yet Oct 07, 2010
I believe some pit in this technology, sodium silicide is not a new concept
not rated yet Oct 08, 2010
Cooling this might present problems if you did not add another cannister for refrigeration.
The entire idea of speed seems to be related to the present grid.
It fails to account for uses outside the freeway like mining,farming,grocery shopping at a local store,school buses,campuses,factory floors.
In short these obstacles are created by adherence to speed and some arbitrary commuting distance in NY,LA,Chicago,Mombai,Italy,or Paris.

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