Pragma Triples Kilometers on Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Bikes

Dean Sigler Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Six years ago, we ran a story on hydrogen fuel-cell powered bikes that could travel limited distances, and used canisters of fresh hydrogen to quickly replenish the bike’s energy.   Pragma Industries has introduced a much-improved version of that bike, with range up to 150 kilometers (93 miles).  A pedelec (the motor kicks in when the cyclist pedals), the bike has a unique look and a compact propulsion system.   The system consists of a Brose 36 Volt motor, a 150 Watt PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell, and 150 Watt-hours of lithium-ion batteries in the bike’s down tube.  Pragma has a large amount of material on its technologies, including a helpful explanation of fuel cells and their operation, and a …

UMass Lowell Puts Hydrogen in a Canister

Dean Sigler Hydrogen Fuel, Sky Taxis, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

One problem with recharging electric vehicles is finding a charging station on the road.  Electric vehicle makers provide GPS clues on their moving map displays, and electric pilots will doubtless have markers for fields with appropriate facilities for our future E-flyers.  Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell may have done an end run around that problem, though. Their “new technology uses water, carbon dioxide and the metal cobalt to produce hydrogen gas on demand at a relatively low temperature and pressure.”  The hydrogen produced goes directly to a fuel cell which generates electricity and powers the EV’s motor, rechargeable battery and headlights.  When the canister that contains the H2 is empty, the driver can swap it with a …

Little Green Beads to Power Your UAV or Ultralight

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

January 19 marked the first flight by a Raptor UAS drone using pelletized hydrogen to power a fuel cell that generates electricity and makes the propeller turn. Energy Pellets Cella Energy, a Scottish-based enterprise, is now producing small quantities of their little green beads (just in time for Mardi Gras), filled with solid-state hydrogen.   Claimed to have “two or three times” the energy per weight of the best of lithium-ion batteries, Cella’s pellets are designed to enable low-pressure transportation of hydrogen in a form that allows fueling to take place with a bit of magic sleight of hand.  Looking like miniature green dumplings, Cella’s mix of plastic and encapsulated hydrogen has the advantage of using existing infrastructure, “with minimal alterations.”  Think …

Turbocharged Fuel Cells

Dean Sigler Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

The Engineer, a British publication, reports on a turbocharger for fuel cells.  Because a fuel cell is a cross between a combustion engine and an electric motor, the concept of pushing extra air through the fuel cell to increase power is similar to that of turbocharging a regular two- or four-stroke engine.  The publication says this could double the output of a hydrogen fuel cell. Like other combustion engines, a fuel cell can be limited by the airflow entering, that supply limiting their ability to release positively-charged hydrogen ions. Bryn Richards, CEO of Aeristech, explains, “Our proprietary high speed motor and control technology allows us to deliver air at a much higher pressure [than existing systems].  No other motor control …

Hydrogen: Are We There Yet?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Probably not, but we are edging closer to when H2-powered vehicles (including small aircraft) might be as ubiquitous as Prius’s or Leafs – but there are significant barriers to overcome. Fuel cell-powered aircraft might make sense eventually from a physical and economic sense, and while new technologies show promise for EV use, hydrogen power still has barriers to overcome before we’re able to exploit the environmental benefits of hydrogen power.  The appeal of a fuel cell to burn hydrogen and leave behind only a light mist of water still dazzles, but teasingly eludes us, not so much from a technical standpoint – but from environmental and economic ones. Two Most Practical Fuel Cells for Transportation Fuel cells come in many …

Raising Cane at the Battery Works

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

What if a battery could be made with higher energy and power densities than those currently available, while exploiting a natural material that’s both abundant, recyclable and inexpensive?  Last year, the blog reported on Y. H. Percival Zhang’s work with xylose, a sugar found in most plants, to make hydrogen that could be used in fuel cells. Dr. Zhang, with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and biotechnology from Dartmouth University, draws on his unique pair of specialties to inspire his forays into developing novel ways of extracting energy from natural sources. His latest effort is a battery that runs on maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from the partial hydrolysis of starch.  That starch can be derived from almost any type of …

Going After New Records and New Adventures

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, GFC, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Already holder of all the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) world records for light electric aircraft, Jean-Luc Soullier of AeroSkyLux has announced his latest endeavor, the Etlantic Project.  Since he achieved these records in a microlight MC-30 with a Lynch-type Electravia motor, he has searched for a higher-performance airplane and power system. SUB-CLASS TYPE OF RECORD PERFORMANCE DATE CLAIMANT STATUS ID RAL1E Speed over a straight course 189.87 km/h 2012-09-29 Jean Luc Soullier (BEL) ratified – current record 16638 RAL1E Altitude 2366 m 2012-02-27 Jean Luc Soullier (BEL) ratified – current record 16497 RAL1E Distance over a closed circuit without landing 50.13 km 2012-02-27 Jean Luc Soullier (BEL) ratified – current record 16496 RAL1E Speed over a closed circuit of 50 km 136.4 …

Cheap and Dirty Fuel Cells – Good News for Hydrogen

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Hydrogen fuel cells would be just about the most wonderful power producers in the world if they weren’t so expensive and so finicky about their diet of hydrogen.  Their catalysts, usually made of costly platinum, can be destroyed by impurities in the gas.  Making high-purity hydrogen is an exacting task and adds to the expense of operation. Two studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory; one in conjunction with researchers at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), show that it may be commercially possible to make less expensive catalysts with available materials, and in one case, use “dirty” hydrogen that would otherwise destroy fuel …

Swapping Rather Than Recharging

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

With Tesla now promising 90-second battery swaps, a “recharging” tactic first tried by Shai Agassi’s A Better Place, an Israeli company now in bankruptcy, the long recharging period for electric vehicles may be overcome.  Car companies, though, are not the only entities looking for ways to get unplugged. Presented at the 20th Congress of the “Club des Villes et Territoires Cyclables” in Nice, the Alter Bike is a collaboration of three French companies: Cycleurope, a specialist in bicycles;  Pragma Industries, a specialist in hydrogen; and Ventec, a specialist in battery management. They tout the advantages of this different approach to electrifying two-wheelers – an approach that seems to have applications even in electric flight. “No more charging time, no need …

Ion Tiger Exceeds 48 Hours in Flight

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory flew their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger UAV for 48 hours and 1 minute on April 16-18 by using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new, NRL-developed, cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system. This flight shatters their previous record of 26 hours and 2 minutes set in 2012 using the same vehicle, but with gaseous hydrogen stored at 5000 psi.  The airplane had flown 23 hours, 17 minutes in 2009. The 550 Watt (0.75 horsepower) fuel cell onboard the Ion Tiger has about four times the efficiency of a comparable internal combustion engine and the system provides seven times the energy in the equivalent weight of batteries.  The Ion Tiger weighs approximately 37 …