Suzuki Motor Corp’s Burgman model based Fuel Cell Scooter is the world’s first fuel-cell electric vehicle to earn Whole Vehicle Type Approval (WVTA) in the EU. With the WVTA it’s possible to sell a vehicle in all of the member nations of the European Union. The WVTA allows an end run from an expensive certification of gathering one from each member nation of the EU. No four-wheeled vehicle has yet earned a WVTA.
With the WVTA in hand Suzuki is collaborating with UK-based Intelligent Energy Ltd, in the field test that is for fuel-cell electric vehicles and organized by Technology Strategy Board (TSB), a UK government organization that promotes technological development started in February of 2010.
The TSB’s job is promoting technological development through innovations, new products, new services, etc by providing financial aids for industrial development. The field test is being conducted in an area around Loughborough University, which is located in the central area of the UK.
Suzuki is testing three units of the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter in the Loughborough area. So far Suzuki has obtained a Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) for each vehicle to conduct a field test. But, this time the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter became the world’s first fuel-cell-powered vehicle to earn a WVTA.
The Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter is a fuel-cell electric vehicle based on the Burgman 125 gasoline model, which is designed for driving in urban areas. The fuel cell version does not have the engine, CVT (continuously variable transmission), gasoline tank, etc of the Burgman 125 but has a hydrogen tank, fuel cell unit, and rechargeable battery and so forth, instead. The weight of the Burgman Fuel Cell Scooter is 170kg, (375 lbs) which is 10kg (22 lbs) heavier than the gasoline-powered Burgman 125.
The Burman scooter is pretty good size at 2,055mm (81”) long x 725mm (28”) wide x 1,240mm (49”) high. It is equipped with a 0.5kW lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery. The drive range of the scooter is 350km (217 miles) when it travels at a speed of 30km/h, (18.6 mph) and its maximum speed is 63km/h (39.1 mph). It’s not a speed demon, but in metro areas and the EU in particular these speeds are quite adequate.
The fuel cell is an air-cooled polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) manufactured by Intelligent Energy. Air is sent to the air electrode in at rates several times more than needed for reaction, and then it is ejected from the exhaust manifold. That makes it an air-cooled fuel cell because the extra air goes out with the heat. Usually fuel-cell electric vehicles are cooled by water and equipped with many parts such as a water jacket, water pump and radiator adding weight, cost, complexity, and maintenance.
The downside is the output density (per cell) of air-cooled fuel cells is lower than that of water-cooled types. The air-cooled fuel cell of the scooter is smaller and lighter than a water-cooled fuel cell when auxiliaries are included saving volume, weight costs and maintenance. This looks to be the wiser choice.
The fuel cell unit uses 112 cells and can generate a power of 1.6kW. Its thermal efficiency is only 50% because of the lower heating value basis. Its noise is 62dB(A) or less. Its dimensions are 170 x 468 x 167mm (6.7 x 18.4 x 6.6 inches). It only weights about 10kg (22 lbs), and it is located at a relatively high position under the seat.
The hydrogen tank is rated to a pressure of 70MPa and can be filled within a few minutes. It is a cylindrical tank with a circular cross section and located at the lowest position of the scooter and between two frames. The cylinder liner is made of epoxy resin and reinforced by wrapping carbon fibers around it.
The hydrogen pressure is lowered to 0.14MPa when it is supplied to the fuel cell unit. The manifold exists only at the entrance, and it reaches a dead end at the air electrode. Curiously, when extra gas comes in, its valve sometimes opens to purge the gas. When this case is applied the utilization ratio of hydrogen jumps to 98%. Cooling a fuel cell has a price.
Getting the power to the road seems quite simple with a synchronous motor on the left side of a wheel. The axis of the motor is located in front of the scooter’s shaft for a single reduction. The photo shows just how simple the design is.
It’s quite an engineering feat. Getting the first WVTA must be a chest burster. There is considerable market to exploit in dense metropolitan areas. The performance might not light up an American, but in the more populated areas this will sell if the price and hydrogen supply are low and easily available.
Suzuki has always seemed in the past to be just a half step back from the top Japanese manufacturers. With the past days geology news, the impacts, losses of life, difficulties and recovery to come a little feeling great, pride of accomplishment and hope is welcome.
This writer is watching, compassion saturated, best wishes sent. The future for Japan is bright, getting past the hardships of nature are one more challenge that the people of Japan can handle. The losses are investments for a better future.