In August, a new type of car will be seen cruising along Danish roads. The curious name of the two seater vehicle, Hywet, gives an initial clue as to the fuel it uses - Hydrogen. The Hywet vehicle is in fact a further development of a Danish electric car called Kewet, which is manufactured in Norway and has achieved something approaching cult status among the eco-conscious.
The new hydrogen powered car is the outcome of a public-private sector collaboration between Heat, Serenegy, Cemtec, Aalborg University and Mariagerfjord Municipality. The Hywet has a 13 kW electric motor which is powered by a combination of a high temperature proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell stack and a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The car is designed to be capable of reaching 80 kph (50 mph), and can travel 160 km (100 miles) on a tank-full of hydrogen costing less than DKK 100 (USD 18.5) at today's rates, giving about the same distance/price ratio as a petrol or diesel fuelled car. When the car reaches mass production, the price will reportedly be in the region of DKK 200,000 (USD 37,000). It should also be noted that in Denmark, hydrogen fuelled cars have already been accorded tax-free status.
In practice the Hywet's power system works like this: The car starts using the charged-up lithium ion battery, then after a short period switches over to the fuel cell stack, which reacts the hydrogen fuel with atmospheric oxygen to supply the necessary electrochemical power to drive the motor. While the vehicle is operating, the fuel cell stack also recharges the lithium ion battery, so that the car is ready for the next battery start. The fuel cell hydrogen/oxygen reaction produces pure water as its sole waste product, making Hywet a zero-CO2 emission vehicle. The positive environmental profile is potentially further strengthened by the fact that surplus power from wind turbines can be used to create the vehicle's hydrogen fuel on a zero-CO2 emission basis from the electrolysis of water.
The primary commercial obstacle for the Hywet to overcome is of course cost, both from the perspective of initial production volumes and the establishment of a comprehensive infrastructure for fuelling up with hydrogen. But industry future gazers have already latched onto the idea of the Hywet as a family's No.2 car, which is generally used for short range trips to schools, supermarkets etc. Local community service vehicles for home helps and nurses also fit the same picture. Centralised hydrogen refuelling points positioned to serve such local community models could thus provide the nuclei for stimulating production volumes and bringing the Hywet's price tag down to competitive levels in the future.
The news was reported by financial daily newspaper Børsen.