The prototype vehicle has been unveiled ahead of the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen. The hybrid vehicle is powered by a high-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane (HT-PEM) fuel cell operating on a reformed methanol/water mix.
The vehicle is claimed to offer a range of 500 km (310 miles), and takes only two minutes to refuel. This could happen at a regular gas station, and result in 70% lower CO2 emissions than a gasoline-driven vehicle.
The Serenergy HT-PEM fuel cell system operates at 160°C, rather than the 80°C of a conventional PEM fuel cell. This means that it is much more resistant to carbon monoxide, which even at very low levels poisons a conventional PEM fuel cell. It is also more resistant to hydrogen sulfide (up to 10 ppm), and so maintains its performance even while it can still be made out of conventional materials.
HT-PEM fuel cells are based on the use of polybenzimidazole (PBI) membranes doped with phosphoric acid for proton conduction. It is this membrane construction which allows the HT-PEM fuel cell to operate at a much higher temperature.
The high CO tolerance makes the combination of an HT-PEM fuel cell with a methanol reforming system a realistic option. This means the use of fuel cells in vehicle applications need not wait for the implementation of an expensive production, distribution, and storage infrastructure for pure hydrogen.
Metha Energy Solutions and Serenergy developed the prototype vehicle, based on a Fiat Scudo van, in cooperation with Lithium Balance A/S, Cemtec Centre for Energy & Materials Technology, and Ålborg University. Financial support was provided by the Danish Energy Agency EUDP program.