Written by Gerry Runte
The worldwide population of motor scooters is approaching 130 million. China alone produced over 40 million gasoline powered motor scooters in 2011.
Many of these engines emit 8 to 30 times the hydrocarbons and particulates emitted by automobiles.
Several companies are developing fuel cell powered scooters to reduce these enormous emissions. Fuel cells are devices that make electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, emitting only water vapor as exhaust.
When the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources, or even from natural gas, the emissions are far less than those resulting from oil refining and combustion. Fuel cell powered scooters run on that electricity.
Two years ago I wrote about a very forward thinking fuel cell technology company in Taiwan, Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies, Ltd. (APFCT). The company had just rolled out its first major demonstration of fuel cell powered scooters.
两年前我在台湾为一家非常具有前瞻性的燃料电池公司 – 亚太燃料电池科技公司写了一篇文章。该公司当时刚举行其首次大型燃料电池摩拖车的示范运行。
What was unique about the company and its scooters was the approach APFCT took to fueling. APFCT designed their system with simplicity and consumer convenience in mind. Instead of taking the path of nearly all fuel cell transportation devices that require the refilling of an onboard cylinder with highly compressed hydrogen, the APFCT units use small canisters that store hydrogen in metal hydride powder.
Instead of driving the vehicle to a fueling station and waiting for a cylinder to be filled the user simply takes their empty canisters to a vendor who exchanges them for filled canisters (with about the same internal pressure as a racing bike tire).
In its first demonstration APFCT put 80 scooters on the road at a beach resort in southern Taiwan. Tourists were permitted to use the scooters for free.
When they ran out of hydrogen all they needed to do was to take the empty canisters to any 7–Eleven convenience store, repair shop or police station for exchange. Why 7-Eleven? Taiwan has the fifth largest number of 7-Eleven stores in the world, behind the U.S., Japan, Thailand and South Korea. There is a 7-Eleven within walking distance of almost any place in Taiwan.
APFCT has continued to build upon this hydride storage fueling model over the last two years. It has tested a number of different vehicles, all of which use identical canisters. Those with larger hydrogen demands simply require more canisters for operation.
Last November, APFCT began a second scooter demonstration in Taiwan with the city government of Taipei. In this demonstration 20 scooters have been deployed for use in environmental auditing site inspections and surveying by city officials.
APFCT’s current scooter model has a range of approximately 80 km.
Fueling costs can be very economic – in the Taipei demonstration, the local cost of electricity to generate the hydrogen results in a canisters exchange cost of NTD 30 (about USD 1).
充氢成本可以是经济实惠的 – 在台湾示范运行中储氢罐交换价格为新台币30元 (约一块美金)，此价格包括当地产氢所使用的电力及物流费。
APFCT says this current model would sell for about NTD 90,000 (about USD 3,000). That’s not quite a commercial price, but getting close. Assuming a successful demonstration, orders from city governments and the public could generate sufficient volume to get the price down, which would make APFCT fuel cell scooter be competitive with gasoline powered scooters.
Gerry Runte is Managing Director of Worthington Sawtelle LLC a consulting and research firm which provides a full portfolio of business planning and strategy services to both new and existing participants in emerging energy markets. Recent engagements include market assessments, policy analysis and development; business strategy; go-to-market planning and launch; product commercialization strategies; feasibility studies; and due diligence on behalf of investors.
Gerry has 38 years of experience in the energy industry, much of which at the executive level. He holds a B.S. and M.Eng in Nuclear Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. Contact email@example.com; tel: +1 (207) 361-7143; skype: gerry.runte