People who have followed us for the last ten years know that we’ve been using hydrogen fuel cells for most of the Shell-Eco Marathon competitions we have attended. So when we decided to switch over to battery for this years race it wasn’t without discussions and careful weighing of our options. So today we are sharing some of these reasons with you.
It is a quite agreed upon truth that we can’t continue using fossil fuels in the future, and to stop using them we need alternatives preferably using clean and renewable energy sources. This is why we have competitions like the Shell Eco-Marathon and also why we here at DNV-GL Fuel Fighter is participating in it. We are taught from day one here at NTNU that we are creating knowledge for a better world and we think this is a fitting description both on higher education, but also for this project and the Shell Eco-Marathon. We are trying to create a better world and it is based on this we changed from hydrogen to battery.
Hydrogen fuel cells aren’t inherently bad, there is a reason to why our team have used it for so long, and those reasons aren’t any less valid even if we changed our approach. We discussed it back and forth for hours upon hours and both choices are valid so then the question is why did we decide to change?
An important difference between the technologies is their efficiency. From electricity is produced, there is an energy loss in i.e. the power grid before the it reaches the motors. But this is far less for batteries than for hydrogen fuel cells, where it takes energy to produce the hydrogen and then the fuel cells themselves have an efficiency of 40-60%. The sum gives a greater conservation of energy using batteries. A major benefit of hydrogen fuel cells compared to batteries, is the significantly shorter refueling/charging time. As we compete in the UrbanConcept class, the car is designed to be used in an urban environment. Shorter distances and more possibilities to recharge reduces the problem of a charging taking a long time. Hydrogen fuel cells may be used in heavier vehicles though. Buses and trailers would need a number of batteries which adds a significant weight. They also may travel distances where refueling time is an issue. As the battery technology is rapidly advancing, we believe that it is the future for personal vehicles.
Competing in the UrbanConcept class at the Shell Eco-Marathon means building cars that looks more and runs on the same fuel options that cars on the roads do today. We are all at the Shell Eco-marathon to be innovators and ambassadors for cleaner and more fuel efficient transport options. Choosing to compete in the UrbanConcept class means that we have to think about what we believe is the best option for the road cars of the future. And we here at the DNV GL Fuel Fighter team believe that the future is electric road cars! What do you think?