Fiat’s Seicento hydrogen fuel cell prototype (photo at right) took 2nd place in the overall fuel cell category at the recent Monte Carlo Fuel Cell and Hybrid Rally held in conjunction with EVS-21, and took 1st place among compressed hydrogen-powered vehicles. Final points took into account total fuel consumption, the fuel-consumed to vehicle-weight ratio and any penalties accumulated during the race.
Cars in the rally covered a mixed motorway-main road itinerary totalling 410 km (255 miles), taking them through Turin, Cuneo, Col di Tenda and Val Roia to arrive in the Principality of Monaco.
Fiat introduced the Seicento H2 prototype in 2003. The Seicento uses compressed hydrogen stored at 350 bar (5,000 psi) to feed a PEM stack capable of producing 200 V of electrical energy, with a maximum power output of 40 kW. The fuel cell car, with axle-power output of 30 kW, has a top speed of 130 km/h (81 mph) and a range of 200 km (124 miles).
In 2004, Fiat introduced the Panda Hydrogen—an application of its H2 fuel cell technology in a supermini designed for commercial fleet trials.
The Panda Hydrogen (rendering at right) uses a hybrid architecture, with the fuel cell connected directly to the traction motor as the primary system, and the battery pack supplementing the power to the motor under start-up and acceleration. The batteries are recharged by regenerative braking.
The 40kW PEM stack is fed by hydrogen stored at 350 Bar in two tanks installed under the floorpan. The Panda Hydrogen has a top speed of 130 km/h, accelerates from 0-50 km/h (31 mpg) in less than 7 seconds, and has a range of more than 200 km (124 miles). (Clearly there is still much work to be done in range and performance.)
Although working with hydrogen for the medium- to long-term, Fiat is currently emphasizing work with natural gas engines for the short- to medium-term.
The company offers a range of bi-fuel gasoline-CNG vehicles. The engine starts with gasoline, but then immediately cuts over to CNG. Gasoline functions as a back-up fuel if the natural gas runs low, or if the driver selects it.