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Fuel Cell Plug-in Hybrid Taxi Unveiled at London’s City Hall

7 June 2010

Overall vehicle package. Source: Intelligent Energy. Click to enlarge.

Intelligent Energy, Lotus Engineering, LTI Vehicles and TRW Conekt, with funding from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board, unveiled a full performance, zero-emissions Fuel Cell Hybrid London taxi. (Earlier post.)

The Fuel Cell Black Cab uses an Intelligent Energy fuel cell (30 kW net output) as a range extender for the 14 kWh lithium polymer battery pack, allowing the vehicle to operate for a full day without the need for refuelling. Powered by a 100 kW (peak), 55 kW (continuous) motor, the cab is capable of achieving a top speed of 81 mph (130 km/h) and has a range of more than 250 miles (402 km) on a full tank of hydrogen. Acceleration from 0-30 mph takes 4.5 seconds; acceleration from 0-60 mph takes 14 seconds.

IE’s Fuel cell taxi system offers 58% efficiency. Click to enlarge.   Vehicle system. Click to enlarge.

Intelligent Energy’s fuel cells feature metallic plate construction, and are designed for low-cost mass manufacture. They offer high power density and rapid sub-zero start-up. Evaporative cooling helps reduce the balance of plant required.

The compressed hydrogen tanks (3.7 kg @ 35 MPa), refuel in less than five minutes. Supported operational temperature range is -18 °C to +37 °C (-0.4 °F to +98.6 °F).

The black cab is a much loved London icon, but it is also a significant source of pollution especially in the centre of the city. This prototype Fuel Cell Black Cab, which emits only water from its tailpipe, is an exciting glimpse of how hydrogen technology could soon play a vital role in cleaning up air quality for urban dwellers.

—London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Chair of the London Hydrogen Partnership, Kit Malthouse

Later this year, Transport for London will start operating five hydrogen-fuel cell buses, and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has committed to working with manufacturers to make all taxis operating in London zero tail-pipe emissions by 2020.

Intelligent Energy CEO, Dr. Henri Winand with London Deputy Mayor, Kit Malthouse, at unveiling of Fuel Cell Black Cab at City Hall. Click to enlarge.

For the Fuel Cell Black Cab unveiled at City Hall, Lotus Engineering has packaged the full propulsion system including the fuel cell engine and has designed control systems to optimize performance of both the fuel cells and electric drive systems. TRW Conekt led the safety analysis program, including braking and steering systems, and LTI has provided donor vehicles to assist with the structural modifications to the chassis of the taxis.

The first hackney-carriage licences date from 1662 and apply literally to horse-drawn carriages that operated as vehicles for hire. The black cab that most people associate with London taxis was the Austin FX4, introduced in 1959. The model, with many modifications over the years, remained in production until 1997, making it one of the longest running production vehicles in history. The Intelligent Energy fuel cell system has been integrated into the most recent LTI TX4 design, and fits in to the vehicle without intrusion into its internal or luggage space.

The Fuel Cell Hybrid Taxi is presently undergoing track and road-testing prior to wider deployment. The vehicle will also need to meet the London Public Carriage Office conformity for use as taxi on public roads.

June 7, 2010 in Fuel Cells, Hybrids, Hydrogen, Plug-ins | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)


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Comments, um, estimated cost at volume production (if Taxi cabs ever get to volume)?

I would rather have them reforming methanol than storing hydrogen, but the design seems practical enough if they can make them at a reasonable price.

Vehicles like these are dependent on the cost of fuel cells being reduced.
Fortunately good work is being carried out in this respect.
Here is Kia:

Fuel cells are more practical than batteries for this sort of use, and if you take into account the energy losses in the grid producing electricity it is about as efficient, or even more so, to reform natural gas and produce hydrogen (efficiency ~70%)
Once it is in the form of hydrogen, big, heavy vehicles like these use around 5-600 wh/mile, which is more but not enormously so than you would get from a battery.

Some form of FC range extender seems inevitable at this point. Not a bad thing at all provided it does not cause a crippling price point rise. It appears as though there is enough movement in low cost water splitting to make H2 far more accessible than just a couple of years ago. Which changes the whole picture for FC range extenders. you guys think Steven Chu's "Four Miracles" required for fuel cells to arrive in volume are likely to be met in the near term?

If they were just worried about local pollution, could they not just use CNG, and if they wanted to make it a bit more efficient, hybridize it (would work well for city taxis).

Sounds a bit like overkill to me.
But then, it was done with other people's money.

@Healthy Breeze
It helps if you want to make a point to provide proper references to them.
Since you obviously think that they won't, perhaps you would enumerate them or provide a link rather than expecting others to go Googling to substantiate your point for you.


Good point.
It's basically:
1) Reforming methane into H2 still releases carbon and costs energy;
2) Hydrogen is difficult to store
3) Fuel Cells are 2 orders of magnitude too expensive
4) Hydrogen distribution infrastructure would cost tens of billions to build.

Comparatively, distributing electricity for batteries is cheaper, inherently more efficient, and batteries are likely to be affordable long before fuel cells are.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu's actual quote was,
"Right now, the way we get hydrogen primarily is from reforming gas. That's not an ideal source of hydrogen...The other problem is, if it's for transportation, we don't have a good storage mechanism yet. What else? The fuel cells aren't there yet, and the distribution infrastructure isn't there yet. In order to get significant deployment, you need four significant technological breakthroughs. If you need four miracles, that's unlikely. Saints only need three miracles."

What will come first? low cost higher performance quick charge batteries or equivalent cost FC? If they both hit the market place at about the same time, batteries may be the winner because it would not need new very expensive infrastructures.

Meanwhile, PHEVs with very small light weight flex fuel genset could be an acceptable short and mid term compromise.

@Healthy Breeze:
1) Reforming methane into H2 still releases carbon and costs energy;
True. You get around 70% of the energy in the NG as hydrogen.You also have to compress it and transport it.
You might be talking about around 55% as the total efficiency.
Electric motors are so efficient though that you make up for that as against burning the NG directly. Going the fuel cell route means that you can use spare renewables electricity etc to supplement the fossil fuel burn.
2) Hydrogen is difficult to store
True, but it lasts in the tank indefinitely, unlike petrol, so it makes an excellent range extender.
Methanol, DME or similar can also be produced instead, which are easier to store but fuel cells for them are less mature if done directly, or if reformed introduce another level of inefficiency.
3) Fuel Cells are 2 orders of magnitude too expensive
Chu has a habit of using out of date info. He does the same on liquid thorium reactors, where his criticisms were based on already solved or partially solved problems.
4) Hydrogen distribution infrastructure would cost tens of billions to build.
True. However, so does any fuel infrastructure. A basic infrastructure along the lines of the 5,000 or so pumps for diesel in the US would be fairly affordable and the coverage would be good enough for a long while.
It might also be possible to transport the hydrogen in the same pipelines as NG, as is being done in Hawaii:

I would add a fifth "miracle."
5) You have to believe the other alternatives DON'T advance while you're waiting for the first four fuel cell problems to be solved.

This may be why the PNGV became the Freedom Car. Hydrogen was so far away it was not a threat to oil any time soon.

1 It doesnt release co2 it creates a pure co2 stream they can then deal with.

2 H2 isnt difficult to store it just took time to find the easy ways to store it compactgly enough to not make the car look funky.

3 You can thank bush for changing this. He managed to get h2 75 years forward from what it was when he entered office. Competent people know the fuel cell is rapidly improving and will eclipse the ice engine this decade.

4 The h2 industry is massive and even 1 million cars would only make a slight tweak to thier needed output. And they are everywhere and growing rapidly.

5 The simple fact is they have solid data from both the h2 ind and the battery ind and thats why they are moving forward with both. BATTERIES SIMPLY CANT DO IT ALL.

@al vin
When they build a battery that can do over 400 miles as the Toyota did recently before needing a recharge, and then fill up in 5 minutes, get back to me.
Until then I will continue to think that fuel cells are technologies with different complementary abilities.

Please note I said "the other alternatives." I didn't single out BEVs, you did.

Thanks, wintermane.

Additionally, more and more H2 adsorptive materials are being found that will allow H2 to be stored in vast quantities at moderate pressures.

H2 is so easy to produce from any primary energy source. Now, electrolysis of water doesn't even need expensive Platinum electrodes. This means that once the switch to H2 is done, we can continue to use H2-vehicle forever, no matter what the primary source of energy will be. Solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, waste biomass, coal, NG, etc. all can be efficiently converted to H2.

H2 utilization in FC is so much more efficient in comparison to ICE that even if fossil fuels such as coal, NG, and petroleum are used initially as stock materials, we are still way ahead in term of CO2 reduction than if coal is liquefied, or if NG and petrol are burned directly in ICE's.

If I take one therm (100,000 BTUs) of natural gas and generate 10 kWh of electricity, that can take my EV 40 miles. If I take that same 10 kWh of electricity and electrolyze water at 80% efficiency and use the H2 in a 50% efficient fuel cell a get 4 kWh that will take me 16 miles.

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