Samsung Engineering has successfully tested a prototype fuel-cell scooter that uses a version of “hydrogen on demand” technology to generate its own hydrogen from a solution of sodium borohydride. The scooter, the result of a project sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, can run up to 140 kilometers on 6 liters of hydrogen fuel.
There are a few interesting aspects to this. First, up to now the most visible work on hydrogen-powered and hybrid scooters and motorcycles was coming from Honda and Yamaha (Japan). Both have shown prototypes of very interesting fuel cell (and hybrid, in the case of Honda) scooters. Samsung (Korea) is trying to get a place at the head table. (As is Hyundai (Korea) with automotive hybrids and fuel cell vehicles).
“The development and testing of the hydrogen-powered scooter shows that South Korea’s technology is on a par with that of the world,”said Yu Yong-ho, president of Samsung Engineering’s R&D center.
Second is the use of sodium borohydride as an on-board feedstock for on-demand conversion to hydrogen.
Millenium Cell is the leader in developing sodium borohydride-based energy sources. Using a proprietary catalyst, their patented and trademarked “Hydrogen on Demand” systems can support a range of applications from personal electronics to transportation. A diagram of a Millenium Cell Hydrogen on Demand system is to the right.
Sodium borohydride (short for sodium tetrahydridoborate: NaBH4) is a compound with very high hydrogen content. When NaBH4 is suspended in an aqueous solution and then passed over a catalyst, the reaction produces a large amount of hydrogen, along with a benign byproduct—sodium metaborate—that can be recycled back into sodium borohydride.
There are a number of advantages to this approach for creating hydrogen:
The reaction is completely inorganic (carbon and sulfur free), producing a high-quality energy source without polluting emissions. (At least on-board; I have no idea what is involved in the production of sodium borohydride.)
The reaction is very steady and highly controllable—remove the catalyst and it stops.
The reaction needed to release the hydrogen requires no energy, and can operate at ambient temperature and pressure.
The sodium borohydride is nonflammable, nonexplosive, and easy to transport.
The primary disadvantage is the cost and availability of the compound.
DaimlerChrysler used Millenium Cell technology it its Natrium fuel cell concept car, introduced in 2001. The Natrium (Latin for sodium, and the origin of the “Na” symbol for the element) is based on a Town and Country minivan, and uses a Millenium Cell fuel processor with a Ballard fuel cell, Siemens motor and SAFT Li-ion battery pack.
|Natrium Concept Car|
|Motor||35 kW Siemens|
|Fuel cell system||55 kW Ballard/XCELLSiS|
|Battery pack||40 kW SAFT Li-ion|
|Fuel processor||Millenium Cell HOD|
|0-60 mpg||16 seconds|
|Top speed||80 mph|
In 2003, Samsung and Millenium cell entered into a partnership to jointly develop fuel cells for portable devices. The scooter apparently is related, in concept if not through licensing. Portable devices is indeed Millenium Cell’s principle area of focus for commercializing their technology. Transportation, for them, is an area of future interest.