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Imperial College Launches Hybrid Fuel-Cell Racing Program; First Target is Formula Zero in 2008

The Formula Zero Mark 2 prototype design. Click to enlarge.

Imperial College (UK) has established the Imperial Hybrid Racing program, a multidisciplinary project bringing together students from across the School of Engineering in partnership with the Business School to design, build and race a zero-emission hybrid fuel-cell racing car.

A working prototype of a hybrid fuel-cell go-cart will be made in the first year of the project (2006/07), and a full fuel-cell powered version will be made by the end of the second year (2007/08). The Imperial cart will use both batteries and supercapacitors for energy storage.

The fuel-cell cart will be ready to compete in both the new Formula Zero Race Series and the new zero-emissions class of Formula Student organized by the IMechE. As the design develops, the car will scale up to a full-size zero-emissions racing vehicle and the participation in other events like speed trials and racing against combustion engine powered cars will be explored.

More than 20 undergraduate students each year from across the Faculty of Engineering will work on the development of this integrated electric hybrid fuel cell vehicle.

Formula Zero hopes to scale fuel-cell racing from carts to full-sized race cars. Click to enlarge.

Two Dutch designers, Godert van Hardenbroek and Eelco Rietveld, established Formula Zero in 2003 with the mission of promoting well-to-wheel zero-emission technologies through racing with fuel-cell powered cars.

The company first designed a non-hydrogen design prototype, the Mark 1, which ran on batteries. Subsequently, with the support of its partners, it built the hydrogen fuel-cell powered Mark 2 prototype.

The Mark 2 prototype is powered by a Hydrogenics HyPM7 fuel cell power module. The vehicle uses a Click-and-go cartridge system, designed especially by sponsors Bradford Engineering and TNO Space. Hydrogen in the cartridge is stored at 200 bar, and by using a special safety system, the hydrogen cannot leak.

The Mark 2 uses Boostcap ultracapacitors which have 50 kW of power for 6 seconds, and are used to store excess energy produced by the fuel cell and during braking procedures.

The cart is designed to have 8.2 kW of fuel-cell power supplemented by 28 kW of boost power from the ultracapacitors. The cart weighs 295 kg (650 lbs), accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in less than 8 seconds, and has a top speed of 110 kph (68 mph). A full hydrogen tank will support 12 minutes of racing.




12 minutes of racing just doesn't seem like that much. Could you imagine how much more boring formula one would be if they were filling up every 12 minutes, no one would watch!


Hot swap the batteries/supercaps/fuel tanks. That would make pitstops dramatic, and more important, just like in regular ICE engined races.


Well, let's see.  8.2 kW of fuel cell power for 12 minutes is 1.61 kWh.

A123Systems has an RC racing battery which is rated at 2.3 AH, 6.6 volts, 155 grams, 30 C continuous.  I make that 97 Wh/kg, and a 1.61 kWh pack would be about 16.4 kg.  The power output would be 30 C continuous/60 C surge, or 48 kW/96 kW.

Two hot-swappable packs of these would leave these fuel-cell cars in the dust.  Ditto for Altair Nano's cells (which also have about 90 WH/kg).

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