Aug. 3, 2012 at 2:29 PM ET
Pedal-powered rickshaws of the future may get a boost thanks to hydrogen fuel cell technology under development in Germany.
Called the Hydrogenia, the e-powered pedicab has a 250-watt fuel cell and a hydrogen tank stored under the driver's seat.
The tank can be refueled in minutes and has a range of about 125 miles, long enough for a full day’s work hauling people and cargo around busy city streets.
Like an electric bike, the rickshaw has pedals but the motor means thighs don't have to do all the work. The fuel cell causes hydrogen to react with oxygen from the air to generate electricity. Emissions are water vapor.
The technology could be an improvement over current e-powered pedicabs, which have a limited range and long recharge time, according to Lars Rontzsch, the leader of the hydrogen technology group at the Franhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials in Dresden.
Key to the rickshaw’s success is a hydrogen storage tank based on metal hydride technology, which allows storage in a compact space.
“This is solid-state storage where the hydrogen atoms are incorporated into the lattice structure of a metal alloy, allowing for very dense storage. The tank is filled with pellets made of compressed metal flakes and is not much larger than a six-pack of cans,” FuelCellToday reports.
Mass production of the technology remains a ways off, the researchers note, but its development is a clear sign that the green technology is becoming positioned to play a role in future transportation systems.