Fuel cell is the new trend in electric cars, scooters and now even bicycles, judging by the presentation of two hydrogen-powered bicycles in Europe.
The French company Pragma Industries recently introduced the hydrogen-powered Alpha, a pedal-assist bike. This is its second model, after having presented its first fuel cell bicycle prototype, the Alter Bike, in 2013. The Alpha is production ready, and the firm plans to make 100 of them in 2016, and 1,000 in 2017. It is being marketed to fleets, and the French Post Office, which already uses over 18,000 electric bikes, will test 10 Alpha bikes over the next three years. Price is around €4,000, and Pragma hopes to brig the price down to €3,000 once production increases.
The Alpha’s fuel cell is linked to a 150Wh lithium-ion battery. The entire power plant is inside the frame. The claimed range is of 100 km (62 miles). Another French firm, Atawey, has designed a dedicated charging station, which produces its hydrogen on-site. That station can refill the Alpha in less than 2 minutes. This needed infrastructure probably explains why Pragma is aiming at the fleet market.
The supply of hydrogen is probably also why the German firm Linde, one of the world’s largest provider of industrial gas, is pushing for fuel-cell powered vehicles. It recently introduced the hydrogen-powered H2 bike, a limited-production prototype. The 34-gram hydrogen cylinder can be recharged in under 6 minutes at a Linde filling station, and provides a range of 62 miles.
The electric motor provides 250W of power for a top speed of 25 km/h (16 mph). It also has a 60Wh buffer battery. The fuel cell system weighs 3.7 kg (8.2lbs), and the whole bike comes in at 23.6 kg (52lbs).
Is there really a future for fuel cell bicycles? It is difficult to see how the needed infrastructure and technology can compete economically with a regular electric battery-powered bicycle.