Conversion kit for hydrogen bicycle

Project description

We want to co-create a conversion kit «open source»
to transform classical bicycles into hydrogen powered electric bicycles.

Who we are ?

The project “Kit pour Vélo H2” is a project of Pangloss Labs association at Ferney-Voltaire, France. The project is one of the many co-creation projects of the members of the association.

Raison d’être : Promote green hydrogen at fair price to promote the use of renewable energy.

Hydrogen is not easily available to the individual. Today, use of hydrogen is confined to
• subsidized projects which are run by the supplyer of the hydrogen equipment,
• particular applications like vehicle fleets , and
• trained guided users like La Poste.
In this environment we lack the opportunity for doing something ourselves, for using hydrogen in our daily life. With the concersion kit for the hydrogen bicycle and a viable hydrogen distribution available, we start into a new phase in the evolution of the hydrogen economy, the one that includes the common person.


An economy in which it is easy to get green hydrogen, even in small quantities and at affordable price, for individual use p.ex. to heat, to cook or -as is presented here – to move around on a motor assited bicycle.

Mission : Promote the use of renewable energy (“appellation hydrogène verte”).

Our primary goal is the creation of a kit to convert a standard bicycle into an electric bicycle powered by hydrogen. Making a prototype will serve to raise funds for the next stage.
The second goal is proposing a regional hydrogen infrastruture which is appropriate for the needs of the cyclists, and which is easy to copy and implement elsewhere.

Batterie or hydrogen power for the electric bike ?

For short rides in town, the electric bicycle is a good solution. But when you need to move over larger distances for example in the coutnryside, the electric bike’s range is often too shorts. In particular commuters between a home in the outskirts of the city and a job inside can be disadvantaged by the autonomy limited by the energy stored in the battery. With hydrogen, the range of an electric vehicle can be much larger, because more energy can be stored in comparison to batteries.

Why hydrogen ?

To achieve our environmental and climate goals we must reduce CO2 emissions massively and utilise the advantages that come with renewable energies. For the storage of renewable elecricty produced with photo-voltaic panels or wind power generators, hydrogen is being established as a primary storage medium. Surplus energy is transformed into hydrogen – rather than being discarded – which thus is available not only for reconversion into electricity but also for direct use in a multitude of applications, in particular in individual mobility. Such hydrogen is truely green as it does not impact patterns of consumption like it is the case of electricity when renewble energy for transport cuts into the supply of renewable energy to other sectors.

Why Open Source ?

The use of hydrogen applications is generally confined to organizations and professional users. One of the obstacles is the cost of the equipment. With an open source development of the conversion kit the invidual users can construct his or her own hydrogen bicycle at the cost of the components only. This entails larger numbers of users and in turn cheaper components. Feedback from users will accelerate the development.

The advantages …

  • Increased autonomy because of larger energy storage on the bicycle with hydrogen than with batteires.
  • Changing a hydrogen cartouche or a battery takes about thesame time of a few minutes. But recharging a cartouche (50 gr H2) or a battery (0.5 KWh) makes the difference: few minutes for the hydrogen but hours of the battery.
  • Reduction, even elimination, of the hazardous materials in the batteries.
  • Hydrogen storage does not leak. There is no auto-discharge like it is observed with batteries.
  • The H2 bike has a greater lifetime that the battery electric bike.
  • The price of the conversion kit can be comparatively low. Therefore the hydrogen bicycle will come with an interesting price tag.
  • Potentially lower operational cost and therefore an advantageous TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) compared to battery-electric bicycles – once investment cost is reduced. (R. Berger, “Business case for FC-electric bikes”, FCH 2 JU, 2017)
  • A heat-exchcanger at the fuel cell can be integrated into the bike. The heat can be used to warm seat and handles. Or for heating a metal hydride cartouche.
  • Today, the weights of hydrogen and battery electric bicycles is not much different. With the conversion kit the weight of the hydrogen bicycle possibly can be further reduced.
  • Both hydrogen and battery electric bicycles produce no other emissions than water vapour, they are « zéro émission » vehicles.
  • Hydrogen and battery electric bicycles are particularly quiet.
  • Eventually it will be possible capturing energy from breaks or when rolling downhill with a reversible fuel cell.

… and the disadvantages

  • Primary energy consumption is approximately twice as that of an electric bicycles (conversion efficiency e → H2 → e) for the same autonomy.
  • There is no appropriate hydrogen distribution, neither for small gas bottles nor for metal hydride containers. Electrolysers are expensive.
  • The price of hydrogen is (still) high because of the investments for the infrastructure.

The challenges

Fuel cells exist. We need to find the right fuel cell for use on the bicycle.

We need to find appropriate, i.e. cheap, light and compact hydrogen storage either as compressed gas in a bottle or dissolved in a metal hydride container.

We need to create the hydrogen infrastructure (storage container leasing, vending machines, centralized or individualized recharge) ?