Because of the need of storage for renewable energy, hydrogen is on the way to becoming a popular means of storing energy in large quantities. This hydrogen is available either for back-conversion into electricity or for direct use as in hydrogen cars or, as in this case, to power a bicycle. With our kit for converting a traditional bicycle into a hydrogen-powered electric bicycle, we want to bring hydrogen to broad public. We want to make it common, we want to get used to its use with an application that is affordable and available to everyone.
Hydrogen, ist it really clean ?
Hydrogen is clean provided it is produced from renewable resources with appropriate technologies. This is the case of hydrogen produced by electrolysis with green electricity. So it is the consumer's choice.
Isn't it dangerous ?
Hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline or natural gas. The charateristics of combustion and therefore of a possible explosion of these fuels are different. Hydrogen is the lightest of all these molecules and the impact of an improbable explosion is less important. With modern handling and storage equipment, the risk of a leak or explosion is very low.
Whate are the advantages in comparison to electricity ?
First of all, in hydrogen we store more energy than in electricity. So the autonomy of a vehicle, car or bicycle or bus, is considerably increased.
Why a kit ?
Existing hydrogen bikes have a high level of component integration. They are expensive not only because of the cost of the components, but also because of the cost of their manufacture and the amortisation of the development. With an open source kit, the user only has the costs of purchasing the hardware. With the conversion kit turning a traditional bike into a hydrogen-powered electric bike, the H2 bicycle becomes much cheaper and therefore affordable.
Why open source ?
We are Pangloss volunteers, philanthropists, who take pleasure in developing something useful. Our hope is to get feedback on ideas to improve the system. But our biggest interest is to get as many users as possible enthusiastic about the system so that suppliers can commit to making better and cheaper components.
Is there any competition ?
They have seen hydrogen-powered bicycles for about 20 years. They were prototypes or small series reserved for industrial users and public organizations. With the kit, we open the door for the private individual.
Where can I refill my bicycle ?
Hydrogen supply is a concern. There are recharging stations for example by Ataway in Chambery, or the hydrogen cartridge distribution system from Aaqius in Paris and Geneva. With the proposed kit we give them the motivation to create a regional charging network. If not, there is the possibility to install a small electrolyser at home. This is a relatively expensive, but available solution.
What will be the price of the kit ?
Today we buy components for the kit, electric motor, fuel cell, hydrogen storage, microcontroller, tubes, fittings and cables for about six to seven thousand euro. The projected price of the components, scaling with increasing production numbers, allow us to speak about a price for the kit in the order of 1000 euro.
How much costs a recharge ?
On a bicycle you typically store 50 grams of hydrogen. This is 60% more energy than stored on an electric bicycle. Based on the price of one kilogram of hydrogen of ten euro, as for hydrogen cars, the cost of recharging is half a euro.
Why all this ?
We want to encourage the use of green hydrogen by private individuals, and thus promote renewable energies. We want to create, in the Pays de Gex and the Lake Geneva Basin, a first centre of competence around hydrogen as a complement to green electricity. We want to contribute to the development of soft mobility in the Greater Geneva area, particularly in an area that is heavily impacted by relatively short border commuters' journeys.
Why us ?
As technical people - Harald and Klaus are physicists, Olivier is an engineer - we are naturally interested in new technologies. Our concern for the climate, the environment and the sustainability of our social system has led us to think about renewable energy applications and hydrogen. At Pangloss Labs we have found a favourable environment and an atmosphere nourishing our ideas.
What is donators' money used for ?
In order to buy components and build the hydrogen bicycle, we need a budget of about 15 thousand euros. Hydrogen-related components, fuel cell, hydrogen container, bottle with refill system, tools and accessories will consume 85 percent of these funds. We have included a small amount for travel for meetings with potential partners. The rest is used for consumables and contingencies.
Who takes care ?
Making the hydrogen bicycle is a Pangloss Labs project. It is, therefore, supported by the association. The project has already received funds to buy an electric motor, which has been installed on the bicycle that was donate by one of the members of the association. At Pangloss there is furthermore the possibility of rent workshop space in the FabLab. The project is lead by Klaus Röhrich, Harald Wirth and Olivier Eugene.
A brief history of hydrogen-powered bicycles, or simply hydrogen bike or H2 bike. The information and images are the result of research on the Internet between October 2018 and February 2020. Sources are added at the bottom of the document. Certainly, this story is not perfect, but it gives a good impression of past projects.
Klaus Röhrich, Pangloss Labs, March 2020
The first hydrogen-powered electrically-assisted bicycles were built in research enviroments.
The US-American "Hydrocycle" by Manhattan Scientifics with a German 670W PAC from NovArs was presented in 2000.
At the same time in Rome, Italy, ENEA was also working with hydrogen. Their small SCENIC 150 system (Sistema Cella EneaNuvera a Idrogeno Combustibile da 150 Watt) was used to assemble a hydrogen bicycle.
A little later, the Italian bicycle manufacturer Aprilia SpA took up the idea. As a professional bicycle manufacturer it redesigned the Hydrocycle of Manhattan Scientifics and built the first commercial hydrogen-powered bicycle. The Aprilia Enjoy Fuel Cell Bike was presented in 2001 with a 300 bar composite hydrogen storage cylinder. This H2 bicycle was called "An Invention of The Year" by Time Magazin on November 13, 2001 (article).
As an anecdote from this pioneering period, student Jörg Weigl from the University of Ulm in Germany broke the autonomy records for H2 bikes. With his recumbent bike construction he cycled 1200 kilometres during the Wasserstoff-Expo in Hamburg 2002..
The company Aprilia became quiet about its H2 bike around 2005. There was the American WL Gore & Associates who presented an evolution of the bikes of Manhattan Scientifics and Aprilia at the Fuel Cell Expo 2005 in Japan, but without any commercial success.
But the idea was disseminated. Universities, research centres and enthusiasts immersed themselves in the world of hydrogen, fuel cells and bicycles. Here is a review of the achievements.
Since its first prototypes, ENEA in Rome has not stopped developing hydrogen bicycles. Their 2009 model worked with a fuel cell of only 50W (6V x 8.5A) with 900 litres H2 on board. The autonomy was thus more than twice that of a conventional pedelec. Or, on the occasion of the Formula E Grand Prix to be held in Rome in April 2019, ENEA participated with a hydrogen bicycle in the E-Parade of ecological 2, 3 or 4-wheel vehicles.
Since 2008, a hydrogen bicycle was developed in Australia. The University of New South Wales built the H2 bike with a first prototype running in 2014 and a second one, the Hy-Cycle 2.0 in 2016.
In Italy, Vincenzo Antonucci in collaboration with TRE SpA (Tozzi Renewable Energy) and CNR-ITAE (Messina) presented his 26 Kg H2 bike at the "H2 Roma Energy & Mobility Show" in 2009.
In 2012, Trifyl surprised with their hydrogen-powered bike. This prototype was designed by Trifyl, the Departmental Service for the Recycling of Household Waste in the Tarn, in collaboration with the Ecole des Mines d'Albi and Albhyon, which specialises in hydrogen. Presented during a stage of the 2012 Tour de France, this bike was not, however, commercialized.
Also in 2012, at the Hochschule RheinMain, a prototype was built by Michael Röser, Stefan Dietrich and Georg Derscheid based on a Sustamo bicycle.
The development of the Gernweit Ped-Hy-lec bike began in 2008. The business consultant Holger Hanisch was supported by the Department of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology of the University of Applied Sciences RheinMain, in cooperation with Ralph Luh Engineering Co. and Schunk Bahn- und Industrietechnik GmbH (all in Germany). The hydrogen bicycle had been developed until 2014. Its weight was 34.6 Kg and its price was somewhere above €7'000.
Besides the more traditional bicycles, in 2012 futuristic prototypes were conceived by visionaries. Examples are the design model by the Swede Johan Persson for Aprilia, or the “Hydogenia”, a hybrid between pedelec, rickshaw and fuel cell from IFAM (Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials), Dresden.
Johan Persson’s Aprilia, 2012
Fraunhofer E-Bike Hydogenia, 2012
More recent are the prototypes of Vorradler (Germany 2014), Tc Mobility (Italy, 2015), Alex Bevan from Birmingham University (United Kingdom, 2017) with H2 internal combustion engine or the bicycle by Ankica Đukić at the University of Zagreb (Croatia, 2017).
Electrolyte Vorradler S3 FC, 2014
Tc Mobility Frisbee «Scoobi» H2, 2015
Alex Bevan, Birmingham University, 2017
Ankica Đukić, University of Zagreb, 2017
The Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) developed a pedelec shown in 2014. This bicycle is now in their museum. DLR also developed a cargo bike. The technology is now exploited by Rytle GmbH in Hamburg, Germany.
DLR BZ-Rad, at the DLR museum
DLR Cargo Bike, 2015
At the Fraunhofer Institute ISE in Germany the LiteFCBike had been developed since 2016. This complete fuel cell system with hydrogen storage in twelve metal hydride cartridges and buffer battery can be mounted on any electric bicycle replacing the battery. In combination with an electric bike conversion kit almost any bike can be converted into a hydrogen bike. The energy stored with the kit is about 270Wh, so only half of a standard pedelec battery (about 500 Wh).
Fraunhofer ISE, 2016
the hydrogen pack
We have not found any more information about the MicroBike E-go Hydrogen, advertised on the internet in May 2019 with a price of €4'500.
Of course, we've also seen industrial manufacturers trying to commercialize hydrogen-powered bicycles.
In November 2004, Palcan Fuel Cells Ltd. of Vancouver, Canada inaugurated its first assembly line at the Shanghai Tongji Nanhui Science and Technology Industrial Park and partnered with Nanjing Fuel Cell Company Ltd. Eventually, Palcan abandoned this business. In 2009, Palcan supplied a 300W PAC to the Chinese company Shanghai Giant & Phoenix Bicycle to power a hydrogen-scooter.
The German Masterflex AG had a little more success. Suppliers of fluid handling components and analysis systems, Masterflex began to get involved in the PACs business in 2001. The prototype of its HyBike with a 250W PEM and 45 grams of hydrogen on board was shown at the Hannover Messe 2004. In 2007, the city of Herten in Germany, a champion in the application of green technologies, bought ten HyBikes for €70'000. The hydrogen was to be supplied by its "Blue Tower" factory, but apparently there were technological problems. In the meantime Masterflex built the CargoBike together with the German bicycle manufacturer Hawk Bikes Entwicklung & Marketing GmbH. The Deutsche Telekom tested 14 CargoBikes in Berlin in 2008. There was no follow up from these prototypes, and in April 2011 Masterflex announced that it had divested its bicycle business.
Masterflex HyBike, 2004
Masterflex Cargo Bike, 2008
Palcan's bike has had a successor in China. In 2007 Shanghai Pearl (Shanghai Pearl Hydrogen Power Source Technology Company) presented its "Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Bicycle PHB". This bicycle weighed 32 Kg. Its price was estimated at $2,650 with a projection of $350 for mass production.
Valeswood ETD Ltd. in Birmingham, UK, used Shanghai Pearl technology to create its own hydrogen-powered bicycle in 2007. Since 2010, Valeswood ETD Ltd. seems no longer in business.
Another derivative of the Shanghai Pearl bicycle was marketed somewhat later by the Italian company Acta SpA. The company presented its first prototype in September 2009 at the EICMA Motor Show. The Acta bike would be used to gain experience, for example in Spain by the Fundación para el desarrollo de las nuevas tecnologias del hidrógeno en Aragón and the CCI Instituto Tecnologia de Canarias in Pozo Isquierdo, Gran Canaria, Islas Canarias. However, Acta has since abandoned this application to concentrate on the development of electrolysers.
Similar to the bikes of Shanghai Pearl, Valeswood or Acta was Iwatani's bicycle. Iwatani Corporation developed hydrogen-powered electrically-assisted bicycles between 2006 to 2008 participating in the Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project (JHFC). The outcome was presented at the Kansai International Airport in October 2009.
Also in this category of small bikes falls that of Pedego Electric Bikes. This Californian company was working with SiGNa Chemistry in the development of a range extender for their electric bike Pedego Classic Comfort Cruise. "For every 1.5 lbs. of weight a rider carries, an additional 700 Wh is available (compared to ~350 Wh for an ultra-high performance lithium-polymer battery at a weight of 7 lbs.)."
At the same time in Austria and Germany, the company Linde at Vienna, Austria, a supplier of industrial gases and technology, was active in the field. A pilot series of one hundred hydrogen-powered bicycles was produced and distributed to institutional and political users in 2015. The bike weighs only 23.6 kg with a price tag above €7'000, but Linde is not interested in marketing it.
The French company Gitane (Cycleurope Group) presented its prototype hybrid called Alter Bike in Nice in May 2013. It had been developed in collaboration with the French companies Pragma Industries and Ventec. The hydrogen is stored in interchangeable and recyclable metal-hydride capsules. The Alter 2 bike appeared in 2016.
Gitane Alter Bike, 2013
Gitane Alter Bike 2, 2016
The hydrogen bicycle αlpha is a development of Pragma Industries (Biarritz, France). The project is supported by ADEME. Pragma Industries had presented a prototype in 2015. These bicycles weigh 25 kg, comparable to the weight of an electric bicycle. They were given a price tag of €7'000, with the prospect of reducing the price to €3'500 by 2020. There are several projects using the αlpha such as the CARGHO project, which is a fleet of hydrogen bicycles tested by users in Chambéry and at Savoie Technolac, or also the Bhyke project in Cherbourg and Saint-Lô in the Manche with a fleet of 20 bicycles. Pragma Industries has also unveiled hydrogen eTrikes for the last meters in the delivery chain.
The MovR cargo bike by Rytle (Bremen, Germany) has been on the market since 2018. The company is a spin-off project of DLR's Fuel Cell Power Pack (FC PP).
Atena Scarl is the high-tech centre for energy and the environment in Italy. Its flagship technology is a small fuel-cell system that is put on hydrogen-powered bicycles, scooters and micro cars. The systems are equipped with interchangeable cartridges or can be recharged independently. The hydrogen bicycle is supported by ENEA, Università Parthenope di Napoli and Università degli Studi di Perugia. In 2019, three models were available: Touring 250, Sport MB250, Sport MB500, but without price or point of sale.
In September 2019 CYCLEUROPE and STOR-H presented the Gitane Sneaker, a hydrogen-powered three-wheeled bicycle. The electric motor has a power of 250W. Two metal hydride cartridges provide a range of 50 km. The company Aaqius, supplier of the returnable cartridges, plans to create a local network of distributors.
List of the most important web pages visited, almost complete, in alphabetical order :
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.
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) ?