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Fuel Cell Hydrogen Powered Motorcycle

Fuel Cell Hydrogen Powered Motorcycle

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Intelligent Energy launches the world’s first purpose-built fuel-cell motorcycle

A British firm unveiled plans for the ENV, the world’s first purpose-built, fuel-cell motorcycle, ahead of any of the world’s leading automotive companies.  The ENV bike is the creation of Intelligent Energy, a British energy solutions company, whose board includes Chairman Sir John Jennings, the former Chairman of Shell Transport and Trading.

The launch is claimed as a victory for the know-how and aspirations of the project’s all-British team and a landmark moment for those who believe that the dream of a hydrogen economy can, with the right political and economic support, become a tangible, near-future reality for the world’s energy consumers.

The ENV (Emissions Neutral Vehicle) bike was designed to Intelligent Energy’s brief by a British team, led by multi-award-winning designers Seymourpowell, which was cited as Britain’s 6th most important cultural movers and shakers in a 2004 BBC poll. 

The ENV motorcycle is fully-functioning and has been engineered and purpose-built (based around Intelligent Energy’s world-beating CORE fuel cell) from the ground up, demonstrating the real, everyday applicability of fuel cell technology.  The fuel cell is completely detachable from the bike, and is claimed to be a radically compact and efficient fuel cell, capable of powering anything from a motorboat to a small domestic property.

In the worldwide rush by the biggest names in the automotive and bike industry to bring hydrogen-powered vehicles to market, the hastily-assembled handful of prototypes and public launches to date have mostly (with the exception of Honda’s recent fuel-cell scooter) paraded existing models, superficially adapted to fuel cell use.

The ENV motorcycle is different.  It offers a glimpse of what may be to come. ‘In the none-too-distant future’, commented Intelligent Energy CEO Harry Bradbury, ‘ people will be able to use a bike like ENV to leave work in an urban environment, drive to the countryside, detach the CORE and attach it to another vehicle, such as a motorboat, before going on to power a log cabin with the very same fuel cell, which could then be re-charged from a mini hydrogen creator, the size of a shoebox.’

Intelligent Energy, with an expanding suite of technology platforms, is capable of producing every element of this scenario and is currently working on just such a hydrogen-creator, which will be able to produce hydrogen from future fuels such as bio-ethanol (derived, for example, from soy or sugar cane), offering consumers a tantalizing vision of complete electrical self-sustainability.

This vision is particularly compelling for remote communities and especially for the developing world, where large grids are simply not economically viable and where fuel cells offer both easy portability and power delivery at the point of consumption with no loss of efficiency.

The ENV Motorcycle

ENV is lightweight, streamlined and aerodynamic.  It boasts a performance that outreaches any existing electrical bike. In an urban or off-road environment, it can reach speeds of 50 mph.  It is also virtually silent (with noise emissions equivalent to an everyday home computer) and its emissions are almost completely clean. 

On a full tank, the ENV bike could be used continually for up to four hours without any need for re-fuelling.  The bike can also be used by riders of any skill level with simple controls, via a throttle directly linked to the applied power. 

The bike has no gears and is strictly defined as a motorcycle, although it feels to riders more like a very quick and responsive mountain bike.  ‘ENV is light, fast and fun’, commented Seymourpowell director Nick Talbot. 

‘It has good ground clearance, great off-road suspension travel and a very carefully considered power to weight ratio.  I have ridden motorcycles for years’, he added, ‘ and, in the process of designing the bike, I have become a convert to fuel cell technology.  The bike is usable, useful and great-looking.  It was important on this project to demonstrate that new technologies don’t have to be wrapped up in a dull product – engaging public imagination and enthusiasm is key.’

ENV has been produced in two monochromatic colors: black supergloss and iridescent white. ‘This was to express the bike’s parallel natures’, explained Nick Talbot. ‘On the one hand, it expresses a utopian future vision of ‘clean power, anywhere’ - and on the other, it’s an exciting, hard-edged bike and fun to ride.’

The bike’s primary frame and swinging arm are made from hollow-cast aircraft grade Aluminium.  At the bike’s heart is a fully-integrated 1kW fuel cell generator providing power on demand directly to the drive-train. 

To enhance performance during peak power demand (ie when accelerating), the fuel cell is hybridized with a battery pack to provide a 6kW peak load to the motor.  The result is a balanced hybrid concept which combines the main advantages of Intelligent Energy’s CORE fuel cell, hydrogen storage and battery technology.

Fuel cell technology and the Intelligent Energy CORE

The Intelligent Energy CORE is a PEM-type fuel cell – one of five different fuel cell types, all of which have different attributes in terms of size, robustness and ability to work at high temperatures.  The PEM (or Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell type is the most popular and appropriate type of fuel cell for automotive applications. Simply put, each fuel cell is a multi-layered sandwich of plates and MEAs (Membrane Electrode Assemblies), in which the MEA acts as a catalyst during an electro-chemical reaction, producing water and electricity from hydrogen and oxygen.

The water by-product points to the usefulness of the technology in heat and power applications, such as the home.  The water by-product can be evaporated, drained or drunk, as it was, for example, by the astronauts of the Apollo missions. NASA were the first real users of fuel cell technology in the 1950s and 60s – a century after its first invention by Welsh lawyer Sir William Grove.

The Intelligent Energy CORE fuel cell is a world beater, both in terms of volumetric power density and low parasitic loss. It uses metal rather than the more common graphite plates, making it easier to manufacture, more robust and, crucially, smaller as metal plates can be made more thinly than graphite plates. 

This makes the CORE particularly attractive to the automotive industry, where space is always at a premium. Intelligent Energy has also patented a methodology to prevent corrosion from the constant contact to the water by-product, solving the only potential negative aspect associated with using metal.

ENV is a complete pre-production prototype motorcycle, just as the 50kW powered light aircraft, developed by Intelligent Energy for partner Boeing was similarly a complete prototype in 2004.  Both vehicles demonstrate that Intelligent Energy’s advanced fuel cells are completely ready for application to real vehicles in the here and now – as well as many exciting new vehicles in the future. 

Two- and four-wheeled vehicles using 5kW and 10kW power are realistic next-step developments, for example, whilst Intelligent Energy’s new 75kW fuel cell is the most compact cell around currently and the only one capable of starting in freezing conditions with no assistance.

Key Components of the Bike Power System

  • Motor 6kW, 48 VDC Brush motor (model LEM-170, supplied by LMC ltd)
  • Motor Controller Brusa Direct Current (model MD 206)
  • Fuel Cell 1kW Intelligent Energy air-cooled (2 x AC32-48)
  • Hydrogen Storage High pressure carbon composite cylinder (Luxfer L65)
  • Hydrogen Energy 2.4kWeh
  • Storage Battery 4 x 12V Lead Acid (15Ahr) connected in series

Performance Data

  • Acceleration 0 – 20 mph in 4.3s (32kph)
  • 0 – 30 mph in 7.3s (48 kph)
  • 0 – 50 mph in 12.1s (80kph)
  • Top speed 50 mph (80kph)
  • (note: ENV has been tested to 50mph – however, with further refinements and redevelopments, this top speed is expected to be exceeded)
  • Range At least 100 miles (160km)
  • Physical
    Bike mass 80 kg (Total mass including CORE)


  • Hydrogen 99.9% purity
  • Oxygen Taken from air
  • Hydrogen refuel time less than 5 minutes

Fuel Cell Technology Facts

  • Fuel cells provide point of consumption power generation, removing the costs and power losses associated with the transmission and distribution of electricity.
  • Fuel cells can be built incrementally to match demand and are equally efficient at both small and larger scale.
  • Fuel cells have higher energy conversion efficiencies than most other technologies: 45-55% of energy converted to electricity.
  • Fuel cells are capable of generating heat as well as power: in this combined heat and power mode (CHP mode), energy conversion efficiencies exceed 90%.
  • Fuel cells have dynamic load-following characteristics and can be built modularly for added reliability. They have none of the intermittency issues affecting wind and solar technologies.
  • Fuel cells are easy to maintain as they have no moving parts.
  • Fuel cells produce zero emissions if hydrogen is used as a feedstock, and significantly reduced emissions if hydrogen is produced from reformation of hydrocarbon feedstocks.
  • Fuel cells are modular. Effectively, you can keep adding to the sandwich up to an optimal configuration. At this point other stacks can simply be bolted on – and on and on! A fuel cell the size of a toaster could power a typical domestic UK home.
  • The USA wants to see hydrogen fuel cell cars on US roads by 2015 and has pledged to spend more than $1.5 bn (£900m) over five years to help develop the technology.


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