FRESCO, the fuel cell scooter, makes a successful debut

28 Apr 2006

On Friday February 17 2006 a fully integrated hydrogen fuel cell scooter was successfully operated at the test ground of Piaggio & C SpA in Pontedera, Italy. The development of this zero-emission vehicle aims at reduction of greenhouse gasses in our future society where hydrogen will be the energy carrier.

Scooters are popular vehicles in cities and urban area all over the world. Reducing the emissions and energy use of these vehicles would mean a great asset in improving air quality and preserving the environment, including the reduction of noise. Highly efficient fuel cells running on hydrogen and feeding an electric motor form the preferred technology for the longer term when patrol and other fossil fuels will be more and more replaced by sustainable hydrogen as energy carrier. By participating in a development project on this technology, Piaggio extends its activities in environmentally benign propulsion systems that have been started with its leading role in hybrid technology. In hybrid technology normal internal combustion engines are used, but in a very efficient way. Because these engines still use petrol, hybrids can already be used today and thus offer short-term environmental improvements. The longer-term fuel cell technology will be the step to vehicles with no emissions at all.

Piaggio teamed up with the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) that build the "electrochemical engine" comprising the fuel cells, Selin Sistemi SpA from Italy that realized the electric motor and its electronic control, and CEA Valduc from France that developed the on-board hydrogen storage tank and the refilling facility. The Universities of Pisa and Florence, and ESMA Company from Russia delivered additional services and components to the consortium. Although the FRESCO project officially ended in July 2005, an additional effort was made by the project partners and University of Pisa to enhance the vehicle performance and effectiveness, that has lead to new tests made in February, 2006, in which vehicle acceleration, maximum speed and range were verified. Earlier fuel cell developments for scooters were limited to small devices for charging an on-board battery. In the FRESCO project, propulsion relied completely on the fuel cell alone. Because of its relevance for preserving the ecosystem, the development was partially funded by The European Commission in its fifth framework program (Contract nr ENK6-CT2001-00565).

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