Novel Electric Car with Biomethanol Fuel Cell Range Extender

28 Jun 2012

QBEAK

A consortium of Danish companies is working to develop an innovative, range-extended electric vehicle that uses biomethanol as an energy carrier. The ModularEnergyCarrier concept (MECc) project has just been granted funding from the Danish government.

The project is developing a completely-rethought electric car with high market potential due to a competitive price and specifications that can be adapted to the user’s individual requirements. This flexibility is delivered by the use of methanol-fuelled fuel cells as range extenders.

The concept car (top) is based on the QBEAK electric car, now in the final phase of development by ECOmove. The car essentially has six ‘energy slots’ distributed through the vehicle structure. These slots can each contain either a battery, a fuel cell, or a methanol tank, allowing the on-board energy storage to be adapted to different needs. The basic range-extended model will have a 2.5 kW fuel cell and tank occupying two slots, but the modular design means that more fuel cell plus tank modules can be added if longer range is required by the customer. The project partners say that the car will have a range of at least 800 km.

The fuel cells are being supplied by Serenergy, which has developed a unit containing an air-cooled, high-temperature PEM fuel cell with integrated reformer to run on methanol. It is currently working on several applications for this fuel cell system, with one of these already firmly on the path to commercial success: the EcoMotion landscape maintenance truck is already seeing sales without the benefit of subsidies. In this instance, Serenergy is looking to apply the technology as an e-mobility enabler.

The QBEAK is a ‘voluntary plug-in’: the concept is to allow the customer the flexibility of recharging the batteries during off-peak periods when electricity costs are low, or filling up with methanol in a few minutes when that convenience is desired. The intention is for the methanol to be distributed through existing infrastructure, with methanol pumps available on regular filling station forecourts, minimising this particular cost barrier to introduction. An initial costing has indicated that a pump can be converted to dispense methanol for around €15,000.

Methanol fuelAlthough the use of methanol means the vehicle will not have zero tailpipe emissions, Serenergy’s Business Developer Mads Friis Jensen emphasises that renewable methanol is already being produced and is commercially available in large quantities (you can read Fuel Cell Today’s recent Analyst View on the subject here). In addition to renewable fuel, the concept can deliver significant energy savings: Jensen says that on a well-to-wheel basis the combination of methanol and fuel cells can halve energy use compared to conventional vehicle technology.

Fuel cell range extenders also offer other benefits. The fuel cell cogenerates high-grade heat that can be harnessed for cabin heating and cooling, further enhancing efficiency. The batteries benefit from a more stable state of charge and last longer, reducing overall lifecycle energy use and cost.

EV industry cluster Insero E-Mobility is managing the project, and it is being funded under the Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program (EDDP), which supports the development of technologies to make Denmark independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

More information is available on ECOmove's website here and in the MECc press release here.

Source: Insero E-Mobility / Serenergy / Fuel Cell Today

Images courtesy of Serenergy and ECOmove.

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