Fuel Cell Road Sweeper Testing Enters Next Phase

13 Mar 2012


The pilot trial of a hydrogen fuel cell powered road sweeper on the streets of Basel is to come to an end in mid-March 2012 and move on for further practical testing in St Gallen, Switzerland. The project began in 2009 and has encountered a number of setbacks along the way including sensor, cooling pump and voltage converter failures and in the summer of 2011 the fuel cell system itself had to be upgraded. Since that time, no more teething problems have been encountered and the city has been able to use the vehicle normally on an everyday basis.

This test phase has highlighted the benefits of fuel cell technology with fuel consumption less than half that of diesel versions. Consuming between 5 L and 5.5 L of diesel per hour (equivalent to 180-200 MJ) the conventional vehicles compare poorly to the fuel cell version which consumes between 0.3 and 0.6 kg hydrogen per hour (40-80 MJ). Emissions are therefore vastly improved, up to 40% better – even when accounting for hydrogen produced by steam reforming.

Refuelling of the vehicle is carried out by the operators themselves, further highlighting the safety of hydrogen as a fuel. With the teething problems overcome, this project could pave the way for further adoption of these vehicles by local government fleets around the world.

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