Trial runs of India’s first hydrogen fuel cell prototype car successfully done

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The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and KPIT Technologies successfully ran trials of India’s first Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) prototype car running on an indigenously developed fuel cell stack, a statement said on Saturday.

HFC technology uses chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen (from air) to generate electrical energy, eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

Further, the fuel cell technology emits only water, thus cutting down the emission of harmful greenhouse gases along with other air pollutants.

The fuel cell is a low-temperature PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) type that operates at 65-75 degrees Celsius, which is suitable for vehicular applications.

CSIR and KPIT have developed a 10 kWe (Kilowatt-electric) automotive grade LT-PEMFC (low-temperature PEM fuel cell) stack based on CSIR’s know-how.

The heart of the PEM fuel cell technology includes the membrane electrode assembly, which is wholly a CSIR know-how.

“KPIT brought in their expertise in stack engineering which included light-weight metal bipolar plate and gasket design, development of the balance of plant (BoP), system integration, control software and electric powertrain that enabled running the fuel cell vehicle. The fuel cell stack uses extremely thin metal bipolar plates, thus reducing the stack weight by about two-thirds,” the statement said.

In 2016, National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune and Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI), Karaikudi — both CSIR labs — as part of the Industry Originated Project (IOP) category of the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) scheme partnered with KPIT for the development of an automotive grade PEM Fuel Cell technology.

The hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle's trials were conducted by The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and KPIT Technologies
The hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle’s trials were conducted by The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and KPIT Technologies

“The HFC technology, with further adoption and use, is poised to make the world a cleaner place with reduced air pollution levels,” the statement added.

The trials were run on a battery-electric passenger car platform retrofitted with the fuel cell stack.

However, it is expected that the technology is more suited for commercial vehicles (CV) such as buses and trucks. Battery electric buses/ trucks require a large battery to achieve the desired operating range.

In comparison, HFC technology requires a much smaller battery for a very large operating range. Hence, HFC technology offers more promise for the commercial vehicle segment, the statement said.

The FC vehicle is fitted with a Type III commercial hydrogen tank. Its capacity is around 1.75 Kgs of H2 stored at about 350 bar pressure and the FC vehicle should run for approximately 250 kms range under typical Indian road conditions at moderate speed of 60-65 kmph.

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