Electric vehicles (EVs) are by far the most well known alternative to petrol cars.
Recently, 2 researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) have developed a hydrogen hybrid vehicle that runs on hydrogen fuel cells. These cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical energy and harmless water vapour as a byproduct, which mean that these vehicles emit zero carbon emissions!
The project was led by UKM Fuel Cell Institute Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Shahbudin Mastar @ Masdar alongside Prof Dr Siti Kartom Kamarudin.
The first of the two vehicles is a modified buggy, designated UKM-FCH2B and the other vehicle is a mini version of a hybrid SUC, named UKM FCH2HC.
The hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were developed in collaboration with industry partners through the modification of electric vehicles (EVs).
According to Siti Kartom, the UKM-FCH2B is unique as the battery has been replaced with a fuel cell system that acts as an electrical power source to improve the buggy’s operational efficiency, as well as a 3,000W stationary power generator for electrical appliances.
On the other hand, the UKM-FCH2HC is a hybrid vehicle that combines a fuel cell and a battery in a 0.5 ratio, with each power source capable of providing a capacity of up to 10 kW, allowing the vehicle to travel further.
“The fuel cell system is equipped with humidifiers and water coolers as supporting units to ensure optimal system performance at all times,” she said.
She explained that a fuel cell generates electricity through electro-chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen in the surrounding environment.
“During the reaction, hydrogen and oxygen combine to produce electrical energy and harmless water vapour as a by-product, making hydrogen safe because it does not harm or contaminate the surrounding environment, unlike liquified petroleum gas,” she said.
The hydrogen fuel cell technology is nothing new and Siti Kartom said the project was initiated 15 years ago with fundamental research to develop high-quality catalysts and membranes. It was only in the last 3 years they managed to bring together all the fundamental components needed to develop the vehicle’s system.
Hydrogen fuel cells are seen as another green alternative to petrol for vehicles as it will not take hours to get an empty tank up to full. In fact, the refuelling time can be less than 3 minutes, which is a significant advantage over electrical vehicles.