Tuk Tuks may be going hydrogen

What’s dubbed the world’s first affordable hydrogen fuel cell mass transport vehicle is set to be unveiled in concept form this week at an auto show in India.

The design, created as a result of a partnership between a university and others, is seen as a potential replace for a ubiquitous form of Indian rickshaw transportation known as the tuk tuk utility vehicle.

Birmingham City University is the primary driving force behind this, working in collaboration with UK motorsport entrepreneur and manufacturer Spencer Ashley and the DYP-DC Centre for Automotive Research. Specifications of this concept indicate the zero emissions powertrain consists of “a hydrogen fuel cell, an electric motor and a complex control system. Hydrogen for the vehicle is stored in a cluster of low pressure metal hydride cylinders, providing a safe means of fuelling the system.”

image via Birmingham City University

A thermal compressor, said those involved with the project, retrieves the produced hydrogen by splitting water into its component elements – hydrogen and oxygen – via solar energy. Hydrogen storage cylinders can then be used to power equipment including mobile phones, computers and lighting in remote and developing areas or in a humanitarian disaster situation, as well as powering an electric vehicle.

The project has been in development since last summer at Spencer-Ashley and is tied to the Indian government’s Hydrogen Highway initiative, which aims to ensure that at least one million hydrogen-fueled vehicles hit the roads by 2020. Tied as well to the creation of this fuel cell vehicle is something called a Hydrogen Tree, “a simple and aesthetically elegant design which would be capable of charging multiple hydride stores to power not only vehicles but other appliances and devices too.”

Though this is one of the first times we’ve seen a tuk tuk design go fuel cell, other ones that are non-gas powered have surfaced before in various countries as well.

* Nino Marchetti, EarthTechling.com