We are hearing about many inventions and discoveries in the alternative energy sector. But we don’t get to read about many ‘actual’ finished products doing their work in real world. What we know is many models being tested in laboratories. But here we are seeing Bucher CityCat H2, the world’s first municipal utility vehicle powered by fuel cells, made its debut last week in Basel, Switzerland. This street-cleaning CityCat will be doing her work on an eighteen months trial basis. It will be a matter of study that how this vehicle nicknamed as Bucher CityCat H2 be helpful in reducing air pollution than traditional diesel engines. Empa and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have, in collaboration with Bucher Schoerling, Proton Motor, BRUSA Elektronik AG und Messer Schweiz, developed a hydrogen powered municipal street cleaning vehicle that was unveiled to the public on 14th May 2009 in Basel.
CityCat is powered by fuel cells. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electrical current that drives the vehicle’s electric motor. So we can see that no pollutants come out from its exhaust pipe. Only water vapor is being emitted that is a result of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. This vehicle not only reduces pollution, but CityCat’s energy consumption is half compared to diesel engines and it reduces CO2 emissions by 40%. Such vehicles are especially useful in sensitive areas for example pedestrian precincts, railway station halls or even in enclosed structures such as exhibition halls.
Project Leader Christian Bach, Head of Empa’s Internal Combustion Engines Laboratory says, “Our aim is to take fuel cell technology from the laboratory onto the street.” The project — also named as ‘hy.muve’ i.e. (hydrogen-driven municipal vehicle) – is also used as a research platform for socio-economic studies. It can throw light on acceptance of hydrogen technology, its market introduction and its cost effectiveness.
But the big question is still unanswered; it’s about the possibility of hydrogen power. Because most of the hydrogen power is generated from non-renewable natural gas. CityCat presents a great opportunity to test whether hydrogen power is actually cost-effective for municipal use. Even if it is found to be cost-effective, hydrogen technology has a long way to go before it is accepted in mainstream vehicles.