Pragma Industries of France had offered 200 hydrogen fuelled bicycles to journalists and delegates during the G7 summit at Biarritz. As a result, the company has received its first order of 1000 bicycles from the Chilean President Sebastian Pinera.
The hydrogen fuelled bicycle basically uses a hydrogen fuel cell to charge the batteries. It carries a small fuel cell and a hydroge tank. The life of this fuel cell is between 15 to 20 years as against a 5-8 years life of a Li-Ion battery pack. The entire bicycle along with the fuel cell and hydrogen cylinder weighs 29 Kgs. It has a range of 150 km as against a range of around 50 km for battery operated electric-cycles. Pragma is already planning a lighter bike weighing in at 25 Kgs. Further, Pragma claims that its bikes can be refuelled (charged) in two minutes as compared to 3 – 4 hours for battery cycles.
As far as size of the system is concerned, Pierre Forté, founder and CEO of Pragma Industries, stated, ” The gravimetric density of hydrogen is excellent: 33 kWh/kg. The fuel cell is more compact than an engine of recent construction but it is the hydrogen tank that takes up space. Auxiliary components such as power electronics have come a long way in recent years.”
On the advantages of using hydrogen, the CEO said, “The advantage of the hydrogen technology is that it is possible to increase the available energy by 30% by adding only 600 grams to the system whereas, for the same power on an electric bike, it would take 2 kg of additional battery, a larger tank is all that is required for better performance – the size of the battery and auxiliary components remains the same, the increase in autonomy does not imply a linear increase in the size of the system as an electric battery would do.”
Pragma Industries believes that hydrogen would have a more beneficial effect than Li-ion batteries on elector-mobility because hydrogen is inherently greener. As per the company, the electricity needed to generate hydrogen will come from renewable sources in future. Though some metals are used in the fuel cell their quantity is much smaller than the metals used in a Li-ion battery and hence the environmental effect of extracting metals is smaller for hydrogen than Li-ion. Forte stated, ” A lithium battery of 7kg, that represents five or 6kg of different metals. A fuel cell is only 0.3g of platinum which, in addition, is not mixed with other metals and can be recycled to 90%.”
As of now the price of each bicycle is approximately Euro 7000.00 (INR 5.56 Lakhs). However, as per Pragma that is not at issue as the company intends to lease the bicycles to its customers and not sell them. The cost of leasing is expected to be Euro 50 per month (INR 3,950.00). At the end of the lease the bicycles would be returned to Pragma for recycling. A fuel cell whose efficiency is found reduced can still be used a source of electricity in third world countries where there is severe shortage of energy or the grid supply is not stable.