Most of the developing world, where energy and environmental problems abound, still gets around on 2 wheels. Only 2% of the 1.5 billion population in China owns a car and cities have started banning the use of 2-stroke engine motorcycles in favor of LPG scooters and electric bicycles (15 million new electric bicycles were purchased in 2007). The trend is expected to continue as more people need to travel further each year as economies continue to grow. At the same time, both purchasing power constraints and air pollution issues will stimulate the need for low cost, zero carbon transportation solutions. Horizon is strategically positioned to develop and implement such solutions as technology costs continue to decrease, and practical fuel solutions continue to develop. Experiments with Horizon products are starting to take place in various parts of the world as a way to accelerate implementation of a hydrogen economy on smaller scale first, which in turn creates a critical mass encouraging further infrastructure deployments.
We can already notice that around the world, municipal initiatives are surfacing in support of bicycle and electric bicycles to decrease urban traffic congestion and air pollution. Zero-carbon fuel cell based systems developed by Horizon can be used to extend battery-electric bicycle runtimes by a factor of 3, and to reduce battery charging time from several hours to less than 30 minutes.
Since 2003, Horizon has been working on making fuel cell costs attractive, and fuel solutions practical - with real commercial products, in other markets. It has also started to partner with experts in the field in several countries around the world in order to start introducing commercial fuel cell bikes before the end of the decade.
One of these initiatives could lead to the deployment of integrated fuel cell bicycle solutions, as an inexpensive fuel cell demonstration option. The idea is quite simple: the budget required to run one demonstration fuel cell automobile or bus can be over the equivalent of hundreds of Horizon-powered fuel cell electric bicycles with a higher hydrogen refueling infrastructure utilization rate.
The fuel cell systems in these light electric vehicle applications are much smaller than for automobiles or motorcycles, requiring less hydrogen, with readily available hydrogen storage technologies - making the proposition easy and attractive. The fuel cell bicycles have a top speed of 25 km/h, and can travel 300 km on a hydrogen refill. With many more fuel cell vehicles on the road, visibility is increased, meaning that the investment in public outreach and education is more efficient. Also, while providing mobility, the systems on the bicycles are also small portable power systems able to run radios, computers, lights, power tools, medical equipment, even generate heat. The possibilities are endless and the start of a critical mass can spark wider deployment of higher power applications including fuel cell powered automobiles.
A first Horizon fuel cell was integrated to an electric bicycle in early 2007, and a first sale of the product was made in the same year. Following Horizon’s continuous developments in miniaturization and system optimization, the team greatly reduced the size and costs of its systems for commercial applications such as bicycles, making deployment initiatives easier to start. With further developments in this area, our partners are getting ready to deploy fuel cell bicycles in much larger volumes and can place light electric vehicles into any fleet around the world.