The European Union is using busses to test the reliability and life cycle of hydrogen fuel cells. How can EDA companies partecipate in such futuristic projects?
Reykjavik was one of the port of call during my last cruise. I was looking forward to visiting Iceland because its volcanic and tectonic features have intrigued me for a long time. I was not disappointed, but another surprise is worthy of coverage in this column. Driving out of the city we encountered a regular Shell gas station but the adjacent building drew my attention. It looked like a white service building but was in fact a hydrogen filling station.
Welcome to the future! Icelanders not only heat their houses with thermal energy, now they are filling up with hydrogen? Well it is not quite that futuristic, but it certainly makes one wonder about the, by comparison meager, FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership launched in 2002 by the united States.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE) the Partnership is an effort to examine and advance the pre-competitive, high-risk research needed to develop the component and infrastructure technologies necessary to enable a full range of affordable cars and light trucks, and the fueling infrastructure for them that will reduce the dependence of the nation's personal transportation system on imported oil and minimize harmful vehicle emissions, without sacrificing freedom of mobility and freedom of vehicle choice. The partners are: the DOE, BP America, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell Hydrogen LLC, and the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR)—a legal partnership among DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation.
By contrast, three fuel cell hydrogen busses operate in Reykjavik (you can see two of them in the picture below). They will be used throughout the year 2006. They are part of the HyFLEET:CUTE project. This project is a follow up of a very successful project named ECTOS. A general factsheet on the project published by the project management describes the overall organization and the goals.
The project brings together 31 partners from industry, government, academic and consulting organizations. Some of the worlds' leading automotive and technology development companies, major energy companies, policy developers, and transportation companies are collaborating to lead Europe into the development of the twenty second century hydrogen-based transportation system of the future.
HyFLEET:CUTE has been established under and is financially supported by the European Commission's 6th Framework Research Program . The European Union's Energy Policy aims at diversifying and security energy sources while reducing Carbon Di Oxide (CO2), that contributes to the world's climate change, and other emissions harmful to the environment and human health. Hydrogen is a key element in this strategy for future road transportation.
Fuel cells are known to have shorter life time than for example diesel engines and therfore continous use may reveal how sensitive the fuel cells are to prolonged strain. The goal is to run the busses and the hydrogen station for longer continuous periods, not to stop during weekends and find out the optimal running mode for the whole system. The busses are not kept on a single route; they can show up anywhere in the normal public transportation system in Reykjavik.
Hydrogen busses of the same type as the busses in Reykjavik will be used in several cities in Europe, in Perth, Australia and Bejing, China. The largest fleet will operat in Hamburg, Germany. The goal of this project is to monitor the performance of the busses and the infrastructure, compile the outcomes of social studies within the ECTOS and CUTE projects and harmonize the dissemination of the lessons learned during all the tests. IN ECTOS it became evident that it is poosible to improve the fuel economy if the systems are synchronized. The most important factors is to run the station in a contiuous mode and keep producing hydrogen for several weeks. Also to run the busses 6-7 days a week and thereby raise the demand for hydrogen. The busses have shown much better fuel efficiency if they run on longer distances and stop less frequently - just like other types of vehicles. Data that can reveal the differences according to various running modes will be collected during the HyFLEET CUTE. In Germany, the lessons learned during the tests will be used to design a second generation of the EvoBus fuel cell bus and will test a bus that runs on hydrogen but is equipped with an internal combustion engine. The project website is at www.global-hydrogen-bus-platform.com .
You might be wondering what this has to do with EDA. In order to grow EDA must become an integral part of future looking programs, not just limit itself to helping to design smaller and smaller geometires on silicon.. EDA companies can play a significant part in planning and developing future modes of transportation, from system design, to mixed/signal and pure analog tools, to cables and harnesses, and embedded systems design and development. I am looking forward to the time when the name of an EDA company is listed together with those of car manufacturers and fuel suppliers as full partner in an effort similar to HyFLEET CUTE.
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Gabe Moretti, EDA DesignLine Editor