Fuel cell hybrid taxi

Partners: Intelligent Energy, Lotus Engineering, LTI Vehicles, TRW Conekt

It may look like just another black cab, but this Hackney carriage could soon become a vital part of reducing emissions in our city centres.

Developed by a consortium including Intelligent Energy, Lotus Engineering, LTI Vehicles, TRW Conekt, the fuel cell hybrid black cab is set to make its debut in London within the next two years and has already gained international recognition for its innovative design.

‘We’ve taken a product that is core to London and really transformed it into something of the future,’ said Ashley Kells, senior programme manager for Intelligent Energy. ‘If we want zero-emissions taxis in our cities, then a battery vehicle alone won’t be able to achieve that because it can’t provide the range and refueling time and a standard hybrid can’t achieve that because it has diesel particulates.’

The solution they have come up with is cab which is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system hybridised with lithium polymer batteries. A 100kW, 550Nm peak permanent magnet brushless motor drives the rear wheel, which is fed by a high-voltage supply from the two systems.  The cab is capable of reaching 80 mph, refuels in less than five minutes, has a range of over 250 miles on a full tank and produces no emission other than water vapour.

Intelligent Energy developed, tested and helped to integrate its proprietary fuel cell system. The design works in the same way as a conventional fuel cell systems by generating energy through reactions between hydrogen and air.

With an acceleration of 0-60mph fully loaded in 15.5 seconds and a range comparable to a conventional cab, it is hoped that fuel cell hybrid taxi will be a viable transport solution for London. Beyond this, the consortium claims that the powertrain technologies and expertise developed throughout the programme will be immediately transferable to other automotive applications.

Kells said: ‘London is leading this project as the showcase city for other countries. But you look at places like Shanghai and Beijing and you see that there is a real potential to export it to other countries, which could have a huge benefit to the UK economy. We think taxis are only a small part of it because the same power train can be used in any vehicle. It’s already had a great reception, and I expect it will have an even better one in 2012 when the world’s focus is on London for the Olympics.’

By developed the fuel cell black cabs and proving how clean and reliable fuel cell technology is, the Intelligent Energy-led consortium has demonstrated that the future of clean transport is viable and is not just a novelty. While the Beijing’s Olympics gave us the Bird’s Nest, the London Olympic Games may have a more lasting legacy in being the Games that provided a platform to launch clean technologies.

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