Tomorrow’s car powered by a bio fuel cell?
French researchers from the governmental Centre National des Recherches Scientifiques (CNRS) have created a bio-fuel cell prototype that doesn’t use any platinum like most fuel cell systems today. It combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity and could be the power plant of tomorrow’s electric cars.
“We’re not far from building a bio-cell powerful enough to power an electric car without using any platinum for the catalysis, but simple enzymes coming from bacteria”, explains CNRS researcher Levgen Mazurenko.
“Our bio-cell can already perfectly power laptop computers or smartphones today. It’s a new generation of fuel cell that we have build, thanks to a collaboration between the CNRS and the Aix and Marseille Universities”.
Transforming hydrogen into electricity
A traditional fuel cell combines hydrogen to oxygen from the air to create electricity through catalysis. In an electric car application, a tank of liquid hydrogen under high pressure replaces heavy batteries. “To reduce greenhouse gasses and obtain a completely ecological production, we will use hydrogen coming from biomass”, specifies Mazurenko.
This new fuel cell could shake up the current electric car market, majorly composed of battery electric vehicles. Only Honda, Hyundai and Toyota currently seem to be betting heavily on fuel cell technology.
The major problem of today’s hydrogen cars is the platinum needed in the catalysis to create electricity. This metal is rare and what is rare, is expensive. Same story for the lithium used in the batteries of BEVs.
While governments and car manufactures announce that the future will be electric, the European Centre of Research alerts of the potential risk of shortage by 2020 or 2030 for strategic precious metals like lithium or platinum. This new bio-cell could be the perfect “plan-B” to tomorrow’s mobility.