Lightweight Fuel Cell Set For Competition

If you’ve got a kid who’s on the geeky side, you might know about Horizon: It’s the company that makes the H-racer, the miniature fuel-cell car that runs on hydrogen created by solar-powered electrolysis of water. Horizon’s fuel cell work actually extends in many different direction – as the company discussed in an EarthTechling Q&A last year – but small, educational and fun still looks like their comfort zone, as evidenced by a new product aimed at Shell Eco-marathon teams.

Horizon is promoting the H-1000XP fuel cell for the 2011 Eco-marathons, coming up in the United States in April, Europe in May and Asia in July. According to the company, with XP, teams can get a kilowatt of power out of a fuel-cell stack that weighs just 3.6 kilograms (about 8 lbs.) – a 30-50 percent improvement over the previous stack, the company said.

Horizon fuel cell in Shell Eco-marathon competition

image via Horizon

One of the selling points for fuel cells, of course, is that by providing power without combustion they don’t have moving parts and are thus lightweight. In a competition where the goal is to go as far as possible on as little fuel as possible, that’s a good thing. And of course, without combustion you have no environmentally harmful emissions, another factor in the Eco-marathon scoring.

Last year, a car using a Horizon fuel cell hybridized with an ultracapacitor won first place in the inaugural Asia Eco-marathon competition, going 599 kilometers (372 miles) on the equivalent of 1 liter of gasoline.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.