In yet another approach to an environmentally friendly vehicle, engineers in Basel, Switzerland are pleased with the results of their hydrogen powered street cleaning vehicle, which has been in the works since 2009. After years of development, the successful three months of performance leaves researchers at Empa and the Paul Scherrer Institute optimistic that hydrogen is indeed an environmentally friendly, feasible option for municipal utility vehicles.
While the hydrogen powered street cleaner has been successfully sweeping Basel’s streets for three months, it was a long and winding road for researchers to get to this point. It took 18 months of development before testing began in 2009. Once on the streets, the hydrogen fuel cell system proved quite finicky, causing researchers to replace the initial fuel cell system, implement a single centralized safety module and replace a number of parts.
Despite the initial setbacks, the vehicle has operated without a hitch for the past three months, showing that daily use is possible for hydrogen fuel cells. To continue the study, the vehicle will be sent to St. Gallen so researchers can gather more data on how it fares in real world situations.
The energy savings are drastic compared to diesel engines, using less than a tenth of the amount of fuel needed for a conventional engine and reducing CO2 emissions by 40 percent. Meanwhile, the issue of cost remains a major barrier to realistic implementation. The fuel cell technology makes the vehicle about three times as expensive as conventional ones, although researchers are optimistic that the cost will continue to fall as technology improves.