A hydrogen powered cleaning vehicle is being tested on the streets of the city of Basel, Switzerland, since 2009. The vehicle has been developed by a team led by Christian Bach, head of the Internal Combustion Engines Laboratory at Empa.
Since the vehicle reached its targets in terms of both performance and energy consumption, the team has decided to substitute the fuel cell system initially used with a more advanced module and also incorporate a centralized safety module. The Mk 2 Fuel Cell System has been functional since the summer of 2011 and has proved to be highly robust. The vehicle was taken out of service just once, due to a defective water pump.
The trials proved that fuel cells are now ready for regular everyday applications, particularly for applications like municipal utility vehicles. The fuel cells help the operator to save a large amount of energy, as the fuel consumption of the hydrogen powered vehicle is significantly less when compared to its counterparts. The hydrogen powered vehicle requires only 0.3 to 0.6 kg of fuel per hour, while the standard usage is 5 to 5.5 l of diesel per hour.In addition, the vehicle’s performance is approximately 40% higher than a diesel powered-vehicle in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. The novel cleaning vehicle has been demonstrated to be safe and user-friendly while being used in the Basel streets. Another advantage is that the hydrogen powered vehicle makes very less noise than a diesel powered one. It operates much quieter both while driving and cleaning the streets with suction system and brushes.
The only drawback of the vehicle is that during colder climates, the waste heat generated from the electric motor and the fuel cells are not adequate to maintain a warm temperature in the driver’s cabin. Hence, to overcome this setback, the driver’s seat has been fitted with a heating system for use on colder days. In the middle of March 2012, the testing phase of the vehicle will end and it will be moved to St Gallen for further trials.