The Future Electric Car

Despite their green credentials, electric cars still come up short against their petrol-powered cousins when it comes to range-how far they go before the battery needs recharging. But a new “range-extended” electric vehicle (EV) equipped with the latest fuel cell technology is promising to close the gap going 500 miles (800 kilometers) without refueling, say its developers.

Bringing together the expertise of three Danish companies, the Modular Energy Carrier concept (MECc) utilizes bio-methanol — a biofuel which can be harvested from a range of sources including natural gas — to improve the competitiveness of EVs.

“Bio-methanol is a very good way to power cars because it has a very good CO2 profile, much better than diesel or gasoline,” says Mogens Lokke, CEO of ECOmove, designers of the innovative “QBEAK” car which will carry the technology.

“In combination with the way we built the car which is really lightweight (425 kilograms) we can get the 500-mile range.”

ECOmove’s award winning QBEAK incorporates patented in-wheel electric motors which deliver a top speed of 75mph (120kph), but it’s the novel chassis design which is propelling the project forward.

“Instead of putting in a fixed batter, we have built in (six) modules that can be fitted inside the chassis. We can use battery power in the modules or any other kind of energy source,” Lokke said.

The fuel cell converts a bio-methanol/water mix into electricity charging the batter, according to ECOmove, while waste heat from this process generates power for the car’s heating and cooling system. Bio-methanol is a cheap and abundant fuel with a short carbon chain, says Mads Friis Jensen from Serenergy, designers of the fuel cell.

“We are using bio-methanol, which is chemically identical to methanol, because you can manufacture it from any source, including natural gas, biomass and timber waste,” Jensen said.

He says production of the biofuel is increasing in Europe, pointing to Dutch manufacturer BioMCN, who have been reforming glycerine (a residue of biodiesel production) into biomethanol commercially since 2010. Compared to gasoline, bio-methanol production cuts CO2 emissions by more than 70% on a well to wheel basis BioMCN says. Jensen estimates emission reductions from the QBEAK’s tailpipe will be around one third of those from traditional combustion engines.

 

To read the full story by Matthew Knight and CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/13/tech/fuel-cell-biomethanol-denmark/index.html

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