September 20, 2020

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Ready for hydrogen e-bike? Yes, you are!

hydrogen e-bike

hydrogen e-bike. Photo: Pragma Industries

Bike companies competing for the first customers and market is huge. French cities already order hundreds of hydrogen bikes asking to increase sales.

Bike companies competing for the first customers and market is huge. French cities already order hundreds of hydrogen bikes asking to increase sales. The first hydrogen-powered bicycle was to be sold in 2016, but “Alpha” was delayed. Until next year, then the wait should be over. Fuel cell technology promises a lower carbon footprint and faster charging. Pragma Industries also wants to revolutionize pedaling support.

Presented at the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 in Las Vegas, a further developed concept of the alpha e-bike from the French company Pragma Industries is finally ready. A pedal-assisted bicycle with fuel cell technology that uses hydrogen to provide the electricity for the electric motor. The chemical reaction takes place within the PEM battery already used by Toyota, the so-called “Proton Exchange Membrane” battery. This produces nothing but electricity and harmless water vapor. H2-Bike Alpha from Pragma Industries will come onto the market next year and despite a long delay with strongly extended batery capacity.

Prototype of the H2 Alpha bike comes from 2017

Originally, the first hydrogen bike was to be sold in 2016. But the first fully functional prototype of the hydrogen e-bike series was only released in 2017 under the name “Alpha”. The bicycle should combine different technologies of the hydrogen battery and compress it into a single means of transportation. The company’s intention to create a step-assisted bicycle that targets the rider in an environmentally friendly way.

Normally, bicycles with pedal-dependent electric drives are struggling with the disadvantages of conventional lithium-ion batteries: short range, self-discharging batteries and charging times of up to 11 hours can make an extended bike tour exhausting. With the new fuel cell technology from Pragma Industries, the waiting time is reduced to a few minutes. The highlight: instead of electricity, highly compressed gas flows through the pipes. According to the manufacturer, the range of a single hydrogen cartridge is up to 100 kilometers.

In addition, the Alpha bike is still equipped with a lithium-ion battery. This is to ensure that the last few kilometers can be traveled to a suitable hydrogen filling station. The battery also maintains other functions of the e-bike system, such as a kilometer-accurate battery level indicator.

Alpha 2.0 is the bike for the end user

Pragma Industries announced a ready-to-sell model “Alpha 2.0” at CES 2019 and as promise some models already went to first customers. After two years of intensive research and improvement of the fuel cell technology the French company confirms that it has developed a hydrogen pedelec that complies with European guidelines. A Brose drive with 250 watts and a top speed of 25 km/h, a 2 liter gas cylinder as a storage location for the hydrogen and a 150 watt fuel cell are integrated into the new bike. The interaction of the components also allows a range of around 100 kilometers.

The bike is initially only planned for a fleet concept, but private use of hydrogen e-bikes is not excluded. Pragma Industries only sells complete packages consisting of 10 bicycles and a charging station. The bicycles cost around 7,500 euros each. The price of the included charging station is 75,000 euros. Some cities in France have already ordered these packages for public use.

The competition doesn’t sleep

In addition to Pragma Industries, there are other manufacturers who want to open up this market for themselves. This includes, for example, the listed technology group Linde. However, the company announced that the Linde H2 bike they had developed would initially only be produced in a limited prototype series.

The situation is different at the Gernweit, which developed its own hydrogen-based e-bike called “Ped-Hy-Lec”. Unlike the Linde H2 bike, this bike offers a second, independently usable hydrogen cartridge that should serve as a reserve. Just like the conventional pedelec, all bikes with their integrated electric drive reach a top speed of around 25 km/h.

Hydrogen e-bikes are not designed for the masses

Despite the efforts of Pragma Industries, Linde and Gernweit, however, it is not yet possible to assess the extent to which hydrogen e-bikes are used on German roads. In order to be able to disseminate this business and transportation model in Germany, first of all a nationwide network of hydrogen filling stations or another independent solution for the refueling of the cartridges is required. What turns out to be a good and environmentally friendly alternative to other motor vehicles and already established pedelecs must also undergo further tests. For example, the origin of the electricity with which the hydrogen fuel pumps generate gas using electrolysis must be clarified.