Bucher CityCat H2, the world’s first municipal utility vehicle powered by fuel cells, made its debut last week in Basel, Switzerland. The street-cleaning CityCat will undergo an 18-month trial to see how well it can reduce air pollution compared to conventional diesel engines.
CityCat’s fuel cells convert hydrogen into electrical current, which drives the vehicle’s electric motor. No pollutants are emitted–only water vapor created by the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. In addition to reducing pollution, the CityCat is expected to halve energy consumption compared to diesel engines and reduce CO2 emissions by 40%.
Questions still remain, of course, about the viability of hydrogen power in general, as most hydrogen is still derived from non-renewable natural gas. The CityCat project will attempt to examine whether hydrogen power is actually cost-effective for municipal use. Even if it is deemed cost-effective, hydrogen technology has a long way to go before it is accepted in mainstream vehicles. The U.S. Department of Energy recently cut $100 million from its hydrogen fuel cell program, making the widespread production of hydrogen vehicles highly unlikely. Still, hydrogen fuel cells may have a future in municipal street cleaning vehicles, portable electronics, and backup power generators.
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