Two-Wheel Tech: Suzuki Revs Up Fuel-Cell Scooter

The eco-friendly hybrid scooter recently passed a regulatory hurdle in the EU–the first vehicle of its kind to do so.

Suzuki Burgman Fuel-Cell Scooter


This scooter from Suzuki, the Suzuki Burgman Fuel-Cell Scooter, recently revved closer to the showroom floor. The scooter, which uses a PEM fuel cell from the British company Intelligent Energy (together with a lithium-ion battery), just received “whole vehicle type” approval in the EU. It’s the first fuel cell vehicle to earn that distinction in Europe. It follows over a year of trialling on public U.K. roads by Britain’s Technology Strategy board.

Suzuki fuel cell diagram

The fuel-cell Burgman is a hybrid, and functions differently depending on whether you’re accelerating (drawing on both battery and fuel cell), cruising (mainly the cell), or idling. Range is often an issue for scooters, but Suzuki says the scooter can do 217 miles on a single tank–that’s over four times the typical range. (Click here for an interactive slideshow on how the Burgman works.) Fuel cells are eco-friendly, emitting only water. But a hydrogen fueling infrastructure would be needed to make the technology widely adopted.

The market for scooters in the Americas and Europe has grown dramatically over recent years, according to Pike Research. When the fuel-cell Burgman was first unveiled in 2009, it was a hot moment for scooters, says Pike. But it still stands to be released in a receptive market, and soon: “The fact that Suzuki went to the trouble of securing this EU-wide certification even while the scooter is only in U.K. based trials suggests that the company is still on track for a mid-decade commercial launch,” in Pike’s assessment.

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[Image: Suzuki]


About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal