June 14, 2006 Renault will be presenting the progress it has made in fuel cell research at the 16th World Hydrogen Energy Conference in Lyons, France this week. The presentations will illustrate Renault's decision to opt for vehicles powered by fuel cells with reformers in order to apply hydrogen energy to the automobile. This technology directly produces the hydrogen on demand and on board the vehicle, solving the problem of very high-pressure or cryogenic storage. Since 2002, Renault, Nissan and Nuvera Fuel Cells have been working together on this solution, which can be used immediately, without waiting for a hydrogen distribution network to be established.
Four exhibits will be on show:
The reformer, which transforms the liquid fuel into reformate, a hydrogen-rich gas that can be used to supply the fuel cell. The process has six distinct stages. First, the cracking phase breaks down the long hydrocarbon molecule chains into simpler molecules: hydrogen, water, carbon, etc. In the next five stages, the gas is purified until it is ready for use with the fuel cell.
The fuel cell, which generates electric power by combining hydrogen and oxygen. The only by-product of this electro-chemical reaction is water, which is then returned in a closed circuit to the reformer that needs water to operate. The water produced by the fuel cell is reinjected into the system.
The electric power generated by the fuel cell is transformed to the appropriate voltage by the power electronics and then drives the electric motor.
A multiple-fuel tank. Since the reformer can run on petrol, diesel and ethanol, a special fuel tank has been designed that can contain the different types of fuel. This option was chosen to reduce concerns about the future availability of hydrocarbons. It also means that motorists can choose the cheapest available type of fuel.
When Renault announced its "Renault Commitment 2009" on February 9, 2006, it confirmed that the group was preparing a broad range of alternative technologies, of which the fuel cell is just one part. In France, Renault plans to test vehicles powered by fuel cells based on advanced Alliance technology.