H-Cell 2.0: Hobby market hydrogen fuel cell gets an upgrade
By Ben Coxworth
May 26, 2010
If you’re into R/C vehicles, there’s just the slightest chance that you might be interested in a power train that runs three to four times longer than regular battery-only systems, and that requires nothing but sunlight and water to recharge. It also educates people on what will likely be the power system of choice for future real-size automobiles... and oh yes, it looks dead sexy, in a Doc-Brown’s-Delorean-flux-capacitor kinda way. Without any further ado, please open your wallets for H-Cell 2.0, the latest miniature hydrogen fuel cell hybrid drive train from Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies.
This is by no means Horizon’s first foray into hydrogen-powered toy - sorry, model vehicles. The original H-Cell power train came out in 2006, along with the complete H-Racer car - that car got an H-Racer 2.0 upgrade in 2008, which gave it more power and infra-red remote control. That year also saw Corgi launch its H2GO RC car, which was powered by a Horizon-designed fuel cell.
The H-Cell 2.0 (not to be confused with the H-Racer 2.0) is said to “replicate the function of real-scale zero emission hydrogen power trains being developed by the world’s leading automotive manufacturers.” A lithium battery powers the brushless motor for acceleration and high speeds, while the hydrogen cell provides cruising power and recharges that battery.
A new feature on the 2.0 are the Hydrostiks, which are refillable battery-shaped hydrogen cartridges. The cell takes two, and four are included. They store hydrogen as a solid hydride, within their internal alloy matrix. According to Horizon, this is the highest-density method of hydrogen storage. The sticks are also safer and more practical than a “traditional” compressed hydrogen tank, as their internal pressure is relatively low. Each cartridge takes one hour to charge, and stores 15 watt-hours of energy. Together with the lithium battery, two Hydrostiks have a combined operating time of approximately 60 minutes.
At this point, the logical question would be, “Where does the hydrogen come from?” It can be purchased in pressurized bottles, but it would be a lot more fun to make your own with Horizon’s optional Hydrofill refueling station. To use it, you just add water, then plug it into an AC outlet - if you really want to get into the spirit of things, however, you can buy the custom solar panel and get your power from it. The Hydrofill generates hydrogen using the process of electrolysis, and uses it to top up the Hydrostiks.
The H-Cell 2.0 was designed around the Tamiya TRF416 R/C car chassis, although it can also be adapted for use in models such as boats and robots. It will be available to hobbyists later this year, starting in Europe in June. No word yet on pricing.