Fuel cell-powered H-ROVER puts you in the NASA tech's seat
By Ben Coxworth
January 30, 2013
It’s probably safe to say that most of us will never get the chance to operate a Mars rover. While it is now possible to purchase remote-control miniature buggies with onboard cameras, most of them still seem like ... well, like toys. The H-ROVER, however, is a little different. Looking like it would be right at home trundling across the Martian topsoil, the little tracked vehicle is powered by a hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and super-capacitor system.
The H-ROVER is being unveiled today at the Nurnberg Toy Fair, and is one of the latest offerings from Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies. Previously, the company has also brought us the fuel cell-powered H-Racer and H2GO model cars.
Users control the rover via their smartphone, tablet or PC, viewing a real-time video feed from its LED-equipped Bluetooth video camera. Instead of conventional batteries, the vehicle comes with two of Horizon’s HYDROSTIK PRO hydrogen gas-absorbing metal hydride cartridges – these are in turn refilled using the included HYDROFILL PRO desktop hydrogen station, which extracts hydrogen from water stored in an integrated reservoir.
The HYDROSTIKs and the rover’s super-capacitor compliment one another, just like they do in some full-sized fuel cell vehicles. “Super-caps help acceleration while reducing the power/size requirements for the fuel cells, while fuel cells deliver the endurance power that super-caps cannot provide,” Horizon’s Taras Wankewycz told us. An onboard controller automatically switches between the two power sources as required.
The hybrid system results in a claimed run time of about one hour per fill, although Wankewycz noted that additional HYDROSTIKs can be added for longer runs. The platform is also designed to receive user-supplied add-ons such as robot arms or sensors, making it even more Mars rover-like.
While the H-ROVER doesn’t have the multi-million-dollar price tag of a NASA vehicle, it’s not exactly cheap, either – expect to pay around US$799, although keep in mind that the $575 HYDROFILL PRO hydrogen station is included.
The company is also unveiling the latest version of its H2GO car, now known as the i-H2GO. Upgrades from the previous model include Android/iOS-compatible smartphone-based gyroscopic remote control, higher top speed, and a better vehicle control system. It’s priced at $129 – non-HYDROFILL refueling station included – and should begin shipping in March.
Source: Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies