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Suzuki and Intelligent Energy commit to hydrogen motorcycle

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March 26, 2008

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March 27, 2008 Motorcyclists will no doubt remember the highly unconventional Suzuki Crosscage Hydrogen Concept bike from last November’s Tokyo Motor Show. The bike was developed in conjunction with British Intelligent Energy (the same folk who developed the ENV fuel cell motorcycle in 2005). Suzuki and IE this week executed a further development agreement which envisages the progression of their collaboration to commercially viable fuel cell motorcycles – it means that the Crosscage, or something quite like it, will appear in a showroom near you. Even more interesting though, is that IE’s home hydrogen generation plants appear the perfect partner for a fuel cell motorcycle – brew your own hydrogen.

From a distance, the Suzuki Crosscage looks like a distinctly radical motorcycle, but it’s only when you get close up that the unconventional nature becomes fully visible. Very little is at it seems – the motor is actually inside that huge swingingarm/rear wheel assembly, the faux petrol tank covers the fuel cell, the hydrogen fuel tank is where the motor is normally located and the battery and motor controller sit underneath the lot.

The suspension is single-sided front and rear with the rear wheel bolting to the aforementioned humongous scooter-like motor and swinging arm assembly – it’s hard to reconcile such a huge lump of unsprung weight. Compared to the ENV, which mounted its motor at the swinging arm pivot, (keeping mass centralized), and a belt drive to the rear wheel, the Crosscage puts it all at the end of the swinging arm, and it looks a bit unweildly.

As we pointed out in our brief report on the vehicle from Tokyo, 100 is the largest number to appear on the machine’s speedo, and there looks to be enough room for the needle to run to around 120km/h, so let’s not suggest that the bike is going to have performance to match its looks. It will however, emit nothing noxious, and will need to deliver running costs at levels cheap enough to give the population reason enough to buy them – with mains electricity supplying electricity at current levels, it’s hard to see another infrastructure being viable because there’s not enough profit to support the development of that infrastructure.

Suzuki officials quoted the performance of the machine in Tokyo as “similar to a 125cc motorcycle”, and while that’s more than enough to blow away the majority of SadC***Mobiles, it’s hardly likely to have the punters queued up around the block.

The ENV was powered by a 6kW 48 volt motor and with energy supplied from Intelligent Energy's 1kW hydrogen fuel cell, was capable of 50mph (80kmh) and by the time it reached market, was forecast to be able to reach most speed limits and exceed its then range of 100 miles (160 kilometers). The Crosscage, for all its devilish good looks, cannot be expected to perform any better than speed limits, and having no extra performance up your sleeve

The winning factor in the Suzuki-IE collaboration is the infrastructure the British company brings to the table. Intelligent Energy has a portfolio that includes a range of world-class fuel cell, fuel processing, desulphurization and hydrogen generation technologies. The company’s existing home hydrogen generation system means you’ll be able to make your own hydrogen at home.

That begs the question as to whether the world will seriously embrace fuel cell technology for cars and motorcycles – either pay premium rates at the newly established service-station infrastructure or make your own at home. Will the additional cost and additional effort for hydrogen generation be worthwhile?

Intelligent Energy recently announced a deal with Scottish & Southern Energy to provide fuel cell combined heat and power systems for residential and commercial markets in the UK and Ireland., adding further credibility to the company’s ability to deliver robust fuel cell powered systems for a range of applications across many sectors.

Intelligent Energy’s proprietary Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell designs are based on the use of thin metallic plates, which make the fuel cell stack compact and amenable to mass manufacture. Fuel cells generate power from hydrogen, producing water as the only by-product. In addition to its range of fuel cells, Intelligent Energy is actively engaged in furthering its hydrogen generation technology.

For now, the Crosscage proposition isn’t all that compelling, but facts are few and the information available has been purposefully vague. We suspect that the performance will need to increase to at least 250cc levels or greater to be considered worthwhile – particularly given that electric motorcycles are already at that level, and they plug straight into the wall socket.

Stay tuned though, because IE’s technologies might well find their way into your home from another direction, and a mini home hydrogen-based power, heating, and vehicle refueling ecosystem might

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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