French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën recently signed strategic outline agreements with the CNRS, France's National Center for Scientific Research, and the CEA, the French Atomic Energy Commission. Both agreements relate to PSA's ongoing development and use of automotive fuel cells.
PSA's prototype taxi cab demonstrates
fuel cell technology.
Throughout its research, PSA has explored two automotive fuel cell scenarios: as a 30-kW prime energy source, and as a secondary 5.5-kW energy source. Both models use a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM)-type fuel cell and follow the same operating principle.
A hydrogen reservoir, comprising insulated metal tanks in an interchangeable rack, installs in the car trunk. Up front in the engine compartment, the fuel cell comprises electrodes sandwiched around a thin plastic membrane. The membrane is coated on both sides with platinum particles that function as an active catalyst.
During operation, oxygen from the air passes over the cathode side of the fuel cell and hydrogen passes over the anode. Encouraged by the catalyst, hydrogen atoms split into hydrogen ions and electrons. The electrons travel toward the cathode in the form of an electric current, supplementing the vehicle's battery in powering the motor. The protons, or hydrogen ions, diffuse through the membrane to the cathode where hydrogen recombines with oxygen to produce water and complete the overall process.
Supplementary power from the fuel cell increases vehicle range from 100 km with only battery power to approximately 250 km. PSA cautions that fuel cell cost, size, and weight must be reduced by a factor of five before it can economically be incorporated into cars. The company anticipates that ongoing research in electrochemistry, catalyst and hydrodynamic materials, and thermal energy—conducted with help from the CEA and CNRS—will lead to a gradual introduction into automotive use by 2010.
For more information about automotive fuel cells from PSA: Enter 535