Motorized bicycles were first developed in the 19th century. Some early models used internal combustion engines, while more recent models have electric engines powered by batteries. One problem with electric bicycle motors is the considerable weight of the batteries (an issue that is problematic also in electric cars). The new lithium-ion and lithium-ion-polymer batteries that have been developed over the past few years are lighter and can store more power. However, they are relatively expensive and are still considered too heavy by many cyclists.
The new bicycle developed by Pearl-Hydrogen is powered by two 600L hydrogen cylinders situated behind the rider’s seat. Because the cylinders are lighter than most batteries used for bicycles, the bike has a fairly long range compared to other electric bikes. The significantly shorter recharge time, just half an hour instead of several hours, is another advantage over previous electric bikes.
There are, however, several open issues. Since hydrogen is a highly flammable substance, it is not necessarily a substance appropriate to be handled by the general public on a regular basis. More importantly, hydrogen can not be obtained as easily as electricity or fuel. If you do not manage to obtain the necessary hydrogen, you are left you with a $2,600 manual bike. If you are into cycling because of the environmental benefits – think twice; although hydrogen itself does not pollute the atmosphere, much of the existing hydrogen currently in use is produced using fossil fuels (although solar and wind power are good alternatives for this purpose, only a small fraction of the hydrogen currently produced is created using renewable energy sources).
Mass production of the hydrogen-powered bicycle is expected to lower its price (possibly to as little as $500). However, even with a lower price, safety and usability concerns might still slow down the adoption rate, at least for the near future.
TFOT recently covered several other hydrogen related stories, including Ford’s Fusion Hydrogen 999 record breaking car, a new method that uses aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water, and a proposed floating rig with retractable wind turbines, which separates the hydrogen from the oxygen in water.
Details on the hydrogen-powered bicycle can be found on Shanghai’s Pearl hydrogen power sources technology website.