British Students Convert Micro-Racer to Hydrogen Power
HATFIELD, HERTFORDSHIRE, UK Its not exactly Formula One racing - yet - but a couple of British students have converted a tiny single-seater open-wheel race car to hydrogen as their entry in an international student competition.
Its one of three alternatively-powered cars - the other two were a fuel cell hybrid from Imperial College London and a gasoline hybrid from Oxford Brookes University - entered either as demonstrators or in against-the-clock trials. They did not participate in actual wheel-to-wheel races against gasoline-powered vehicles in the tenth Formula Student competition July 14-15 at the classic Silverstone Grand Prix circuit here, some 90 miles northwest of London. The event, sponsored by the UKs Institute of Mechanical Engineers (ImechE) includes individual time trials designed to test handling, braking and acceleration.
Helped by a £5,000 grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry, John Goddard and James Waters, Ph.D. students at the University of Hertfordshires recently created Sustainable Energy Technologies Centre, converted their Formula Student car, which two years ago won best UK category, to hydrogen.
A preview story on the event in the online service firstname.lastname@example.org said the fuel cell hybrid built by Imperial Colleges Racing Green team was ferociously quick - 0-60 mph in 4 seconds. The Oxford Brookes University entry mated a 250 cc single-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine with capacitors and an electric motor.
600 CC Motorcycle Engine Converted to H2
Goddard told H&FCL by e-mail the car is powered by a 4-cylinder 600 cc Triumph motorcycle engine with integrated 6-speed transmission, modified for hydrogen. Changes included removing an air restrictor used in the gasoline version to regain some lost power, and removal of the manifold because it might be damaged due to pop backs during start-up. Once started, the engine thus runs on four open throttles fully sequentially to avoid misfiring, Goddard wrote.
The car carries about ½ kg of hydrogen at 350 bar, which Goddard believes would be enough to to last through a 22 km (14 mile) endurance event, apparently typical in this competition, but no actual fuel consumption tests have been made so far. The hydrogen used is green hydrogen, derived from farm waste.
Much of the first day, Saturday, was spent on inspections for safety since this was the first time ever that a hydrogen car participated in the event, as well as for engine noise, brakes and even a tilt test to make sure the car wouldnt roll over in hard cornering. Also, a lot of time went to photo shoots and TV interviews which meant that Goddard and Waters had a shot at only one test lap around the 1 km (0.62 mile) circuit that turned out to be a little slower - four seconds - than they had hoped but still an enormous achievement for us.
On Sunday, Goddard was scheduled to run five laps in an afternoon session, following some engine tweaking in the morning to help the power situation, as he put it. He started out smartly, loads of noise power and wheel spin, as he put it, but things started getting dicey after the first half of the lap. Just as he was approaching the finish line it finally let go: A connecting rod had pierced the engine blocks side casing, presumably due to hydrogens tendency to pre-ignition and high burn rate, Goddard thinks. He says he expects to look for an industrial partner interested in helping solve the problems and make it a robust and reliable product.
|The University of Hertfordshires James Waters, left, holds up a hydrogen gas bottle regulator symbolizing what powers their diminutive racer, with John Goddard buckled up behind the wheel. The square metal grid box next to Goddard is the cars oversized radiator, needed because these engines are driven hard at relatively low speeds.
Still, Goddard was ecstatic: Overall, this weekend was great, he wrote. The media interest and general approval from everyone there was terrific!!
The car will be on display during the Royal Society of Chemistrys Chemistry Week Nov. 3-17 in various venues throughout the UK and Ireland.
Earlier this year, a Detroit group had announced plans for hydrogen-powered fuel cell racing cars for Indianapolis-type competition. Also, there had been never-confirmed rumors about a BMW-NASCAR racing alliance, and Mazda had obliquely indicated interest in hydrogen i.c. engined racing, but there has been no publicly announced followup so far (H&FCL June 06, Feb., March 07).
Contact: John Goddard, +44/1707/28 4772; email@example.com