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College Students Build Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Motorcycle

Two students at Swarthmore College, seniors Alex Bell and Andres Pacheco, recently built a wild hydrogen fuel cell powered motorcycle, proving that even college students are able to produce technology that a company like GM has been unable to perfect, even after spending one billion dollars on failed experiments in which cold weather damaged the membranes of the prototypes. hydrogen-fuel-cell-motorcycle-c2301.jpg

Back in their freshman year, the two students worked on building an electric motorcycle, but finally gave up that idea. This last Summer, the pair began work on the hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle. fuel cell motorcyle2.jpg

The two engineering students did manage to build this working fuel cell motorcycle despite some technical problems. Both are applying to graduate school for engineering, although both are also currently entertaining job offers.

Hey Detroit, I know a couple of guys you should hire.

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Comments (3)


I'm all for alternate fuels, but I'd like to see the performance specs as well. I wouldn't expect it to produce the same horsepower as a gas or diesel powered bike, but it's got to get a guy my size up to interstate speeds for me to consider it practical. It also has to have a decent range off of a tank of fuel. If they've accomplished that, then my hat's off to them. Many of the experiments with Hydro-cell powered vehicles have ended in failure because they couldn't think outside the box. Good to see some "dreamers" make it happen. Personally, I want one of those diesel powered KLR-650s running on biodiesel.

Mac Lorry:

While a hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle is novel, Honda has applied the technology to their FCX Clarity car now being leased to a few folks in California. Get this, the fuel cell produces 100kW, which is enough to run about 5 typical American homes, yet the Honda needs a lithium ion battery to store up extra power for quick acceleration and for regenerative breaking. Honda doesn't consider hydrogen a source of energy, but as a storage medium similar to batteries, but with several advantages.

Driving range is 240 miles with a city/highway/combined mileage of 60/60/60 equivalent mpg.


I noticed they don't have any performance specs listed in the performance category, just a lot of "feel good about helping the environment" stuff. What's the 0-60 on that car? What's the average price of a kilogram of hydrogen? How am I supposed to use it when there are no hydrogen refueling stations where I live? How much more does it cost than a comparable Accord? Who's going to do the maintenance on it if a motor burns out? What if I need to go from Sioux Falls, SD to Rapid City, SD? I can tell you that's 360 miles with no hydrogen refueling station. I'm all for alternate fuels, but it has to be a practical vehicle for me to buy it. I'd like to see american companies working on good vehicles that you can pack 4 people, camping gear/clothes for a week into, that can still do 0-60 in 8 seconds or less, and get 50 miles to the gallon. I know it's possible, I just think they need to get a little further outside the box.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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