The battery vehicle, built by local South African company Melex Electrovehicles and integrated with a hydrogen fuel cell, is being used in a study by HySA Systems Competence Centre to investigate the viability of hydrogen in transport applications in South Africa. Current results have been very encouraging: the range of the golf cart is approximately doubled by the use of a hydrogen fuel cell. In addition, it is virtually silent in operation, can reach speeds of up to 50 km per hour and is pollution free.
Professor Bruno G. Pollet, Director of HySA Systems Competence Centre at UWC, explains: “The only emission from this golf cart is water! And if the hydrogen fuel source can be produced by using renewable technologies such as solar or wind energy, the entire process – from production to driving – is purely green.”
Globally, the transportation industry is of massive economic and ecological importance. Traditional hydrocarbon cars contribute to causing oil depletion and increasing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. With around a billion cars in use and a growing global population, the development of alternative fuels is critically important – and hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology is particularly promising.
This hydrogen transport demonstrator will be compared with the existing UWC campus fleet of diesel and pure battery electric vehicles (part of the reason the University was named South Africa’s Greenest Campus in 2012) so that HySA Systems scientists and engineers can learn more about the efficiency and performance of this technology, and how it can be implemented cost-effectively in the formation of a viable ‘green’ means of transport in South Africa. These and other
Prof Pollet says of the development: “Thanks to the support of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), we are starting to make the necessary steps to gear up towards a zero emission campus, as well as a functional hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure in South Africa, which will hopefully help to create new jobs and working partnerships with local businesses.”
Fellow HySA Systems Researcher Dr Sivakumar Pasupathi is also excited about South Africa’s hydrogen future: “Partnering with a local company and successfully demonstrating a hydrogen fuel cell battery vehicle is one of the first steps in establishing a fully-fledged HFC industry in South Africa - we hope to build and continue our partnership towards mass-produced HFC vehicles in the future.”