Hydrogen Powered Motorcycles & Scooters: Pros & Cons

Mob-ion AM1

When you think of renewable and automotive, battery powered electric vehicles come to mind. But there is a school of thought that would argue there’s a better way. Case in point, Hydrogen. Yes, the same thing that has greater destructive power compared to an atomic bombs can efficacy power a vehicle and the only residue it leaves behind is water. Then why is it that we don’t see more than a few concept vehicles powered by Hydrogen? Let’s find out.

FCV Concept Two-wheeler

Last month US-based Triton Electric officially announced its arrival in India and has plans for a made-in-India hydrogen scooter. In fact, even TVS submitted a patent for a hydrogen scooter. This shows that while hydrogen tech is still nascent, it is slowly making its way to the mainstream.

TVS iQube Hydrogen Type File Certificate

Pros of hydrogen powered vehicles:

Unlike Lithium-ion reserves, Hydrogen is literally found everywhere. It is a limitless resource and free from any governmental resource centralisation like fossil fuel if you have the tech.

It’s clean:
The only residue is water and heat. Because when you burn hydrogen and oxygen, water is the Ash that remains. It’s efficient, compact to store and faster to refuel:

Mob-ion AM1 Fuel Cell

Hydrogen powered scooter concepts like the Mob-ion AM1 have shown that two Coke cans stacks sized hydrogen cells is sufficient to power a 3kW motor eliminating the need for heavy battery packs. Some research also claims that they are 2.5x more efficient than conventional engines. Furthermore, topping up hydrogen takes only a few minutes unlike EVs that take hours to charge.

Mob-ion AM1

Many methods of production:
Hydrogen can be harnessed using electrolysis, steam methane reforming (extracting hydrogen from natural gas) and gasification, a process producing hydrogen from steaming coal. And because processes like electrolysis can be done locally, you can generate the fuel at the fuel station itself.

Cons Of Hydrogen Powered Vehicles:

Segway FCV Bike

Firstly, despite the science of harnessing hydrogen for fuel has been proven, the viability of living with hydrogen powered vehicles currently is limited. And that’s because:

1. The process of producing hydrogen consumes a lot of energy in itself.

2. Storage is tricky.

Hence there is a lack of infrastructural support from governments.

EVs on the other hand are doing better in the green movement with better global support, infrastructure grants, subsides and mainly because making batteries is easier engineering than morphing hydrogen via electrolysis.

Segway Hydrogen Motorcycle Concept

The greatest challenge for hydrogen is storage. The highly volatile gas needs to be stored well in pressurized cylinders, and besides the given risks, there’s also the element of fear of safety, like poorly built EV battery packs that catch fire. It’s off putting. But that’s a matter of habit and will change over time. We use LPG cylinders on a daily basis after all.

But all that aside, the biggest challenge of having a hydrogen setup on motorcycles in India is the lack of assurity on quality. Mishaps like the recent EV fires can be even more catastrophic if bike makers dabbling with the tech do not double down on quality of parts like storage tanks and cells.