Nuvera Gives Sintesi Its Quadrivium Drive
By EV World
What if you could start with a clean slate when designing a car for the 21st century, one that didn't require accommodating a big, messy internal combustion engine? Or that meant finding space for bulky batteries or massive hydrogen gas cylinders? What would that car look like?
Well, it might look like Pininfarina's Sintesi fuel cell concept car, recently unveiled at the 2008 Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland. Apart from its stunning styling and cabin innovations, it is the car's power plant that sets it apart from previous designed-from-the-ground-up hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicles like GM's Autonomy, Toyota's Fine or Honda's FCX Clarity, the latter of which is an actual, limited production vehicle.
While the Sintesi isn't a working vehicle like the Clarity, according to Nuvera Fuel Cell's vice president for marketing, Bill Mitchell, its underlying components are or could shortly be available for integration into a production vehicle, which would significantly advance the art of fuel cell vehicle technology, especially when it comes to the perplexing problem of "Where does the hydrogen come from?"
In Sintesi's case, it can come from a wide range of both petroleum and biofuel based sources, made possible by another Nuvera innovation found on the car: its multi-fuel-capable hydrogen processor. Mitchell explained to EV World that with only minor adjustments, Nuvera's processor can be adapted to convert petroleum, diesel fuel or ethanol, depending on regional fuel availability, into hydrogen. In doing so, it solves the problem of hydrogen storage by keeping the molecule in a more stable carbon-bound liquid fuel.
Leaving aside the larger question of future petroleum and biofuel availability, a production version of a vehicle using Nuvera's energy conversion system that includes a quartette of 20kW PEM fuel cell stacks, conceivably could be sold and operated today without the need to invest in an entirely new hydrogen infrastructure. The owner would drive to their usual fueling station, tank up on gasoline, diesel, gas-to-liquid or coal-to-liquid synthetic fuel, or ethanol (perhaps even bio-butanol or methanol?) and go about his or her business in a car that converts the fuel more efficiently and with far fewer emissions. Of course, those carbon atoms have to go somewhere, so it's not the perfect answer, but it would be a huge improvement over where we are today.
In this 30-minute interview, Mitchell explains how the Sintesi project came about and how its Quadrivium Drive system works, as well as what Nuvera sees as the future -- both near-term and long-term -- for its hydrogen fuel cell technology, which includes an immediate move into the electric forklift market and stationary power generation. You can listen to our discussion using either of the two MP3 players at the top of the page or by downloading the 7.6MB file to your computer for transfer to your favorite MP3 device [http://www.evworld.com/evworld_audio/bill_mitchell.mp3].
Pictured below is a technology transparency of the Sintesi. The hydrogen fuel processor sits in what would normally be the transmission and drive shaft tunnel of a conventional rear-wheel drive car. The resultant hydrogen is distributed to the four separate, 20kW fuel cell stacks near the wheels. These are assisted by another 10-20kW of energy from the associated lithium battery modules. The electric energy drives the four wheel motors, which can accelerate the car from 0-100km/hr in 9.1 seconds in "normal mode" and 7.5 seconds in "sport mode." The estimated maximum top speed of the Sintesi with battery assist is 222/248 km/hr in normal and sport modes, respectively, made possible by the car's super efficient 0.272 coefficient of drag. The top cruising speed of the car on its fuel cells alone is 191 km/hr (118 mph).
While Sintesi is likely to remain just a design exercise, Pininfarina and the French battery manufacturer Bolloré will be bringing out a production battery electriccar as early as late this year.