Hydrogen-Powered Bikes

It's like something you would've seen on The Jetsons, only now it really exists -- the hydrogen-powerd bike.

Decling oil supplies have prompted scientists to discover an alternative source of power for the future, hydrogen.

Taiwanese scooter firm, Kwang Yang, will be the first manufacturer to release a hydrogen-powered two-wheeler. The ZES IV is a tiny zero-emissions machine which uses a hydrogen fuel cell to produce electricity which then provides power. The hydrogen fuel is stored in two metal cylinders under the footboard.

The ZES IV will go on sale at the end of next year, making Kwang Yang the first to sell a mass-production consumer hydrogen vehicle of any kind.

Aprilia has plans to follow suit in the year 2002 or 2003.

The powered bicycle weighs 53 pounds and can cover up to 50 miles at 15 mph. The fuel cell weighs 780g and generates 600 watts of power.

Manufacturers are now looking at hydrogen because it has a lot of advantages. When burned, the waste product is water. That means no hydrocarbons, no carbon monoxide or dioxide and no carcinogenic soots.

Hydrogen will not run out either, because it's extracted from water. That makes it limitless since the water is returned to the environment.

Tha major problem is how to extract it from water. Passing electricity through water splits it into oxygen and hydrogen, but the electricity needs to be generated.

Another problem is storing the hydrogen. It's highly flammable and needs to be kept in supercooled liquid form -- around 250 degress Celsius.. That means it needs an expensive reinforced fuel tank.

Also, hydrogen engines burn 2.4 times as much as petrol motors to cover the same distance. Instead of a thin, 18-liter tank, designers will need to find space for a thick-skinned 40-liter tank. They'll weigh around 55 pounds compared with the current 4-pound tank.

Scientists believe it will take 10 years to build enough power stations to generate the hydrogen.

Here is a sneak peek of the Aprilia Hydrogen-cell powered Enjoy -- Ed.

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