Paul Maddocks reflects on our previous story about electric vehicles…..
One of the main problems with electric vehicle is that the batteries are very expensive and not very eco-friendly with all the acid and lead that goes into making them. They are very heavy so you don’t want too many on board. If you want to travel fast you will only get a limited time out of one charge. But if you travel slower you will get three-time more time to travel before the next recharging.
If you have a constant supply of hydrogen that is being converted to electricity you can travel further and when it comes to topping up with extra hydrogen it only takes a few minutes, whilst charging the electric batteries can take quite a while. This is fuel cell technology.
A good friend of mine, John Jostins, has taken the concept that not all countries have resources like oil, but most poorer countries especially island countries do have lots of sun, wind, rain and waves, all that can be easily used to create electricity. The problem with storing electricity is that you get a glut of it in the day and little at night. To store electricity you can charge up batteries but they are very expensive. One way of storing energy is to use the electricity to make hydrogen and oxygen. It’s a simple process.
You just put two copper plates in a bowl of water and connect them to an electric supply as the electricity passes from one plate through the water to the other plate small bubble start forming on the plates and float to the surface this is the water H2O braking up in to hydrogen and oxygen. You bottle up the oxygen and use it in hospitals and industry the Hydrogen you also bottle up, it is lighter than air and used to be used in airships. So with a simple light weight rickshaw with an electric motor, a battery, Hydrogen tank and a hydrogen electric converter the electric power can be topped up all the time.
John has how set up a factory in the Coventry University Techno Park in Parkside, Coventry and has produce a fleet of vehicle that are now being tested. What is a shame is that the original idea of helping poorer countries has now shifted to making environmental friendly vehicles for wealthy city centres, but that is where the research money comes from.
I first got to know John was when he was working on his first prototype for a ecological friendly vehicle called ‘Microcab’ he had just been award (£45,000) for developing the fuel cell powered version of the vehicle an ultralight urban rickshaw taxi for one driver and two people. It was displayed it in the Coventry Transport Museum around 2002.
Any vehicle that is green and does not pollute the environment is good for me but you have to look at all aspects of production and distribution.
Paul Maddocks is Vice Chairman of the Coventry Society