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H-Train of tomorrow, today

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

A hydrogen-powered hybrid train has been designed and built by students at the University of Birmingham, UK.  The prototype narrow gauge locomotive, running on a 5 000-litre hydrogen fuel cell combined with lead-acid batteries, is the first of its kind operating in the UK.

Dr Stuart Hillmansen, from the University of Birmingham's School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, said: "Our hydrogen-powered locomotive is a clean and efficient example of how hydrogen power could work for future trains on non-electrified routes.  We hope that our efforts will encourage the rail industry to take a closer look at this exciting technology."

The fuel cell is used both to power the permanent magnet electric motors and to charge the batteries, helping to meet the peak power demands during acceleration.

The advanced cell, which has already been successfully deployed by the university on a canal barge, exceeded expectations when the locomotive was tested on Leicestershire's Stapleford Miniature Railway.

Hydrogen transport also hit the headlines recently during the London 2012 Olympics.  A fleet of five black cabs, powered by hydrogen, shuttled people around the city demonstrating the potential of H-cells as an alternative fuel source.

Plant-based anodes for lithium batteries

Thu, 08/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Chinese companies Kuraray and Kureha are to produce lithium-ion batteries made from plant-based raw materials at a joint factory in Okayama Prefecture.

Traditionally the anode material comes from graphite but the new factory will use ‘hard carbon’ made from plant materials, including coconut shells.  The effect of using the hard carbon will have a more complex crystal structure than conventional graphite.  This will reduce deterioration occurring because of repeated charge – discharge cycles.

The factory for the joint venture will be built at Kuraray Chemical’s carbon plant and will cost US$ 38 159 000.  Output of the factory should be 1 000 tons of anode material annually.  Building work is due to commence in October with plans for the factory to be operational in Autumn 2013 with plans for expansion already being considered.

South Korea battery exports reach new high

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

South Korea shipped 20% more rechargeable batteries overseas in 2011 finacial year than the previous year.  Of these, 56% were lithium-ion making South Korea the world’s largest exporter of lithium-ion batteries for 2011.  The exports of the batteries were valued at US$3.8 billion according to the Korea Customs Service.

Emergency home power from EVs

Mon, 07/23/2012 - 18:02 -- Ruth Williams

Progress is being made to develop EV batteries to be utilised to power homes during times of blackout. Following the 2011 Japanese earthquake much of the country was without electricity, EV batteries were used as a temporary in-home power supply.  Hybrid cars that feature an invertor can have the high-voltage direct current switched to a low-voltage alternating current to supply power back to a home at times of blackout. Nissan are leading the way in advancing this potential, they believe their Leaf car could power a home for up to two days, or individual appliances for far longer.

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