February 6, 2002
Volkswagen tests fuel cell-powered Jetta in Europe
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A few days ago, Volkswagen successfully drove a new fuel-cell Jetta (called Bora in Europe) across the 2,005-metre high Simplon Pass between Switzerland and Italy. The car features a new low-cost hydrogen fuel cell with high-performance ‘supercaps’ that store additional energy for sudden bursts of speed. Volkswagen says the prototype tackled the high mountain pass as well as a production car of similar power rating.
The new fuel cell incorporates two significant technical innovations: one is the a membrane used in the fuel cell, the other the high-performance “supercap” capacitors. Inside the cell, hydrogen and oxygen react together through a thin membrane to create electricity with water as the by-product. Almost all fuel cells currently on the market use a type of membrane that is relatively expensive to manufacture. Volkswagen’s fuel cell has a new membrane which performs very well but is much cheaper to produce.
The second innovation are two ‘supercaps’. These are high-efficiency electrical energy storage devices that can be used to supply the traction motor with up to 30 additional kilowatts of power for short periods, for example rapid acceleration or when climbing a steep mountain pass.
Volkswagen says the two technical advances are a big step towards producing a fuel cell vehicle with comparable performance to a standard automobile, and which can be produced for an affordable price.