Bicycles

Alter e-bike uses a hydrogen fuel cell to expand range

Alter e-bike uses a hydrogen f...
The compact hydrogen cartridges make it easy to expand the Alter's range
The compact hydrogen cartridges make it easy to expand the Alter's range
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Pop in a new cartridge and the bike is back to full power
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Pop in a new cartridge and the bike is back to full power
The compact hydrogen cartridges make it easy to expand the Alter's range
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The compact hydrogen cartridges make it easy to expand the Alter's range
The Alter Bike was revealed in France earlier this year
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The Alter Bike was revealed in France earlier this year
The Gitane Alter is shown with an integrated front basket
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The Gitane Alter is shown with an integrated front basket
The Alter Bike will be available to public organizations next year and retail customers in 2016
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The Alter Bike will be available to public organizations next year and retail customers in 2016
The Alter is a pedelec design
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The Alter is a pedelec design
The Alter was developed by Cycleurope (Gitane), Pragma Industries and Ventec
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The Alter was developed by Cycleurope (Gitane), Pragma Industries and Ventec

While e-bike designers like Concept Cycle have been consumed with finding new ways to hide the battery, a group of French partners has developed a way of augmenting it. The Alter Bike is an electric motor-driven pedelec bike that's powered by a combination of lithium-ion battery and hydrogen fuel cell. The e-bike is soon to join the other vehicles and electronics available on the growing fuel cell market.

The hydrogen fuel cell is arguably better suited to the e-bike than it is to the car, at least at the moment. It's not practical to carry around a spare tank of hydrogen in a car, and hydrogen fueling stations remain few and far between. On a bike, however, it's entirely possible to carry extra fuel cartridges, increasing the range with each one.

Unlike a traditional battery-powered e-bike, which offers a finite range, the Alter's range is only limited by how many hydrogen refills you can carry and/or purchase along your ride. Its designers envision riders planning out ride distances and carrying a specific number of cartridges based on those distances. Judging by the photos and video below, it will be easy enough to carry multiple cartridges in a backpack and/or bike bag.

The Alter Bike will be available to public organizations next year and retail customers in 2016
The Alter Bike will be available to public organizations next year and retail customers in 2016

The Alter Bike is a collaborative project between three French partners. Cycleurope is a bicycle designer, manufacturer and distributor that owns nearly a dozen bike brands, including Bianchi and Gitane, the latter of which will be Alter Bike's brand. Pragma Industries specializes in hydrogen fuel cell technology, and Ventec designs battery management systems.

These partners have worked together to adapt existing technologies and develop new solutions for the specific application of a fuel cell bike. Their efforts have included creating a new breed of hydrogen fuel cells, storing hydrogen in recyclable canisters and designing electrical architecture specifically for the fuel cell bike.

The partners revealed the Alter Bike in France earlier this year but don't seem to have detailed specifics such as battery size, weight or range on a single cartridge. We'll have to wait until closer to launch, which is planned for next year for fleet customers and 2016 for consumers.

Source: Ventec

Alter Bike - Fuel Cell powered pedelec

18 comments
Tommo
No stats about range tell me that the likely range of one canister will be woefully short - I hope I am wrong because this looks, on paper at least, like a great idea.
duh3000
O.K. I don't know much about hydrogen cell technology, but this looks like it could be a really interesting innovation, especially in terms of range. Unfortunately, as you point out, we'll only know when the undisclosed "detailed specifics such as battery size, weight or range on a single cartridge" are finally published. Too bad they couldn't be more transparent with their data. I was, in fact, hoping to get some further info from the video but, well, that didn't happen. What a poor presentation ! A guy riding a bike around Biarritz (it looks like) and then a few shots of logos and a surfer for some "local color". Hopeless ! Please, somebody help these guys make a video !! Couldn't even hear the bike with that horrible dubbed-in "music". I had to wonder if the machine was actually running on the fuel or just being pedalled along on leg power... hence the "no sound" approach ?!
Dean Herbert
a price would be nice. just reading and then liking it i can not actually say its a great idea without knowing how expensive the bike is
Darus Zehrbach
The problem with all of the hybrids is that the space and weight allocated to the fuel powered device occupies so much space that the vehicle is a poor on battery only vehicle. The space would be better used for more battery. Or, the the alternative, just make it a pure fuel cell bike and get rid of the battery carrying a lot of fuel. At ZEV Electric, we tried all sorts of hybrid combinations. The only thing that works if you insist on a hybrid is a small serial generator with the vehicle really packed with battery. That only works on big trikes or cars. For a bike, for the space shown for the bicycle, you can get 100 miles on battery alone. That is more range than anyone can stand to drive a bicycle in one sitting.
GeoffG
I wouldn't mind betting it will costs as much as a good second-hand car, plus 20 tankfulls of petrol, in which case I will have to give it a miss.
sgdeluxedoc
I agree with Darus, above. I ride an electric scooter, and with the new lithium phosphate batteries, what more do you need? There's a whole lot of room if you're willing to forgo cargo space, on these bikes. Rather, I would like to see more development in the brushless motor field, These things DO wear out, and where I live (Canada), you have to use every trick in the book to get any power because of our highly restrictive and biased legislation against electric bikes..
Robert Fallin
I hope they market the fuel cell assembly as an after-market device, because this would be a boon to the electric wheelchair/mobility scooter user.
leafygreen
Hmmm, all very interesting - but not exactly an informative article, since the makers/developers haven't seen fit to provide any stats... However, I'd suggest that if they've any concerns along the lines of @Darus Zehrbach's comments, maybe they are (or should be) looking at Lithium-air (http://gizmag.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=57c04fd0f2defe64b0f583dc7&id=b28abe19f7&e=2be02f94ac) or, even, Lithium-sulphur/sulfur (http://www.gizmag.com/next-generation-battey-lithium-sulphur/11926/) batteries..? Obviously, these are still in developmental stages and would bump up prices somewhat, but you never know...
Influent
Don't we still need petroleum in order to extract the hydrogen for the fuel cells? I hope I'm wrong...
Bruce Miller
Sounds very good! Was wondering if the Israeli 1000 mile "water car" that uses aluminium billets to store electrical energy could be adapted here?