The technology developed by Team FAST is all about releasing hydrogen from formic acid, which is subsequently used in a fuel cell to generate electricity. In this process, the formic acid acts as a hydrogen carrier, taking the form of a manageable liquid. With its scale models Pico and Junior, the team produced the first cars in which an electromotor was powered by formic acid. In addition, progress was being made developing ‘hydrozine’, sustainably produced formic acid with a few additions to optimize its performance as a fuel.
Last year Team FAST built a trailer for towing behind an electric bus: the ‘range extender’ REX (see photos above). This never actually made it onto the road, tells Max Aerts, co-founder of both Team FAST and DENS. “We didn't dare, because we were worried that vibrations caused by the cobblestones would cause the installation to collapse. That would have a waste of our prototype.”
The team then built a stationary generator, which was tested as a power unit last June on a construction site for the N211 at Poeldijk. “In principle that went well,” says Aerts. “But we were aware that we needed engineers to be constantly on hand, with access to screens in a site hut, keeping an eye on everything. So the next step is to have the system run independently. You have to be able to press a button and walk away.”
In the coming period DENS will be focusing mainly on these power units, he says. “In principle hydrozine can be used for anything currently fuelled by diesel, which includes trucks and tractors, but it much easier for us to make progress if we don't have to comply with the requirements of the automotive industry.”
The majority of the thirty members of Team FAST, mostly Bachelor's students, have returned to their studies, says Aerts. “Six members are continuing with DENS; in addition, we have recruited Wout Gubbels, former team manager of Solar Team Eindhoven.”
Although they are now moving forward as an independent company, Aerts and his colleagues will continue to work closely with TU/e. “Together with researchers at Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and at Mechanical Engineering we want to continue to improve our system. And of course we believe it is important that the hydrozine is produced sustainably, so we will also remain actively involved in the setting up of production installations.”
Like Team Fast in the past, DENS - in full Dutch Energy Solutions - has its headquarters on the Automotive Campus in Helmond.