The Danish technology consortium behind Hywet, a two-seater powered by fuel cells and hydrogen-fuelled, plans to roll out its first prototype in August or early September.

The Hywet is designed for a range of 100 miles (160km), a top speed of 50mph (80km/h), and is expected to retail for around DKK200,000 (EUR27,000) when it is launched commercially in 2008/2009.

The Hywet is primarily a hydrogen-fuelled version of the Kewet, a Danish-designed two- to three-seat electric passenger car currently being produced by ElBil in Norway for the Nordic, European and North American markets.

The public-private consortium financing the Hywet venture includes the automotive and energy technology companies, Heat, Serenergy and Cemtec. The consortium’s two public sector shareholders includes the University of Aalborg and the Municipality of Mariagerfjord.

The consortium is discussing new ways to attract investment to finance the Hywet’s commercial-scale serial production, and is expected to meet with new investors, including venture capital groups, in coming months. The consortium has not yet decided how much capital it plans to raise from a new funding programme.

“The Hywet has a 13kW electric motor which is powered by a combination of a high temperature, proton exchange membrane fuel cell stack, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. At current retail prices a full tank of hydrogen will cost DKK100 (EUR13.43). This will deliver a similar distance-to-price ratio as a petrol- or diesel-fuelled cars,” said Cemtec CEO Mikael Kau.

Denmark and Norway continue to attract investment into eco-fuel cars, a feature of their minnow-sized vehicle manufacturing industries driven by legislation that gives eco-friendly-classified passenger cars tax-free status, including exemption from vehicle registration fees.

“There are still problems and public perceptions to overcome. There is the issue of cost and the development of a comprehensive infrastructure for re-fuelling with hydrogen. We are more confident of marketing Hywet as a family’s second car; ideal for short-range trips to schools, shops and for so-called ‘neighbourhood driving’,” said Kau.

The Hywet’s zero-CO2 emission rating is based on the vehicle’s integral power system which operates using a fully charged lithium-ion battery in a process that switches over to the fuel cell stack, that reacts with the atmospheric oxygen-enriched hydrogen fuel that supplies the electro-chemical power, to drive the Hywet’s motor.

The fuel cell stack recharges the lithium-ion battery while the vehicle is operating, so that the car is ready for the next battery start. The fuel cell hydrogen/oxygen reaction produces water vapour as its “sole” waste product, said Kau.

“The prototype will cost DKK1m (EUR134,420) to build, but the prices will drop significantly as soon as the Hywet enters serial production,” added Kau.

Gerard O’Dwyer