Can an energy technology that's just emerging from the realm of science fiction give new meaning to the term "crotch rocket"?
English energy tech company Intelligent Energy is looking for some quick acceleration in the burgeoning field of fuel cell-powered vehicles with a prototype of two-wheeled machine that it's dubbed ENV--pronounced "envy." ENV, the company says, is the world's first purpose-built fuel-cell motorcycle. (The name is short for "emissions neutral vehicle," as well as being a marketing hook.)
A 1-kilowatt fuel cell generator provides power directly to the drive-train (there are no gears), and the fuel cell is teamed with a battery pack to provide 6 kilowatts of peak load to the motor. That's good enough, the company says, to get the aluminum-frame bike to 50 mph on or off road, and a full tank of hydrogen delivers up to four hours of continuous--and very quiet--use.
The fuel cell itself, called Core, is detachable from the motorcycle and can be used to power "anything from a motorboat to a small domestic property," the company says.
Consumers could get their hands on the throttle sometime next year. The initial price is expected to be around $6,000, which a Boston Globe automotive writer delicately says "may be overly optimistic."
The big challenge, of course, is that fuel cell technology is not yet production-ready. It's captured the attention of people in areas from the high-tech sector to the environmental movement, in part because of its promise as a "clean" technology. But much work remains, and skeptics are probably as numerous as enthusiasts.
If the bikes do come rolling off the production line, where are they most likely to sell? They'll probably find their first buyers in nations such as India and China, where bicycles are used more commonly as a primary mode of transportation. In areas such as the U.S., where motorcycles are viewed more as leisure vehicles, the weight-to-performance ratio would likely garner greater scrutiny--and hesitation among buyers.