Volkswagen gave us a chance to drive its hydrogen-powered Passat, developed from its lab in China and used at the Beijing Olympics. This Passat has electrically driven wheels, with an onboard hydrogen fuel cell system to generate electricity.
Volkswagen brought a number of these Passat Ling Yu fuel cell vehicles to the California Fuel Cell Partnership for research. The cars were built in China and were used at the Beijing Olympics.
These cars have fuel cell, compressor, and control hardware under the hood. The hydrogen tanks are on either side of the rear axle, and a battery is mounted in the middle of the chassis, letting the car store some electricity. The Passat Ling Yu gets a range of 146 miles and has a top speed of 90 mph.
The California Fuel Cell Partnership had a cutaway hydrogen tank on display. Here you can see the thick metal walls and Kevlar lining around the outside, adding extra protection for the highly compressed hydrogen inside. The hydrogen tanks in the Passat Ling Yu are rated for 5,000 PSI, but newer tanks hold 10,000 PSI, doubling hydrogen capacity.
The California Fuel Cell Partnership uses this hydrogen filling station for research, developing standards and software to effectively deal with filling hydrogen tanks at high pressure. This pump can fill tanks rated for 5,000 PSI.
The instrument cluster in the Passat Ling Yu has a speedometer, showing kilometers per hour, and a kilowatt gauge, showing how much electricity the motor is using. We found the kilowatt gauge useful while driving, as we could modulate our energy usage.
This powerflow animation is similar to that used in hybrid vehicles. It shows when the fuel cell is supplying electricity to the motor and battery, and when the regenerative brakes are putting electricity back into the battery.
The Passat Ling Yu also includes a couple of screens primarily used so researchers can gather data, and monitor how the fuel cell system is performing. This one shows battery and fuel cell power and temperature.
This monitoring screen shows the condition of the hydrogen tanks and electric motor. Although we had just driven the car, and it was a particularly hot day, the tank temperature is only 12 Celsius, or 54 degrees Fahrenheit.