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article imageFirst bus powered by formic acid debuts in the Netherlands

By Karen Graham     Jul 7, 2017 in Technology
Eindhoven - Students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands have developed a way to store energy that is cheaper to make, more practical and more sustainable than other renewable fuel sources.
Renewable energy is playing a major role with many automotive manufacturers as they turn to hybrid and electric vehicles, however, the fueling and storage of hydrogen fuels is a significant problem that is still being investigated.
The group of students, who call themselves "Team Fast," have designed a formic acid system they developed for a bus that can transport the ingredients needed for hydrogen fuel cells used to power electric vehicles. The system is called "REX," and it is self-contained. It powers the bus by using hydrogen produced from formic acid, according to New Atlas.
"We've created the world's first bus that runs on formic acid, which is a much cheaper solution than hydrogen, yet it delivers the same environmental benefits," says Lucas van Cappellen from Team Fast, a spin-off company from the University, according to the BBC. "We're building our own future."
The whole Team Fast group in front of the bus. The REX is at the back of the bus.
The whole Team Fast group in front of the bus. The REX is at the back of the bus.
Eindhoven University of Technology/Bart van Overbeeke
The scoop behind Team Fast's innovation
The team of 40 students wanted to create an emissions-free vehicle that would help in the global fight against climate change, and while they were at it, create careers for themselves. So they first built a model of the bus they wanted to develop and went from there.
Why did they choose formic acid? We're all familiar with its most common source in nature. The acid is what stings when we get in the way of ants or stinging nettles. It is also sustainable and carbon neutral as well as being easy to make. This simple carboxylic acid (HCOOH) is manufactured for use in textiles and leather processing and as a livestock feed preservative.
Team Fast created a blend of 99 percent formic acid and some kind of a "performance enhancing agent" to create a fuel they dubbed "Hydrozine," but don't confuse it with Hydrazine. According to Team Fast, the newly created fuel has four times the energy density as a battery, and this is what is used to power the bus.
The first filling station for hydrozine.
The first filling station for hydrozine.
Technical University of Eindhoven/ Bart van Overbeeke
"The tailpipe emissions are only CO2 and water," explains Mr. van Cappellen. "No other harmful gases like nitric oxides, soot or sulphuric oxides are emitted."
The self-contained REX is a trailer that is pulled behind the bus. The trailer acts as a range-extender, hence the name, REX. The bus was unveiled on July 6, with the team saying they will “look ahead to what these results will mean for the future.”
“The mission of Team FAST is both admirable and ambitious,” said Eindhoven University, reports Digital Trends. “Together with partners from the whole production chain, Team FAST is making Hydrozine a safe, sustainable and standard energy carrier for the future.”
More about hydrozine, formic acid, Renewable energy, Clean electricity, Eindhoven University of Technology