PARIS - Engineers working on Renault's FEVER fuel-cell project, which began in 1994, have developed a zero-emission vehicle based on the Laguna Nevada station wagon with a claimed range of 250 miles.
Fuel cells produce power from an electrochemical reaction between two elements, such as oxygen and hydrogen. Water and residual nitrogen from the ambient air are the only emissions.
In the Renault vehicle, the 17.5 pounds of hydrogen needed for operation of the fuel cell are stored in liquid form at a temperature of minus 253 degrees Celsius in a cryogenic container.
A transformer boosts the cells' output to 250 volts. The special design of the transformer, among other things, has allowed it to achieve an operating efficiency of 92 percent through most of its operating range.
The transformer output supplies a synchronous electric motor that drives the car's wheels. This drives through a fixed-ratio transmission, the design once again allowing high efficiency.
Nickel-metal-hydride batteries provide power to start the fuel-cell auxiliary systems and to recover energy during vehicle braking. They also supply power to the motor during acceleration or when climbing steep hills.
Renault's partners in the FEVER project are De Nora and Ansaldo of Italy; Volvo TD in Sweden; the Ecole des Mines engineering school in Paris; and Air Liquide of France.