Students at Cicero-North Syracuse High School are demonstrating an innovation in flexible vehicle design with the hydrogen vehicles they built for Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013. The CNS Performance Engineering Team fashioned its hydrogen tank and fuel cell unit, shown in one of the photos above, as a modular, removable unit that can be moved back and forth between the two cars it designed: one, a teardrop-shaped prototype vehicle and the other, a street-legal urban concept car.
The team’s coach, Marty Miner, who teaches pre-engineering technology at the New York school, explains that it is very much like the “skateboard” chassis concept that was developed by General Motors when it rolled out hydrogen fuel cell concept cars in the past decade. In GM’s skateboard, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks, fuel cells, by-wire software for steering and brakes, battery pack, and electric motors were contained in a fully-operational sandwiched chassis that could accommodate a variety of body types, from sports cars to SUVs. The idea was that such flexibility would ease mass-market manufacturing of the vehicles.
Hydrogen cars still appear a long way from auto showrooms, even though GM does have some hydrogen cars on the road, some in use by the military. Toyota and Hyundai also plan to introduce hydrogen cars in limited markets over the next two years.
After early runs at Shell Eco-marathon, Cicero-North Syracuse was in second place among hydrogen prototype vehicles, with 41 miles per kilowatt-hour, the equivalent of 1,382 miles per gallon (588 kilometers per liter.) The heavier urban concept vehicle, using the same fuel cell assembly, stood alone at the top of its hydrogen fuel category at 26 miles per kilowatt-hour, te equivalent of 876 mpg (372 km/l). The competition continues today.