Bologna Motor Show

09.12.2005 Minimum environmental impact vehicles bearing the Fiat 'Natural Power' logo are on show in a special area where visitors can see the Punto, Multipla and Doblò as well as the Punto Van, Doblò Cargo and Ducato commercial vehicles

Minimum environmental impact Fiat vehicles bearing the 'Natural Power' logo are on show in Bologna in an outdoor display titled "Flower Power". Here visitors can see the Punto, Multipla and Doblò as well as the Punto Van, Doblò Cargo and Ducato commercial vehicles, all with methane and petrol dual fuel systems while the Doblò ‘Natural Power’ can be tried out on a dedicated track. Environmental protection is one of the main guiding strands for the development of future models as far as Fiat Auto is concerned.

For this reason, visitors to the 30th Bologna Motor Show can also see a Panda Hydrogen, the first Fuel Cell vehicle developed by the Fiat Research Centre, which offers standards of performance and roominess comparable to those of conventional cars. The attention of the major car manufacturers in this field is now mainly directed toward Fuel Cells known as PEMs (Proton Exchange Membranes) that can generate electricity through a process involving the chemical recombination of hydrogen and oxygen. This type of Fuel Cell offers a quick response to the car’s energy needs, high specific power and a relatively simple construction that makes it particularly suitable for creating light, sturdy and reliable generators to be used for the generation of electric power on board the car.

More specifically, the Fiat Panda Hydrogen features ‘Full Power’ architecture. The Nuvera production stack (i.e. the heart of the Fuel Cell electrical generation system) is connected directly to the electrical traction engine and supplies the vehicle with all the power required. The stack is located beneath the floorpan and consists of several cells connected in series. Inside, hydrogen and oxygen atoms combine with the aid of a catalytic converter to produce water and heat and also generate electrical energy with zero emissions.

Fiat Doblo Natural Power
Fiat Punto Natural Power

Fiat Panda Hydrogen

The system is supplied with hydrogen at a pressure of 1.5 bars and produces, from oxygen contained in air (also compressed), electrical energy with a maximum power of 60 kW with a high rate of efficiency (60% at 20% of maximum power). The alternating current three-phase asynchronous electric motor and the transmission are located in the engine compartment together with their accessories.

The hydrogen that feeds the Fuel Cell is contained at a pressure of 350 bar in a tank made out of composite material installed beneath the car’s rear floorpan: all the distinguishing features of the New Panda passenger compartment are therefore maintained, including outstanding roominess for four people. The system is complemented by auxiliary circuits to supply the hydrogen, manage the air and water and cool the stack. At full power, the Fuel Cell engine on the Panda Hydrogen delivers 60 kW that allows the car to reach a top speed of more than 130 km/h, with acceleration from 0 to 50 km/h in 7 seconds. The car can also climb a maximum gradient of 23% at take-off. With its overall capacity of 68 litres, the hydrogen tank assures the Fiat Panda Hydrogen a range of more than 200 km over an urban cycle. Refuelling time is very quick also at less than 5 minutes, i.e. comparable to the time taken to refuel a methane car.

The introduction of the Panda Hydrogen is simply the latest in a string of developments that have seen Fiat taking centre stage internationally. Though Fuel Cell propulsion systems will not be widely available before the end of the next decade, Fiat Auto has already been active in their development and application for a few years – as we saw in 2001 with the debut of the Seicento ‘Elettra H2 Fuel Cell’, and then the Seicento Hydrogen. The Panda Hydrogen has now taken up the baton to take research from the laboratory prototype stage to that of a field research vehicle. 2006 will see the beginning of the demonstration stage of small Panda Hydrogen fleets, as a forerunner to wide-ranging demonstration programmes promoted and supported by the European Union and by the Italian Ministries and Regions. The ultimate aim is for such vehicles to be marketed in 2020.

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Nuvera Fuel Cells, a leading designer, developer and manufacturer of fuel cell power systems, has reached agreement with Fiat Powertrain Technologies and CRF to research and develop a high-efficiency hydrogen fuel cell propulsion system

Photos © 2005 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed