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Oakland University Builds a Hybrid Battery Fuel Cell Golf Cart

Oakland University Builds a Hybrid Battery Fuel Cell Golf Cart

“The Nexa® Integration System was found to be the only commercial-grade low power fuel cell system with matching components on the market today that would function well in an active application.”

Kristopher Inman, March 2014, PhD student 

Client Request 

A Hydrogen Fuel Cell System for the Conversion of a Battery Powered Golf Cart Oakland University’s student organization, the International Association for Hydrogen Energy, proposed the project of a fuel cell powered golf cart to the school’s engineering department. The project was approved with a limited budget.

To reconstruct the golf cart, the engineering department needed small fuel cell system (1-3 kW) that:

- would integrate well with CAN 2.OB system, the battery, computer and motor controller systems

- would fit the limited space underneath the seat of the golf cart

- had a continuous power output of greater than 800W

- and would be reliable and decently durable to withstand frequent trips around Oakland University’ s campus for variousevents.

The Heliocentris Solution – Components and Design

Heliocentris provided Oakland with a 1.2 kW Nexa® Integration System and metal hydride hydrogen storage cylinders. The Heliocentris Nexa® is an industrial fuel cell module with matching DC/DC converter and system control software.

Components include:

Oakland - NEXA

- Heliocentris Nexa® 1200 Fuel Cell

- Heliocentris Nexa® DC1200 DC/DC Converter

- Start-up Kit & Start-Up Batteries

- Hydrogen Storage – 900 sl Metal Hydride Cylinders

- Nexa® Control Software

- H2 Connection Kits (200 bar and/or 15 bar)

The benefits of such a package are the pre-configured components specifically designed for use in college and university level integration projects. Additionally the fuel cell module uses a FCGen™ 1020 ACS stack from Ballard Power Systems, one of the world leaders in fuel cell stacks and automotive fuel cells. This gives students a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience with industry leading technology.


The Project 

Constructing a Hydrogen Powered Fuel Cell Golf Cart

Oakland University chose the Nexa® Integration System as it meets all of the university’s project requirements.

Fuel Cell Golf Cart          Oakland-FC-Golf-Cart        FC-Golf-Cart-Components

The Nexa® Integration System provides the golf cart with the necessary average power output of 800 W. The Nexa® DC1200 transforms the non-regulated output voltage of the fuel cell stack to 48 V DC voltage which allows for battery hybridization. CAN communication enables the integration with the battery, computer, and motor controller systems which all utilize the same type of communication.

The Nexa® OSC Software is used for efficient overall system control of the Nexa® 1200, the Nexa® DC1200 and other system components. The LabView-based software allows for central visualization of system data of all components.

The Nexa® Integration System fits into the very limited space located beneath the original seating of the golf cart. Integral to the overall system is access to safe and modular hydrogen storage and supply. This is provided by three times 760 sl metal hydride cylinders on board of the vehicle.


The vehicle is designed as a serial hybrid, using a 48 V 80Ah Li-Ion battery and the Heliocentris 1.2 kW Nexa® PEM fuel cell. The fuel cell system provides power to the electric motor and charges the battery when there is a low demand for power. Under high power, electrical current is provided by the fuel cell and the battery simultaneously.

The golf cart remains at Oakland University as a working showpiece of student success. The vehicle is currently used in many outreach and publicity events demonstrating one of the many areas that students can get involved in while attending Oakland University. Future plans include further developing the software to optimize the power train and any necessary updates to keep the vehicle in working condition for future students.

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