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Reynolds Community College & Virginia Commonwealth University

Client Request 

A Hydrogen Fuel Cell System for a Prototype Electric Drive Vehicle

Reynolds is fortunate enough to have automobile manufactures contribute late model vehicles for use in the automotive labs, but obtaining a next generation fuel cell vehicle is a lot more difficult as hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles are not generally available in the marketplace.

Reynolds asked Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Engineering’s Dr. Charles Cartin and his students to build a hydrogen fuel cell prototype vehicle for their automotive lab. Modifying an electric golf cart, the two teams approached Heliocentris for a platform solution for the prototype.

The Heliocentris Solution – Components and Design

Heliocentris provided Reynolds and VCU 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:


- 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 the Cart

As their senior capstone project, the VCU Engineering students modified the golf cart by integrating the 1.2 kW Heliocentris Nexa® Hydrogen Fuel Cell System. Important to this project was the ability to develop and prototype a hybrid system that will be common in future hybrid fuel cell electric vehicles.

In order to complete such a project, the students had to gain a profound understanding of system design, component specifications, automotive system design, hydrogen supply and flow rates, fuel cell operating parameters, fuel usage and range calculations, power electronics, and details of a battery hybrid system.

The design provides the vehicle with an alternate energy source. With six 8-volt lead-acid batteries powering the golf cart, the design calls for the cart operator to shift between the battery system and the hydrogen fuel cell system.

The hybrid battery and fuel cell powered golf cart is used by instructors to introduce hydrogen fuel cell power technology concepts to the automotive program students.

Reynolds-golf-cart   Reynolds-golf-cart    Reynolds-golf-cart

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