TP Eco Flash win the Technical Innovation Award at the 2020 Asia Off-Tracks with their energy conserving, purge-free water removal system for a hydrogen fuel cell.
About the Technical Innovation Award
Sponsored by Southwest Research Institute, the Off-Track Award for Technical Innovation recognizes outstanding technical ingenuity along with optimal use of new materials, components and inventions in their drive train, chassis, body, instrumentation and tires.
What they achieved
Entering the hydrogen fuel cell category of the 2020 Asia competition, TP Eco Flash presented an advanced solution to a common difficulty faced by competitors in this energy category.
Typically, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles utilise a proton exchange membrane in their fuel cell which can lead to water accumulation. This accumulation can disrupt delivery of the hydrogen to the reaction sites, ultimately leading to premature damage of the fuel cell. Most teams solve this issue by installing a solenoid valve to periodically purge the water, but this has the unfortunate secondary effect of hydrogen loss and reduced efficiency.
TP Eco Flash wanted to resolve the issue of water accumulation without compromising the vehicle’s fuel efficiency, so they developed a purge-free configuration with a water/gas separation buffer that redirects excess water to an internal tank using recycled hydrogen from the stack outlet. This innovative mechanism allowed excess water to be removed from the system with no significant hydrogen loss.
A worthy winner of the Technical Innovation Award, TP Eco Flash believes this purge-free feature provides real-world benefits and could be very useful for fuel cell power systems used in enclosed working environments, such as underwater vessels where purging via an exhaust is not possible. It is this pioneering spirit and desire to find real-world solutions that marks the best of Shell Eco-marathon teams.
What obstacles were faced along the way?
Juggling schoolwork and the Shell Eco-marathon programme was a challenge for TP Eco Flash. In order to make meaningful progress, team members had to sacrifice a lot of their free time. The team had to foster open and clear communications between team members to logistically manage the balance between their schoolwork and creating an award-winning vehicle.
Why the judges believed they deserve to win?
Lead Judge: Steve Marty, VP Fuels and Lubricants Research, Southwest Research Institute
"The winners implemented an energy conserving, purge-free water removal system for their hydrogen fuel cell. From their design and testing they were able to demonstrate energy savings through better fuel cell operation and reduced hydrogen fuel waste. Their purge-free approach is very applicable to use in most any fuel cell applications as the design is simplistic yet also effective."
Advice for future Shell Eco-marathon participants
The team’s advice is to have good organization and planning throughout the process, with a schedule for every task or design that needs to be completed, and, most importantly, to work as a team. It was this level of organization and teamwork that enabled TP Eco Flash to win the Technical Innovation Award for their solution to efficiency loss in hydrogen fuel cells.
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