The World’s First Hydrogen Powered RC Car

The World’s First Hydrogen Powered RC Car

A one-off collaboration project that we have been working on with Toyota UK and Tamiya has been unveiled – welcome the #MiniMirai!

You can read the full press release HERE

The World’s first RC hydrogen powered car was a challenge for our engineers but one we could definitely deliver with our completely scalable and adaptable PCBFC™ technology and their expertise.

Here, Product Engineer Lara Rasha talks about the challenge of delivering the power behind the #MiniMirai and what this project means for hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The world of radio-controlled (RC) cars has a fan-base that covers the world and entertains all age groups. RC cars come in all shapes and sizes, with super-fans selecting their dream car models because, most likely, they can’t yet grab the real thing (guilty!). But car selection is also based on top speed, handling and perhaps most importantly, range. This isn’t just the distance covered by the RC car, but also the length of racing time!

There are many different RC cars on the market today, with the most common powered through electric drive trains (battery powered) or nitro with an engine.

An over-simplified comparison of the two drive trains: electric power is more affordable, less vehicle maintenance and generally has faster acceleration, whist a nitro motor has handling similar to the real car, easier to refuel (nitro refuel vs. battery recharging times) but can’t be operated indoors due to exhaust fumes.

On paper, the electric RC car ticks most of the crucial boxes for an excellent car, except the issue with range. Similar to real-sized battery-powered cars on the market today, battery cars benefit from fast acceleration, less moving parts and no tailpipe emissions. But range-anxiety and recharge times are the biggest hurdles to wide-scale commercial adoption. This is most simply demonstrated in the RC car, requiring either a few hours to full recharge or a battery swap (what real-sized battery cars are not yet able to do!).

Hydrogen-powered fuel cell (FC) electric cars, such as the Toyota Mirai series, aims to remove these range and fuel anxieties. Power is determined by the size of FC and battery (hybridised) whilst vehicle range is set by the size of hydrogen tank storage. Simple right? So when Toyota wanted to demonstrate the benefits of their FC vehicle range to the public, what easy way then to team up with Bramble Energy (FC and power train) and Tamiya (RC car) to create the World’s first hydrogen-powered radio-controlled car.

As with most engineering challenges, the first step was understanding what we had to work with. Most Tamiya cars have a similar chassis and drive train, with different shells. The volume under the shell was perfectly sized to fit our Bramble Energy hydrogen FC module, and house all the sub-components (electronics, hydrogen storage, gas distribution network). This demonstrates the benefits of Bramble Energy’s PCBFC™ technology, as the modular and planar design of the FC removes concerns around weight distribution in the car, which can be very important for drive handling.

Minimal modifications were required to the RC car original system, as the hydrogen FC powertrain was simply ‘added’ as a range extension to the existing electric power train. The two hydrogen canisters located either side of the drivetrain can be easily replaced during ‘pit-stops’. When the hydrogen supply has run out, you have the remainder of the fully charged battery pack to play with. For our first hydrogen-powered radio-controlled car, the Tamiya car doubled in range on a single set of hydrogen canisters.

The world is united in its commitment to tackling climate change, and alternative technologies such as the hydrogen FC are being rapidly developed to combat emissions. Whilst the most publicised media is around automotive applications, our hydrogen FC RC car demonstrates that the technology is scalable and portable and can be applied to any application that requires a power source.

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