Startup DENS takes development of ‘formic acid engine’ a step further

Team FAST, the student team of Eindhoven University of Technology that has been working in recent years on a 'formic acid engine' for buses, continues as startup DENS. Within this company, the technology to generate electricity from Hydrozine (99% of which is sustainably produced formic acid) must be made commercially available. DENS will start with stationary generators and then develop them for mobile applications.

In June 2015, ten Eindhoven University of Technology students succeeded with their Honors program in getting a small car to run on formic acid: the Pico. The idea is that the formic acid is split into hydrogen and CO2. The hydrogen is then used to generate electricity and drive an engine.

However, the students’ ambitions did not stop here, because the technology also had to be proven on a large scale. Under the leadership of Max Aerts, Tim van Lohuizen and Max Weetzel, the student team Team FAST was founded. With more than 15 students they built the Junior, a one-meter long remote-controlled racing car able to run on formic acid.


After the unveiling of this prototype, the team came into contact with Menno Kleingeld of VDL ETS and the idea arose to run a bus on formic acid. For over a year and a half, the team built a system at the Automotive Campus in Helmond that could supply enough energy. This resulted in a functional prototype. “The system can supply energy and works when the bus is stationary, but we don’t dare to say with certainty that when the bus is moving, with all the vibrations that go with it, that everything will continue to function,” says Tijn Swinkels, Technical Manager Team FAST.

Therefore, it was decided not to test the system while driving. “Innovation is about trial and error, sometimes it works immediately, more often you need several attempts. The ambition to develop a range extender for a Hydrozine powered bus turned out to be a little too ambitious,” says Menno Kleingeld, director of VDL Enabling Transport Solutions (VDL ETS). Team FAST does suggest, however, that further development could make the system ready for use while driving.

Last June, the team and BAM used the system as a sustainable energy generator for the construction of the N211 in The Hague. “As students, we have delivered a top performance to put this technology into practice,” says team manager Max Aerts. “It’s something quite special to have realized this with only students and sponsors.”


In the past three years, Team FAST has scaled up the technology more than 42,000 times, bringing the technology from the lab to practice. The next step is, of course, to introduce the system to the market. Therefore, the student team will continue as a startup called ‘DENS’ (acronym for Dutch Energy Solutions) and commercialize the ‘formic acid engine’.

DENS will start with stationary generators which, after further development, will also become available for mobile applications for use for festivals, construction sites and, ultimately, also for vehicles.