How to power a bus on formic acid

On Thursday 6 July Team FAST, a student team from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), will unveil the design of the world’s first system that allows a bus to drive on formic acid. Their self-built system comprises an electric bus that is hooked up to a small trailer – which the students have christened ‘REX’ – in which formic acid is converted into electricity. The benefits of using formic acid are that it is sustainable, CO2-neutral, safe and liquid.

Hydrozine is the energy carrier’s official name. It’s 99% formic acid with a performance enhancing agent. What is striking is that Team FAST, consisting of 35 students, developed this so far unknown fuel all by itself. At the beginning of 2016 they presented an initial scale model that illustrated how it works. After another twenty months of hard work, they now have a system that is 42,000 times stronger and is capable of 25kW power. 

Expanding range

In the trailer that was built by the team hydrozine is split into hydrogen and CO2. The hydrogen is then used to produce electricity that powers a city bus of the Eindhoven company VDL. The team calls the trailer a ‘range extender’, REX for short, because the trailer expands the existing range of the bus as a standalone component. The team is still running final tests with the aim of the bus actually operating by the end of this year.

Multiple benefits

The benefits of hydrozine are many. It is a cheap and safe alternative to the transport of hydrogen that normally requires large tanks and high pressure. The CO2 produced in splitting the hydrozine is also used in the production process, which results in zero net CO2. Hydrozine has four times as much energy density as a battery and since it is a liquid, very few modifications will be required to the current infrastructure of filling stations. 

Unveiling of the bus

During Thursday’s event, at the VDMA premises in Eindhoven, Team FAST will unveil its unique system and present the results achieved over the past year as well as look ahead to what these results will mean in the future. The first filling station for hydrozine will also be presented. The event marks the moment when many of the students will be leaving the team to be replaced by their successors. 

Presentation of Team FAST

The presentation will be quite an original event, too. Visitors will walk through the electric bus in which the history of Team FAST is revealed and all the features and benefits of hydrozine are illustrated. Then it’s the turn of REX, which will have a led screen on which an animation explains in simple term show the system works and what the different components, visible through the transparent hood, do exactly. 

Energy carrier for the future

The mission of Team FAST is both admirable and ambitious. Together with partners from the whole production chain, Team FAST is making hydrozine a safe, sustainable and standard energy carrier for the future. It hopes to introduce a unique mobility concept that can be implemented in the current infrastructure, one that is safe and therefore easy to adopt in our current way of living.

The ‘Showcase REX’ event takes place on Thursday 6 July at the VDMA premises in Eindhoven, from 4 till 8 pm. More information about the program: