Four young engineers based in Istanbul aspire for mass production of a hydrogen-powered scooter they call first in the world, offering a better alternative to electric scooters
E-scooters are all the rage in Turkiye, as their sales and number of companies renting them soared in recent years. Yet, they have several cons, like long charging times and possible pollution from the uncontrolled disposal of discarded batteries. Four Turkish engineers hope a new scooter, working on hydrogen power, may overcome these problems.
“Hebunk,” devised by entrepreneurs working at a technology park at Istanbul Technical University, boasts a fast charging time, just five minutes, and can travel for 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) with a single charge, which roughly costs about 9 cents (TL 1.8).
The scooter, which is not too different from e-scooters in appearance, was developed in one year by the entrepreneurs’ HydroBorPEM Fuel Cell Technologies, now based at a technology park in Istanbul’s Yıldız Technical University.
Erhan Demircioğlu, one of the founders of the company, demonstrated the vehicle on Sunday and said they were looking for investors for mass production. He hopes their vehicle will contribute to the growing micromobility market.
“I was an e-scooter user but faced several problems. Charging it takes a long time and its range is limited. I had trouble climbing steep roads,” he told Anadolu Agency. “You have to wait for five to eight hours to fully charge them. You have to carry them on your own on steep roads.” The problems pushed him and his friends to find a solution, and together they came up with the idea of using hydrogen as fuel, something already applied to other vehicles, like motorcycles.
“Hebunk is fitted with a hydrogen cartridge to store its fuel. It takes only five minutes to charge it. While climbing up on a steep road, it is a smooth ride,” he said. The scooter is equipped with an “inclination sensor” which allows it to gear up automatically while climbing up.
Demircioğlu and his friends have been working on hydrogen technologies for more than a decade, from fuel cells to their storage, charging stations, etc. After an intense research and development process, they managed to acquire domestic and international patents for their vehicle which passed all safety tests. “This is the first hydrogen-powered scooter in the world whose appearance is not different from electric scooters,” he highlighted.
He said they contacted investors before producing the scooter but most viewed it as a “future vehicle which cannot be done at this time.” “So,we used our own resources and after multiple trials, we managed to get it to work. We believed in it and succeeded,” he said. Currently, the only challenge for entrepreneurs is high costs but Demircioğlu says they will decrease once they start mass production. “We even have customers ready. A client from Germany said he was ready to purchase 1,000 scooters,” he added.
Demircioğlu says research on hydrogen technology’s use in transportation was limited in Turkiye. “It is overshadowed by work on electric vehicles but in Europe, it is gaining a foothold,” he says.
Another advantage of hydrogen technology is its enduring battery, whose fuel cells have a life of 14 years. A lithium-ion battery has a life of only five years. “With one hydrogen cartridge, you can generate the energy equivalent to 10 lithium-ion batteries,” Demircioğlu said. “In terms of weight, size and cost, hydrogen is better in batteries than electric. It is also environment-friendly. Electric vehicles are viewed as environment-friendly but their electricity is obtained from plants using fossil fuels. In other words, they can’t help achieve net-zero emission goals. But in hydrogen, you can fill your batteries by using water and heat only,” he said. “This is a resource which emits only steam and can be generated through renewable energy resources.”