Hydrogen-powered golf cart shows SA heading to Hydrogen mobility

A HySA Golf Cart. A HySA Golf Cart.

HYDROGEN South Africa (HySA) Systems Competence Centre at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) together with Melex Electrovehicles, a local South African company, has developed the first hydrogen fuel cell battery golf cart on South African soil.

The battery vehicle, built by Melex Electrovehicles and approved by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) has been integrated with a hydrogen fuel cell and is being used in a study by HySA Systems Competence Centre to investigate the viability of hydrogen in transport applications in South Africa.  Current results are encouraging: the range of the golf cart is approximately doubled by the use of a hydrogen fuel cell. In addition, it is virtually silent in operation, can reach speeds of up to 50km.h and is pollution free. 

Prof Bruno G. Pollet, Director of HySA Systems Competence Centre at UWC, explains: “The only emission from this golf cart is water! And if the hydrogen fuel source can be produced by using renewable technologies such as solar or wind energy, the entire process – from production to driving – is purely green.”

Globally, the transportation industry is of massive economic and ecological importance. Traditional hydrocarbon cars contribute to oil depletion, increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and with around a billion cars in use and a growing global population. The development of alternate fuels is critically important – and hydrogen fuel cell technology is particularly promising.

This hydrogen transport demonstrator will be compared with the existing UWC campus fleet of diesel and pure battery electric vehicles (part of the reason the University was named South Africa’s Greenest Campus in 2012) so that HySA Systems scientists and engineers can learn more about the efficiency and performance of this technology, and how it can be implemented cost-effectively in the formation of a viable ‘green’ means of transport in South Africa. These and other activities at HySA Systems have received considerable support from the Department of Science and Technology.

Professor Pollet says, “Thanks to the support of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) we are starting to make the necessary steps to gear up towards a zero emission campus, as well as a functional hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure in South Africa, which will hopefully help to create new jobs and working partnerships with local businesses.”

Fellow HySA Systems researcher Dr Sivakumar Pasupathi says, “Partnering with a local company and successfully demonstrating a hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) battery vehicle is one of the first steps in establishing a HFC industry in South Africa - we hope to build and continue our partnerships towards mass-produced HFC vehicles in the future.”

Stuart Elliot, Sales Director of Melex Electrovehicles, says, “This is a very special moment for Melex Electrovehicles – our first hydrogen-powered road-legal golf cart! This type of zero emission road-legal electric vehicle has been a personal vision of mine for many years, and we now have a unit able to compete in the light commercial and city centre shuttle arena. In real case studies in South Africa we have proven that our road-legal electric vehicles – coupled with the Hydrogen Fuel Cell – are cheaper to run and maintain, with fewer emissions than comparable petrol.diesel vehicles.”

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