A team of Dutch students believes using formic acid to power cars is the way forward

Formic acid used as hydrogen source to power car's electric motor

Dutch students are building the world’s first car using formic acid as a source of hydrogen for fuel cells powering an electric motor.

Running on formic acid, which is produced in nature by ants and other insects, would have several advantages, the team of 20 students from Eindhoven University of Technology believes.

Firstly, while hydrogen currently needs to be transported under high pressure and stored in costly equipment, formic acid is an easy-to-handle liquid. Moreover, if widely adopted, formic acid could be tanked into the car in the exact same way as petrol and could thus take advantage of existing infrastructure, making hydrogen-powered vehicles more competitive. 

Inside the car, the acid would be broken down into CO2 and hydrogen, with the hydrogen being used to power the car.

The team has unveiled a functioning small-scale model and hopes to convert a real hydrogen-powered car to run on formic acid by 2017. Subsequently, they would like to develop a formic acid-powered bus.

Using formic acid as a source of hydrogen would also offer a much greater range than current battery-powered electric vehicles. The acid could also be used to store solar and wind energy at times of overproduction, which could be then conveniently supplied to petrol, or formic acid, station operators.

The idea was awarded €50,000 in the Dutch STW technology foundation's Open Mind competition.

Recent articles

Info Message

Our sites use cookies to support some functionality, and to collect anonymous user data.

Learn more about IET cookies and how to control them