Rotax hydrogen snowmobile Lynx HySnow in use on the slopes for the first time
- The Lynx HySnow concept snow vehicle unveiled in 2020 is now in live operation at the Hinterstoder ski region using green hydrogen from its own refueling facility
- HySnow hydrogen project fosters Austria's competitiveness and contributes to the decarbonization of winter tourism
- Further investments for industrialization and series production of fuel cell based vehicles crucial
- HySnow project funded by the Climate and Energy Fund as part of its "Lighthouses of E-Mobility" program and implemented in cooperation with HyCentA Research GmbH, Fronius International GmbH, Graz University of Technology, the Hinterstoder and Wurzeralm ski region, ElringKlinger AG, and ECuSol GmbH
Especially in winter sports areas, noise and emission reduction as well as the use of renewable energy sources are an ever-growing topic. To drive the decarbonization of winter tourism, the Upper Austrian company BRP-Rotax developed a snow vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Now, for the first time, the Lynx HySnow and the complementary hydrogen refueling system, which generates green hydrogen on site, are in live operation at the Hinterstoder ski region.
During the FIS Ski World Cup in February 2020, the team around the project management of the R&D department of Rotax presented the concept vehicle and the associated infrastructure solution to the public after four years of research. Despite the Corona pandemic, the overall system consisting of a photovoltaic and hydrogen production system, hydrogen refueling facility and snowmobile was subsequently able to undergo an intensive test phase in Hinterstoder under real conditions. This confirmed the safety and reliability of the innovation, including the desired range per refueling, even at extreme ambient temperatures.
Holistic hydrogen ecosystem in Hinterstoder
The Lynx HySnow, which emits only water vapor and runs almost silently, scores with a high-torque electric drive and good operating capabilities at cold temperatures. After one and a half years of experimental development on the test bench and in the vehicle, the fuel cell system can now already boast 120 operating hours. In addition, Rotax's vehicle is embedded in a real hydrogen ecosystem: The central core of the project is the hydrogen production and refueling system, which was developed in collaboration with Fronius. It produces green hydrogen for the vehicle right next to the slope. The electrolysis modules have already produced 50 kg of hydrogen in 300 hours of operation.
The electricity for the electrolysis is generated from green photovoltaic power; this plant was planned and built by ECuSol GmbH. The decisive advantage of the hydrogen system is the fast refueling time of the vehicles of less than three minutes. In addition, large amounts of energy can be easily stored. This ensures the supply of hydrogen for one and a half months even when the photovoltaic system is covered with snow. Live operation will take place over two winter seasons, saving four tons of CO2 emissions when comparing to vehicles with combustion engines. With solar energy in summer, a saving of eleven tons of CO2 is even possible. The showcase project is receiving financial support from the Climate and Energy Fund.
Despite successes, further development of zero-emission hydrogen technology continues to prove challenging. "Especially the availability of suitable and cost-effective system components is still very limited," says Wolfgang Rapberger, GM BRP-Rotax / Representative of the Management Board, about the ongoing project. "In the next step, we would like to put a special focus on industrialization, modularization as well as complexity reduction. With Fronius as the infrastructure supplier, ElringKlinger as the fuel cell stack supplier and BRP as the vehicle supplier, a powerful unit has formed for this purpose."
Foundation stone for future series production
"We are delighted to finally see the Lynx HySnow in live operation on the slopes, celebrating an important milestone in sustainable propulsion systems. However, the project is not only essential for alpine use. Our project is intended to advance our country's competitiveness in the field of hydrogen and lay the foundation for future series production of fuel cell-based vehicles," says Wolfgang Rapberger.
The Hinterstoder and Wurzeralm ski region, partner of the HySnow project, is excited about the upcoming test phase in daily use. "All the lifts and snowmaking systems in the two skiing areas of Hinterstoder and Wurzeralm have always been powered by renewable energy sources. It is therefore a matter of great concern to me that we also make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the area of snowmobiles and snow grooming equipment. We are proud to be able to test a climate-neutral tourism operation as a showcase region," says Helmut Holzinger, board director of Hinterstoder-Wurzeralm Bergbahnen AG.
Hydrogen as an opportunity for the research and business location Austria
The HyCentA of the Graz University of Technology, one of the largest research facilities for hydrogen in all of Europe, was instrumental as a project partner in the development of the green hydrogen ecosystem around the Lynx HySnow. Alexander Trattner, Managing Director and Scientific Director of HyCentA Research GmbH, clearly sees this type of renewable energy as the future of mobility: "Special about the HySnow project is that the evidence of clean and safe hydrogen mobility is not only provided in the laboratory, but on a real scale in alpine environmental conditions. To this end, the HySnow plant uses photovoltaics to utilize its own on-site renewable resources and produces hydrogen completely emission-free through electrolysis of water. The electric HySnow drive concept consisting of fuel cell, battery and hydrogen storage represents a resource-saving and customer-oriented solution for the mobility of the future, also for special and sports vehicles."
With around 20 years of experience, Fronius is a pioneer when it comes to green hydrogen. "Only if hydrogen is produced ecologically then the decarbonization of mobility can succeed," Martin Hackl, Global Director Sales & Marketing at Fronius International, is convinced. "With our Solhub, we have already implemented a decentralized compact system for the production, storage and use of green hydrogen and contributed our know-how to the HySnow project." For even more innovations from Austria, Fronius will be pooling all its expert knowledge at its new high-tech hydrogen competence center in Steinhaus in the future.
In the fuel cell stack, hydrogen is converted into electricity using ambient air. The "NM5" stack platform being used was developed and produced fully automatically by project partner ElringKlinger. With series production planned from the end of 2021, ElringKlinger is making a significant contribution to the widespread use of fuel cell technology in mobile applications.
To help the sustainable energy carrier hydrogen achieve a breakthrough, the next step will be to work on industrialization options. In the future, these could enable cost-effective, mass production of fuel-cell-based vehicles and H2 storage media. Further research projects are intended to support this project.