Techwatch: Is hydrogen the future?


We’re constantly promised that better, lighter, faster-charging batteries are just over a horizon as a viable alternative to all forms of combustion engined motorcycle.

However, genuinely highperformance, long-range batterypowered bikes remain a pipedream for most – leading Japanese giants Yamaha and Kawasaki to join forces on a hydrogen-fuelled combustion engine project, and tying in with car giant Toyota.

Meanwhile, Honda and Suzuki also have long histories with hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, and Honda have partnered with General Motors’s subsidiary Isuzu to develop a next-generation fuel cell system for a truck due in 2027.

Pooling their expertise, the Japanese ‘Big Four’ have now joined forces to develop ‘Hydrogen Small Mobility Engines’ for motorcycles in a grouping dubbed ‘HySE’. But how does the technology work, and how difficult is it to achieve?

While both hydrogen combustion engines and fuel cells use on-board hydrogen tanks, allowing rapid refuelling as a huge advantage over batteries, and both have emissions that are almost entirely harmless water vapour, the two technologies couldn’t be further apart…

Ben Purvis

By Ben Purvis