French company Pragma Industries has released a new electric bicycle that could eliminate one of the biggest challenges of a traditional ebike – the long charging times. Dubbed the Alpha, the new bike uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power its motor, and while the Alpha definitely holds a lot of promise, it brings a few challenges along with it as well.
Most ebike models use a large lithium-ion battery as a power source, which often allows them to achieve speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour, with a range reaching up to 50 to 60 miles. But once the battery is depleted, it needs to be connected to a power source for a recharge. This typically takes 4 to 5 hours, depending on the bike and battery. The Alpha promises similar performance, but with recharge times that are a fraction of that.
Pragma says that its ebike has a range of about 60 miles using a 2-liter tank of hydrogen in place of the lithium-ion power cell. But the beauty of this system is that it takes just a couple of minutes to refill the tank, allowing riders to get back out on the road much more quickly. By eliminating the downtime between charges, the Alpha becomes a much more attractive option for commuters who may have forgotten to top off their battery the night before.
There are a few obstacles for Pragma to overcome before the Alpha can become a mainstream product, however, not the least of which is its price. Currently, the ebike sells for 7,500 euros, or roughly $9,175 U.S. That’s considerably more pricey than most other ebikes on the market, although there is perhaps an even bigger hurdle to clear. The bike also needs hydrogen charging stations to refill its tank, and there currently aren’t many of those in place. Those stations cost 30,000 euros apiece, which is about $36,700.
Despite these costs, Pragma has already partnered with several French municipalities that plan to install charging stations. Reportedly, 60 of the bikes have been ordered by places like Saint-Lô, Cherbourg, Chambéry, and Bayonne, with more potential orders coming.
Pragma says that it already has plans in the works to help lower the cost of the bikes. But perhaps more intriguing yet is that it’s also working on a design that would use water as a fuel source, creating hydrogen through the process of electrolysis. That bike is still a few years off, so for now, we’ll just have to settle for the hydrogen fuel cell-powered Alpha instead.
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