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Dutch team presents scale model of car powered by formic acid

15 January 2016

Building a car that is powered by formic acid is the ambition of Team FAST, a multidisciplinary student team from Eindhoven University of Technology.

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

Since formic acid can store hydrogen, an environmentally-friendly fuel, it has more benefits than existing hydrogen or electric powered cars. By using formic acid as a fuel, Team FAST hopes to combine the strengths of electric and hydrogen powered cars without any of the drawbacks.

Electric cars depend on batteries and thus have a limited range. An electric car can go further using hydrogen but the drawback here is that hydrogen is expensive to transport and store, and it also has to be transported under high pressure.  

Formic acid offers the possibility to store hydrogen easily. A chemical reaction, discovered last year by Eindhoven University of Technology researchers, enables hydrogen and CO2 to be converted at high speed into formic acid, and vice versa. Due to the liquid nature of formic acid, hydrogen can be transported easily and cheaply.

Team FAST sees possibilities for these reactions to take place in a car, whereby hydrogen is used to power an electric engine. For the consumer using formic acid will be like using gasoline. This similarity will also ensure that formic acid can easily be incorporated into the existing fuel infrastructure, Next to that, formic acid can be much more widely applied as an energy carrier; solar and wind energy can also be stored in formic acid, and then used when required.

Team FAST is a multidisciplinary team of 20 students. Their idea for a formic acid powered car won them one of the Eindhoven BRAINS awards for sustainability last year as well as a grant of €50,000 in the Dutch STW technology foundation’s Open Mind competition.

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