Hydrogen mobility: At the Shell Eco-marathon

For Linde, the future of mobility lies in clean alternatives such as hydrogen. But how best to fuel the idea? One way is through dialogue with young engineers. Enter the Shell Eco-marathon.

The Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) is one of the world’s leading energy-efficiency competitions. Every year, over 450 international student teams take part, designing vehicles to compete in different fuel categories. The aim is to build a car that can travel the longest distance with the least amount of fuel. Linde has sponsored the event for many years now – supplying teams in the hydrogen category with webinars, hands-on support and, of course, gas.

Putting your gas on the line

Among those heading to the SEM on behalf of Linde is Mathias Kurras, project manager at the Advanced Technology Centre (ATZ) in Vienna. Kurras is an avid fan of both hydrogen mobility and the event. “It is really refreshing for Linde to witness the passion students have for hydrogen,” he explains. “In the run up to the race, teams often sit together until the early hours of the morning, determined to find a solution to a particular problem.”

For Linde, the event provides another chance to demonstrate the “real-life” potential of the gas as a fuel and engage young people in innovative approaches to mobility. But the benefits don’t end there. Working closely with students also allows Linde to gain a broader overview of external perceptions surrounding the topic – and address them if necessary. “Those who have less experience with hydrogen tend to think that the equipment is extremely expensive and sometimes dangerous,” explains Kurras. “We of course know this is not the case, but it’s important to be aware that these concerns exist.”

Shell Eco Marathon 2016 London
Putting the younger generation and hydrogen to the test at the Shell Eco-marathon
Shell Eco Marathon Europe in London June 2016
Competitors line up at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe in London in June 2016

Learning by doing

As the Shell Eco-marathon urges students to experiment with different approaches – including those that Linde wouldn’t necessarily try themselves – it allows the company to witness a wider application of the technology. “This year, I’m hoping we can learn something from the performance of the fuel cells,” says Kurras, “we often gain further insights into efficiency, operation and optimisation.”

One thing is clear: for Linde, in terms of mobility, hydrogen is number one (not just in terms of the periodic table) and working with students creates a broader dialogue about its potential as a fuel. With the Shell Eco-marathon taking place in different regions around the world – Singapore in March, Sonoma (California) in April and London in July – this dialogue will be truly global.