FACT: There is no doubt that the way of the future for cars and motorbikes will be the hydrogen fuel cell which is powered via a tank holding hydrogen, whereby the chemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen in the electrolyte of the fuel cell produces electricity to drive an electric motor to the wheels and the bye-product is water. Of course, this will necessitate the large scale industrial production of hydrogen which will be pumped into vehicles, similar to petrol and diesel, but from from hydrogen stations which will probably be existing petrol/diesel stations with additional hydrogen storage.

In an incredible irony, hydrogen is produced by passing an electric current through stainless steel plates in a water tank (electrolysis) whereby hydrogen is given off and collected. However, there are four main sources for the commercial production of hydrogen: natural gas, oil, coal, and electrolysis; which account for 48%, 30%, 18% and 4% of the world's hydrogen production respectively. Fossil fuels are the dominant source of industrial hydrogen. Carbon dioxide can be separated from natural gas with a 7085% efficiency for hydrogen production and from other hydrocarbons to varying degrees of efficiency. Specifically, bulk hydrogen is usually produced by the steam reforming of methane or natural gas.

The Dream: Lee Chang who lived in Heshun, China, took the electrolysis route to produce hydrogen as the fuel for a conventional combustion engine. He started a small enterprise in his garage and set about producing a new type of motorcycle and within three years, the Chinese Government has purchased a 50% stake in his business and set about mass producing his motorcycle invention from a brand new state of the art factory in Beijing. The new motorcycles spread throughout the Chinese mainland and had become very popular as a cheap form of transport.

Chang, started by converting a standard combustion engine motorcycle -


  • The motorcycle battery was replaced with a water tank containing water. Alongside this water tank was a water fed sealed electrolysis unit with high grade steel plates inside, packed closely together.

  • The electric starter was replaced with a kick start lever on the right side of the motorcycle, similar to the kick starters on motorcycles, like the Triumph and Norton motorcycles from the 1950s.

  • A magneto was fitted and initially driven by the kick starter and then the engines main drive shaft, once the engine started. This magneto produced electricity for the spark plugs, the lighting accessories and to produce hydrogen gas by applying electricity through the steel plates (electrolysis) in the sealed unit.

  • The hydrogen was stored in a hydrogen tank which replaced the conventional petrol tank.

  • An electronic control unit was used to control and monitor the hydrogen tank valves, the sealed unit valves and the correct volume of hydrogen fed through to the engine.

  • An accelerator hydrogen control valve.

  • Hydrogen injector per cylinder were used to replace the carburettor or old petrol injectors.

  • An on/off hydrogen switch was used between the hydrogen storage tank and the accelerator hydrogen control valve to control the hydrogen feed.

The method of operation was simplicity itself, you set the hydrogen switch to on to let hydrogen escape from the hydrogen storage tank through the accelerator hydrogen control valve to the hydrogen injectors, you then kick started the kick start lever on the right side of the motorcycle and the bike burst into life fired up by the magneto which produced electricity for the bike and to produce more hydrogen gas from the sealed electrolysis unit to the hydrogen storage tank. A twist of the accelerator produced a nice growl from the exhaust. It was ridden like a conventional combustion engine motorcycle, with an accelerator, clutch, gears and ABS brakes. Some models had traction control fitted.

The electronic control unit was the real brain with its warning lights for low water capacity in the sealed electrolysis unit's water tank and any electrical and valve failure. It controlled the water level in the electrolysis sealed unit from the water tank via its water open/close valve. When the hydrogen storage tank (replacing the petrol tank) was nearing full pressure capacity, it automatically switched of the electricity to the sealed electrolysis unit whereby hydrogen production was stopped and then started again when the hydrogen storage tank pressure level fell. The hydrogen from the hydrogen storage tank was fed down a pipe through the hydrogen on/off switch then controlled via the accelerator hydrogen control valve to the hydrogen injectors and into the cylinders of the engine.

Hydrogen was stored in gas pressure form as it was impossible to generate the -252.87 degree freezing temperature in the storage tank to turn the gas into liquid form.

The hydrogen motorcycle's maintenance was similar to a conventional motorcycle in every way. It had a water coolant tank and coolant system, it used synthetic oil for the engine and gearbox, it had an oil filter, brake pads and a suspension setup along with ABS brakes. The only other items that required inspection for replacement were the sealed electrolysis unit and it's water tank which were inexpensive due to their basic stainless steel construction. The motorcycle was fitted with a hydrogen production gauge and warning light so the rider knew when hydrogen was being produced, the volume sent to the hydrogen storage tank and the pressure of the hydrogen storage tank itself.

The magneto was monitored and information sent to a conventional power gauge on the dashboard and the water level in the tank for the sealed electrolysis unit also had a gauge on the dashboard very similar to a conventional petrol gauge. The sealed electrolysis unit's water tank was capable of producing hydrogen for 150 miles travel but most riders would fill it up with water every 100 miles.

The sealed electrolysis unit was inexpensive to replace. Its disposal was simple as its components, the inner plates and the housing, were all manufactured in stainless steel and could be recycled to manufacture other metal items. Therefore, there was a trade in value for the old unit. Chang chose not to include a conventional battery in his build to electric start his motorcycle as its manufacture and disposal would have a marked impact on the environment.


I dislike electric vehicles and their impact on the environment so I hope a Lee Chang will emerge and build that hydrogen motorcycle.

"Its the way of the future, way of the future" ......... Howard Hughes.

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Richard Lawrence
United Kingdom


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