A new take on an old machine familiar to many northerners has taken home the top spot in this year’s Yukon Innovation Prize competition.
Stefan Weissenberg’s pitch for a hydrogen fuel cell-powered snowmobile earned him 2020’s grand prize of $10,000.
The annual competition is held by the Yukon government’s Department of Economic Development and Yukon College’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship hub, with this year’s theme centring on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
In an interview April 6, Weissenberg said the first sparks for his idea came when a friend in Destruction Bay gave him an old snowmobile that didn’t have a working motor but was otherwise in good condition.
Annoyed by the loud noise from snowmobiles and ATVs he hears in the Haines Pass while skiing, Weissenberg, who has a background in engineering and has worked with small drones, decided he would try to retrofit the old snowmobile so that it would run silently.
He said he initially considered installing a conventional battery-powered motor, but ultimately decided that a hydrogen fuel cell, which is how some drones are powered, would be a better choice.
In a nutshell, hydrogen fuel cells use a constant input of hydrogen (the fuel) and oxygen (typically just taken from the air) to generate electricity, creating water as a byproduct. This sets them apart from regular batteries, which typically use the metals and chemicals contained within their walls to generate power.
The technology isn’t new. Car manufacturers have long been prototyping hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, and some cities are already using them to power, in part, their municipal buses.
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