Dutch students develop car powered by formic acid

Students from Netherlands’ Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) innovated a new way to safely store hydrogen in electric cars using formic acid. They managed to power a small-scale car to proof that this technique works.

Model car powered by formic acid

Model car powered by formic acid

Hydrogen is an environmentally-friendly energy source. However, it is expensive to transport and to store. The gas must also be moved under high pressure. To make it easier for transportation, the chemical element needs to be liquefied. In comes formic acid.

Formic acid as a fuel

The students from TU/e’s Team FAST chose formic acid because of its ability to store hydrogen. By using the acid, the team wants to combine the strengths of electric and hydrogen powered cars without any of the disadvantages.

Current electric cars depend on batteries and have a limited range as a result. Cars using hydrogen as a fuel source can travel further, but its use is expensive.

The upside of using formic acid is that it will be like using gasoline. This means it can easily be incorporated in the current fuel infrastructure.

Apart from using formic acid as a carrier for hydrogen, it can also be used to store solar- and wind-energy.

In nature, formic acid is produced by ants and other insects. TU/e researchers discovered a way to make formic acid by converting CO2 and hydrogen. Because of the liquid nature of formic acid, hydrogen can be transported cheaply and easily.

First formic acid powered car by 2017

The TU/e students plan to build a full-sized running car by 2017. They will convert an existing hydrogen-powered car to achieve this goal.

Recently Team FAST managed to power a model car with formic acid. They hope to demonstrate the same technique in a bus by the end of 2016.


Team FAST consists of 20 students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). Their formic acid powered car won them an Eindhoven BRAINS Award for sustainability. The idea also won them a € 50,000 grant in the Dutch STW technology foundation’s Open Mind competition.