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Sep 30

Future Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars

Posted in Fuel Cells | Future Technology | Hydrogen Fuel | Transportation

Fuel Cell CarForget ethanol or biodiesel. The next big thing in automotive fuel may very well be hydrogen. Automakers rapidly are closing in on making hydrogen fuel cell vehicles an everyday fact of life, with several test models set to debut over the next few years. Hydrogen fuel cells to power vehicles is desirable, experts say, because hydrogen is a renewable fuel that can be used to create electricity to run cars. A chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen produces the electric power, and when pure hydrogen is used, the only emission from the tailpipe is harmless water vapor.

BMW last week introduced the world’s first hydrogen-drive luxury car, the Hydrogen 7, which can run either on hydrogen or gasoline. And General Motors this month introduced a production-ready version of Chevy’s hydrogen fuel cell-powered Sequel and said it planned to release a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell-powered Chevy Equinox crossovers next fall.

To be sure, it will be many years – if then – before it’s determined whether hydrogen fuel has a future in the industry. For one, just developing the necessary infrastructure to “fill up” and maintain hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles would represent a huge undertaking.

From storage facilities at the point of production to pipelines, trucks, compressors and dispensers where customers would fill up at refueling station or stationary power site, “We’re quite a ways out,” said Paul Lacy, manager of technical research for Troy, Michigan-based Global Insight, an economic and market research concern.

“We have 600 stations of 180,000 gasoline stations in the country that even have ethanol,” he said. “To bring out hydrogen is a whole new task.”

And that’s just on the production and delivery side of the equation.

Many wonder whether powerful oil companies and their advocates would stand by and allow development of a competing hydrogen infrastructure, even though President Bush has pushed for more research and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he envisions a day when hydrogen filling stations dot California’s highways.

Then, of course, there are concerns about cost and safety.

Hydrogen fuel cells, while about twice as efficient as internal-combustion engines using gas, cost nearly 100 times as much per unit of power produced, critics note. And hydrogen is explosive. It ignites at a wider range of concentrations than natural gas and requires less energy to ignite, Michael D. Amiridis, chair of the chemical engineering department at the University of South Carolina, told the Web site and gas-electric hybrid cars advocate

“It’s scary – you cannot see the flame, ” Amiridis said.

Still, automakers are pushing ahead.

“What we can do from our side is to show that technology is mainly feasible, and we have many corporate projects in this area,” said BMW‘s corporate communications manager Andreas Klugescheid. Its North America Engineering and Emission Test Center in California, for example, has been testing two BMW Hydrogen 7 prototypes that run on both hydrogen and gasoline, using a dual-fuel engine and two separate fuel tanks.

With the push of a button on its steering wheel, the Hydrogen 7 can run on either hydrogen or gasoline. It can go 125 miles on its hydrogen mode and 300 on its gasoline mode, thus limiting the possibility that its driver might be stranded, given that there’s only one hydrogen filling station in California, near Los Angeles.

Both GM and Honda are hoping to bypass concerns about the lack and cost of developing hydrogen filling stations by creating home hydrogen refueling devices that would allow cars to be refilled overnight in garages.

Much of the push for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is aimed at putting the public at ease through demonstration models and projects.

GM, for example, opened the nation’s first hydrogen filling station in suburban Washington, D.C., two years ago, and touts the spirited acceleration 0 to 60 in 10 seconds and the “unprecedented range” of 300 miles between fill-ups of its Sequel.

GM also is building more than 100 Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell vehicles that it will begin placing with customers in California, New York and Washington, D.C., for market testing beginning next fall. The vehicle is designed to be operated for 50,000 miles and will be able to run in sub-freezing temperatures an important point because that also has been an issue.

It likely will be years before it becomes clear if hydrogen will catch on as the fuel of the future for cars. Honda doesn’t expect to begin limited production of its sleek FCX four-door sedan, to be powered by hydrogen fuel cell, until 2010 and GM has said it will take the same amount of time to have a fuel cell system with the performance durability and affordable mass production cost that equals or exceeds today’s internal combustion engines.

  • soriano, jefferson

    Yeah!!! Its my research work… getting close so keep on plugging useful hints in making hydrogen technology…

    Environment… Eureka!!!!!!!!


    Forget hydrogen, free energy device is here and now, it gives unlimited sources of clean and free energy, device is small and cheap, and it has very big power for it’s weight.

  • Two-gun

    There are several inaccuracies in this article, if not downright lies:

    1. Calif has about 40 hydrogen refueling stations, and in fact, the last one opened by Shell Oil.

    2. ITM just unveiled their new home hydrogen generation system… Fill your car, use it for heating / cooling / cooking and electricy production…..

    3. Safety — not even the Hindenburg was felled by Hydrogen, contrary to popular belief — it was the paint on the fabric…..I’m sorry, but the good Dr’s statements are scare tactics, nothing more. Gas and propane sink to the ground and burn, whereas hydrogen heads for the sky, and the flame goes up, and away. I’m not saying it is impossible for an event, just not as bad as he would like you to imagine….

    Come on folks, let’s get real with REAL FACTS here.

  • Justwatching

    Getting and containing H2 is so energy intensive that it is not practical yet. The fuel cell is so far in the future as far as cost and longevity are concerned that we should not get to excited over them. For a fuel cell car to sell it will have to be in a price range that the people working for minimum wage can afford other wise it is a still born idea. If it is priced so only 3% of the population can afford it then the target market is to small to stay in production.

  • Max B.

    It’s a good idea but I really don’t think every body is willing to buy a new car.

  • Pete

    Fuel Cell cars will obviously be expensive when they first start making them. Like hybrids, they will start off expensive & the price will tumble as they gain popularity and further develop production efficiency. If you look at the overall design of an electric fuel cell car, it should inevitably become cheaper as they are far more simple than petrol cars with motors on all 4 wheels they eliminate the need for brakes, brushless motors mean there will be fewer wearing parts. There is far less maintenance.

    Fuel cell cars are the future as although electric cars don’t produce emissions, they just produce more emissions from the power stations they get the electricity from!

    I can’t wait for Honda to introduce the Clarity to Britain!

  • russ

    Hydrogen is quite safe – providing safety rules are followed – same as for any other fuel – the safety rules must be followed!

    Slightly different rules but same thing applies for gasoline or diesel. No big deal and I spent my working years designing, constructing and operating hydrogen/carbon monoxide based industrial plants where we handled very large gas flows.

    The problem with H2 at present is it typically comes from hydrocarbons being reformed which is energy and CO2 intensive. A cost effective hydrocarbon free source is essential to making the H2 dream come true.

  • russ

    Forgot to point out – H2 has a very low energy value compared to natural gas or other fuels – the big power for weight statement is not true.

  • R. Paul Williamson

    I work in hydrogen research and development and have come to realize that hydrogen is the only sustainable solution that we have to meet our power, energy safety/security, transportation, pollution, balance of payments, military, industrial and business goals. If we don’t collectively move in this direction (with or without Sec. Chu) our grandkids, in addition to not having any money, will not have any energy or be able to breath.

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