Fuel-Cell Cars

There is a fuel-cell car currently being leased to consumers in southern California. It's the Honda Clarity but also MB was said to
have a fuel-cell car for the U.S. market in 2010.
Now the fuel-cell car fuels with hydrogen, takes oxygen out of the air, produces electricity, runs an electric motor, and sends water out the tailpipe. And the advantage of the fuel-cell vehicle over the plug- in electric-vehicle is that the fuel-cell car has easier fueling, lighter vehicle weight, a lower cost of battery replacement, and a longer travel range.
There are a couple of things to know about the fuel-cell car. The first is that there are a limited number of hydrogen fueling stations. I see them, among other places, in southern California, in NYC, and in Orlando. The second thing to know is that the fuel-cell car has a 5000 psi tank for the compressed hydrogen. And so the hydrogen tank has to be very strong and is probably made out of carbon fiber with an outer protective steel shell.
But the strength of the hydrogen tank leads to a structural idea. Use two hydrogen tanks, one in the front and one in the back. Then have the tanks as lateral stressed members of the vehicle frame to produce vehicle strength without added weight.
Of course physicists are working on balls of carbon that store hydrogen without it being compressed so the day might come when very strong hydrogen tanks are not needed.
Now I included this post to a civil engineering newsgroup because civil engineers sometimes work in aircraft structure positions and certainly can work with bridge structures.
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The time is nowhere near ripe for this.
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Sure it is.
Just corral all those illegal Mexicans in Arizona, then give them all teeny tiny knives. Set them to work cutting the H's off the O's on water molecules, and stuffing the H's into gas containers. If they put the lids back really quickly, the H's will stay inside. Now we easily have enough fuel for our Honda Clarity.
Plus, if we let the Mexicans keep all the leftover O's for themselves, they can become entrepreneurs, setting up oxygen bars for San Francisco metrosexuals.
--
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ROFL, Thanks.
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hls wrote:

The thing that gets me is that it is possible to run hydrogen in a standard IC engine. The conversion is only a bit more complicated than converting for natural gas or propane. One gets the low pollution benefits (as long as care is taken to avoid nitrous oxides, usually with heavy EGR).
One doesn't need to wait for fuel cells.
Big problem, of course, is that free hydrogen is very scarce on Earth. By free I don't mean price, I mean almost all hydrogen is chemically combined with other substances, and it takes a lot of energy to reduce it.
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You can do this, and you can do this on your existing '72 Ford with only minimal modifications and a fancy new carb. The problem is that you run into the same inefficiency issues that you always run into with internal combustion engines on cars: you need a huge engine for high peak power, even though most of the time you're running it the throttle isn't anywhere near all the way open. The fuel-cell/electric motor combination is less efficient at full throttle but way more efficient at cruise.

That either... hydrogen fuel cells were swanky new high technology when NASA used them on Gemini in the early 1960s, but these days they are pretty much into proven technology. The problem is all with creation and storage of hydrogen in the first place.

Well, it takes almost exactly the same amount of energy that you get back when you burn it. So you can think of electrolysis of hydrogen, hydrogen storage and transport, and the fuel cell as being a sort of way to store and transport electricity from place to place in a convenient and portable form. It's not a power source, it's a power storage and transport medium, and it could turn out to be a pretty good one. --scott
--
"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

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They were running a hydrogen fueled passenger bus in an airport in Germany (and may still be). It was an experimental project but seemed to work fine.
We are not ready for hydrogen for the exact reasons posted in this thread...storage and availability.
Statoil has committed to a project to have the first Hydrogen Highway in the world between Stavanger and Oslo. They could, and probably will, do it.
Statoil has also commissioned a GTL plant, floated into site, which will convert natural gas to liquid hydrocarbons. There is another such plant (Pearl) in Qatar built upon Shell technology. We could do the same here. If you count the natural gas reserves, converted into liquid fuel, we would have about twice as much liquid hydrocarbons as the middle east, according to T. Boone.
These hydrocarbons range from naphthas through kerosene and to base oils. And through the wonders of refining, you could make a lot of fuel from those heavy ends.
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PolicySpy wrote:

Honda believes it could start mass producing vehicles based on the FCX Clarity by the year 2018

Yeah all of 240 miles MAX. per fill-up.

According to http://www.hondaclarity.org/fuelingstations.html There are a total of 8 places that are able to fuel the car. 5 in S Cal., 1 in Phoenix, 1 in Chicago and one in Maryland. Guess you may want to stay close to home!

Not a good idea to have a high pressure gas storage cylinder doubling as a stressed member of the vehicle.

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On 04/13/2010 06:40 PM, Steve W. wrote:

really? the bulk tank trailer industry has been using the pressure vessel as a stressed member for decades. perhaps they didn't get the memo?

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Right. The issues are all to do with storage and transport of hydrogen, not with the fuel cell itself. What we really need is a fuel cell that can operate over the long term with a liquid fuel that can be readily transported. Folks are working on that. I don't expect it soon, but it might happen.

Well, the good thing about hydrogen is that if it leaks and ignites, you get a huge plume going straight up and most of the actual combustion takes place in the air some distance up. So in that regard a fuel explosion is actually safer than a comparable gasoline explosion from the point of view of the people in and around the car, because the hydrogen is lighter than air even when cold.
Now... the bad news is that if that happens under a highway overpass, the damage may turn out to be a good bit worse than with a gasoline explosion. That's going to be an interesting thing to try and model. --scott
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The hydrogen tank to store compressed hydrogen is strong enough to hold 5000 psi. It's probably made out of carbon fiber with a steel outer shell but the shape of a tank is relatively simple likely allowing an automated manufacturing process to be used with the carbon fiber.
But it would be better to have one hydrogen tank that is slender and long. Then the tank can be a center and longitudinal backbone frame for the vehicle. In fact the Delorean car has a backbone frame of traditional construction.
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