Skip to comments.New program driven at developing hydrogen fuel cells
Posted on 01/09/2002 3:40:24 PM PST by John Jamieson
DETROIT -- The Bush administration launched a partnership today with domestic automakers to spur the growth of hydrogen fuel cells for the next generation of cars and trucks, hoping to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil while reducing tailpipe pollution.
The new program, called Freedom Cooperative Automotive Research, will also focus on developing a hydrogen refueling infrastructure, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said.
"The long-term results of this cooperative effort will be cars and trucks that are more efficient, cheaper to operate, pollution-free and competitive in the showroom," Abraham said at the North American International Auto Show.
The government hopes fuel cells will spur industry efforts to develop motor vehicle power systems that eventually will replace the internal combustion engine.
The new program replaces the Partnership for a New Generation Vehicle that was started by the Clinton administration to develop a vehicle that could attain 80 miles per gallon fuel efficiency.
The Energy Department and senior Bush administration policy officials have expressed little enthusiasm for that program, which was aimed at quadrupling automobile fuel economy by the middle of this decade.
"This new initiative that the Department of Energy is launching is exciting not only because it can replace gasoline as a way to power vehicles making America more energy independent, but it's pollution-free," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Fuel cells produce electricity from a chemical reaction in which hydrogen and oxygen are combined without a flame. The only byproduct is water.
In recent years, the cost of fuel cells has dropped sharply. Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas aboard vehicles or pure hydrogen can be used, though that would require development of a supply infrastructure.
Automobile fuel economy likely is to be a major issue when the Senate takes up energy legislation next month. Democrats are calling for the government to require increased auto fuel efficiency, especially for popular sport utility vehicles.
The New Generation partnership had pushed industry development of hybrid gasoline-electric cars now just entering the market. It also had focused industry attention on finding ways to improve fuel economy without reducing car size and zip.
Using advanced aerodynamics, new engine technologies and lighter composite materials, the automakers in the program developed prototypes of vehicles capable of getting more than 70 mpg, three times better than most cars now on the road. But commercial development of large numbers of these cars in the next few years, as once envisioned, was not expected.
Although Abraham supported the program as a senator from Michigan, shortly after he became energy secretary he said the program had outlived its usefulness because the auto industry was going in a different direction.
The Bush administration proposed slashing funding for the program as part of its first budget a year ago. However, Congress kept it alive, even as some environmental groups and the watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense called the program an unnecessary subsidy for the car industry.
This new government-industry partnership "will further the president's national energy policy, which calls for increased research in hydrogen technology to diversify and enhance America's energy security," the Energy Department said.
Although several automakers -- including DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. -- have said they expect to have fuel-cell vehicles in showrooms within the next four or five years, wide availability of such cars is probably a decade or more away.
On the Net:
Energy Department: http://www.energy.gov/
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press
My impression has been that the automotive industry at both the professional and trade level is so competitive and widespread that if a truly more efficient revolutionary idea or method exists, it would have hit the market a long time ago.
Paraphrased, the vehicles we have right now HAVE been optimised to give us the form and functionality demanded by the market.
My only complaint is that there isn't a lower end, such as a $2000-$5000 1 ton truck simply for utilitarian use by intelligent owners who display responsible behavior. Seems to me that those designs have been precluded by "safety" and common law now embedded in regulatory law "to help us all out".
Only problem is that younger generations pay more for a car than the boomers paid for a house. It gets old, fast.
It takes work and power to fabricate equipment. We still conserve energy.
Completely irrelevant. The conversion from gasoline or natural gas to hydrogen is done by a thermal reformer directly in-car or by a similar thermal process (coal gasification, for instance). We aren't talking about charging batteries.
"Overall energy efficiency (from the power plant through the vehicle) was a little better. The problem was the technology for the batteries ain't there. Pure electric vehicles were argued to be "cost effective". Problem is they lack the PERFORMANCE of today's vehicles. In addition, the MAINTENANCE cost were also determined to be incredible. I wouldn't look for mass production of fuel cell or electric vehicles for several decades."
WHAT batteries?? The only "battery" in a fuel cell car will be the relatively small (compared to pure EV's) battery that will run the accessories, electronics, soak up current generated by the regenerative braking, and provide booster current for passing acceleration. You seem to have confused the pure EV with a fuel-cell/EV car--the "high maintenance cost" disappears with the need to regularly replace all the batteries. Fuel cells require no maintenance to speak of, and of course the electric drive motors are far more reliable than a gasoline engine. Probability is that the fuel-cell/EV will be far MORE reliable than a gasoline/diesel fueled vehicle.
I don't think pure EV's will EVER happen, as the battery technology won't ever be developed sufficiently. Fuel-cell EV's will leapfrog that problem. I fully expect to see fuel-cell cars on the road in less than 10 years. Fuel-cell BUSES are already there.
Show me some numbers; the fuel cell is still an exothermic reaction, AFAIK.
No need. Your premises that are the basis for the math are wrong. I say again--go study up on the efficiency comparison of fuel-cell/electric motors vs. thermal cycle motors.
If you burn that gallon of gas (120,000 BTU) in a thermal cycle plant that is 3-10% conversion efficient to mecahnical energy to drive the car vs. direct conversion of the hydrogen released (60,000BTU) in a reformer/fuel-cell/electricity cycle that is 30-50% conversion to mechanical energy efficient, which is better?
It is also better on emmisions during cold starts because it enters the combustion chamber premixed as a gas. On larger commercial vehicles the power difference wasn't that noticable. At least on the ones I drove. But never-the-less there is some power loss.
It works good for the larger vehicles though - I think.
Fuel cells require no maintenance to speak of...
They last forever? Never require maintenance or "none to speak of" (that is a new engineering feat)? Do they provide the same power, performance and handling as your SUV, pick-up truck, BMW, or even a mini-van or little ford escort in handling and power? What is their life cycle cost? What is their initial cost? What is their operating cost? What safety concerns do they pose? What kind of infrastructure will they need for support? I can go on ... but...
I think you will need some major technological break throughs before you see these used in mass produced passenger vehicles.
People will not buy an expensive toy that doesn't give them equivalent performance to what they have now. Which major car manufacturer is going to stick their neck out in mass production first while you have your good ole reliable combustible engine in your car in the yard. The auto makers are in bed with the oil kings.
I found several different sites (you can do your own search) but this seems to be a fairly clear cut description of Hydrogen and fuel cells.
Fuel cells are real of course and can work well in some applications (space shuttle).
We'll see them running on natural gas in big electric plants long before we see them in afforable cars.
Which burns cleaner and more efficiently?(propane - excluding natural gas from your list) - is really the main point I was making.
With respect to storage I was really addressing capacity compared to natural gas which is generally compressed to 3600 psig to get an appreciable amount relative to propane's 100 to 130 psig.
Nothing like the smell of that good diesel exhaust though right? If I remeber correctly No. 1 fuel oil is aka kerosene. I think No. 2 is for farm equipment and highway use.