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
It is efficient for small hybrids that target specific inefficiencies of our good old combustible engines and drive systems.
As I said, I know nothing about the subject, but do note the conflicting claims.
I know some things are impossible such as perpetual motion machines and going faster than the speed of light.
However, I also know that when some new technology is first advanced, there are contemorary authorities around who say it is impossible (plenty of examples but the easiest if Wright Brothers and their airplane.)
When the first power flights were being made the technology was very primative. If someone would have said within 80 years we will be flying across the Atantic in a commercial airliner in less than 3 hours they would think you crazy.
So, is the hydrogen fuel in the same category as perpetual motion machines, never to really exist?
Or, are we at the Wright Brother stage where we do not even know what we don't know but in time it will become practical?
Again, I don't have a dog in this fight, just curious.
Back in the 70's alot of discussion went into advocating a BTU dollar, but economics is a bit more complex. I agree that from an engineering perspective, a heat metric unit of economy is materially fundamental.
Another problem with hydrogen based systems is that hydrogen embrittlement in many materials will still limit many more practical innovations. There's alot of gas tanks out there which haven't been replaced for more than 20 years. Hydrogen storage probably won't be as forgiving. Systemically, there's alot to be said for time tested technologies which frequently isn't even identified or named until a replacement system highlights forgotten practical features and functionality.
The first rule the administration could and should make, by fiat, is to stop exempting light trucks and vans from the CAFE requirements. The average miles per gallon of all vehicles on the road would pretty quickly rise by a considerable fraction, perhaps 15-20%.
The relative maintenance level of fuel cells is orders of magnitude lower than either batteries or gasoline engines. What is there to wear out??
"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?"
All this info is available on the net. LOOK IT UP, DUMMY!!!
"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."
So that is why ALL the auto makers are spending tens of millions of dollars to develop fuel cell cars?? Don't make me laugh!!
Yes, but the important factor is how much of that BTU is converted into mechanical energy on the way to its final rest as waste heat. The fact remains that the reformer-fuel-cell-electric-motor cycle is far more efficient at doing so than either gasoline OR diesel engines. THAT is the reason that all the major car manufacturers are spending multiple millions of dollars on research to develop fuel cell cars. Do you REALLY think that all the folks at Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, etc., etc. are really that stupid.
Our legal system "helps" us out big time on that. The probability of a law suit in a traffic accident now is high in the cars we have.
The probability for a law suit where a new design is involved is substantially higher in the event of an incident - more "flaws" to work out.
Engineering has to consider what is an acceptable level of risk to society when designing a product. (Right or Wrong)Law suits with big dollar payouts are one of the things regulatory agencies use to determine what is an acceptable risk level.
There will always be some risk however. It is not technologically or economically feasible to eliminate all risk in a product.
I am a big believer in safety through design. We must use the best technology to design the safest product we can (while maintaining the technologically and economically feasible criteria).
Only problem is that younger generations pay more for a car than the boomers paid for a house. It gets old, fast.
Actually, yes. The partial oxidative breaking of the C-C bond provides the energy the make the hydrogen in the reformation process.
Then re-read it, and then go and read a few books on basic electrochemisty and electrochemical conversion. Once you understand the DIFFERENCE between the Carnot-limited combustion cycle and the direct conversion electrochemical process which is NOT limited by the Carnot cycle, you might be able to have an intelligent conversation about the topic.
Sure, but the conversion cycle is not a thermal cycle. That is the difference. ALL energy cycles end up as heat (exothermic). Combustion conversion cycles such as gasoline and diesel engines are limited by the Carnot cycle--direct conversion electrochemical cycles are not so limited, and can approach 100% conversion efficiency.
tsk, tsk now don't get upset - no need for name calling. I'm not relying on the net for my research but instead on my education, training and experience as an engineer - and oh yeah 2 years of studying advanced vehicle technology.
So that is why ALL the auto makers are spending tens of millions of dollars to develop fuel cell cars?? Don't make me laugh!!
Did they spend less on electric vehicles? I hate to be the one to tell you this but very few engineering concepts come to fruition over night and some never do (like our good friend the electric vehicle).
Now I'm not saying it should be dropped from research. I'm saying it will be a long time before the technology is practical to use in mass produced automobiles. Do some research pal. All of your major car manufacturer's have spent millions upon millions on projects that are not currently feasible. Ford developed an electric car that used Sodium Sulfure batteries - millions of bucks. The technology ain't ready. Not to mention these batteries operate at 350 C. How would you like that dumped in your lap in a little traffic accident.
This (fuel cells) is not revolutionary either. Car manufacturers have been studying fuel cells and their practicality for years like many other concepts.This is just a little government incintive or pressure to place more emphasis on a different technology. - it is by no means new. Progress has been made but it ain't going to be there for a long time.
The only viable way to make huge cheap amounts of hydrogen is with huge nuclear (maybe fusion) plants. Locate them away from cities, make cheap hydrogen and cheap electricity. Pipe both to where its needed. Shut the Arabs out. Need hydrogen transportation technology first. Fuel cells are probably, but not necessarily a fake. IC engines with heavy water injection work well too. Jets, trucks, etc no problem. If this is the plan, I'm for it.
Another massive federal welfare program for the automakers to blow a bunch of money on. Basically, like a lot of other Clinton programs "conservatives" used to rail against, Bush has merely exchanged one federal boondoggle and substituted his own.
Motto of the New! GOP under Bush, Hastert and Lott.
"At least he's our thief."
I would also like to point you to www.powerball.net because I think you might find it interesting. I would like to know if you think this "powerball" technology sounds at all like something that could end up being an alternative to gasoline engines?
If I cut the grass with a lawn mower on 5 acres, I don't need a bunch of plastic deflector plates keeping my lawn mower from edging the tree stump.
I don't want a car or truck with $5000 of transportation and $30,000 of regulatory compliance.
If I design by rigorous principles, I really don't need to pay a NGO or a professional organization $10,000 for a $2 CD of codes which were written by slave grad students in charity for professional recognition, while a junior college MBA justifies a new million dollar professional society facility to 'serve' the profession.
The scientific identification of certain properties in fuel cells obviously makes them intellectually attractive. I don't doubt that corporations, especially led by inexperienced engineers or MBAs without much functional experience will invest speculatively on the wager that certain components might be repartitioned or redesigned at higher costs with a savings on the fuel cell economies, but practically this isn't a novel issue.
It's not like a CCD over photographic film redesign. It's still an issue of 'make a thousand pounds to several tons of stuff move anywhere, anytime, in any manner, by anybody, for any reason issue.
I applaud the idea of fuel cells. I just don't find they outperform when convoluted with those other functions in a utilitarian fashion.