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Hydrogen Vehicle Generates Its Own Fuel 662

Posted by michael
from the baby-steps dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Our friends at The Arizona Republic have the scoop: 'The truck is hydrogen-powered and creates its own fuel from solar energy and water, a technical feat that rivals the advanced technology being researched by major auto companies and universities. The four-cylinder engine is tuned to run on hydrogen, which is produced by a hand-built electrolysis system mounted in the bed.' You can also help this project."
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Hydrogen Vehicle Generates Its Own Fuel

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  • Although the truck performs as planned, it's more of a demonstration project than a practical vehicle. The four solar panels and hydrogen-generating system create only enough fuel per day to travel a few miles.

    And it's not going to go any farther. On an average day, you're lucky to receive about 200 watts/m2 of sun power. The rest of the energy (about 1.3kw/m2) is lost to diffusion and blockage by the atmosphere.

    We've discussed this before on Slashdot, and it has been felt that Sun power could be a great "fuel saver" idea for hydrogen cars. But moving something the size of a modern car is going to require more energy than you can collect from sunlight. (IIRC, ~2 kw to cruise and 10kw to accelerate a small car.)

    That being said, I applaud their efforts in the direction of alternative energy sources. Hydrogen is simply not as powerful as petroleum products, but it's pretty close. Concepts like creating fuel with a built-in electrolyzer could be the key to making hydrogen cars seem just as powerful and efficient as petroleum vehicles.

    Now if they wanted to prove that hydrogen fill stations could use large Solar Power arrays to power their electrolyzer, then I'm with them all the way. :-)
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:36PM (#10461434)
    Doesn't it make sense to just run a small electric motor with, wich would make the vehicle weigh much less. I guess this would work only if they plan this to be an add-on modules to the already existing hydrogen cars.
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:39PM (#10461480) Homepage Journal
    Well, one caveat of private research, you only hear about their successes, never their failures. For instance, for a university, a truck that goes a few miles is quite an accomplishment, but could you imagine the PR disaster if Ford unveiling something like this?
    Not saying you are wrong, I agree that private sector research and development has lagged for a long time(well, ever since the term ROI became a buzzword really, everyone is focused on short term) but I don't think it's fair to say they are doing nothing, they just don't publicize as much as universities do.
  • by Fred_A (10934) <(fred) (at) (fredshome.org)> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:39PM (#10461485) Homepage
    It seems to me that someone who lives in a tightly knit community and only drives a few miles to work and school should invest in a bicycle.

    Much cleaner.
  • by lawngnome (573912) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:41PM (#10461506)
    While I agree this is a nice step in the right direction - until we can get cars that 100% fuel themselves (not likely to happen) or can fill up with hydrogen/whatever at the local corner - I fail to see how these will get mass market appeal.
  • by rumblin'rabbit (711865) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:43PM (#10461536) Journal
    This is not a hydrogen-powered truck - it's a solar-powered truck. The hydrogen is just a way of internally storing and transmitting the energy.

    Presumably they could also have used batteries and an electric motor rather than hydrogen and an engine.

    I only bring this up because I find it annoying when people refer to hydrogen as an energy source.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:43PM (#10461539)
    What the bloody hell are you talking about? A Chevy S-10 is NOT a terribly heavy truck.

    They are cheap...can be had with an economical 4 cylinder, they are easily modifiable, and have a reasonable sized bed to put crazy things like...solar cells...and hydrogen generators. You know...for doing what it does. And stuff.

    What would you prefer for this application, O wise engineer?
  • by AnonymousNoMore (721510) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:43PM (#10461541)
    There is no way that the current fleet of vehicles will be discarded in favor of electric cars. Conversion of the conventional fleet to hydrogen power will allow a transition to alternate fuels.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:46PM (#10461570) Homepage Journal
    The answer is pretty obvious, you need some way to store that power. This sort of thing would be most useful for a farm truck that went to market once a week. Over the week it can be sitting still, maybe making a few trips around the farm to drop off hay bales or something, and then at the end of the week it can be driven into town to the farmer's market. Hydrogen is the most efficient method of storing that power simply because batteries are heavy and wear out. Plus, you can retrofit almost any existing gasoline engine to run hydrogen by installing an injection system that will support it, and raising the vehicle's compression, possibly through a supercharger.
  • by TykeClone (668449) <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:46PM (#10461571) Homepage Journal
    I live near work and walk most of the time, but there are instances when it is handy to drive because I'm planning on carrying around more than what would be easy to carry.

    There are cases where a commuter vehicle like this would make sense.

  • by flabbergast (620919) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:48PM (#10461592)
    What about FutureTruck? [futuretruck.org] Or the GM HyWire? [howstuffworks.com] How is it a conflict of interest for auto manufacturers to build fuel cell/diesel/hybrid vehicles?
    Yes, their project was built for I think this is a step forward but to sit there and claim that there's some kind of conspiracy is laughable. To produce a viable alternative to the combustion engine takes time. It took us over 100 years to get engines that last 100K miles, while at the same time get 30 miles to the gallon, and go 0-60 in around 7 seconds (2004 Honda Accord V6) while at the same time have enough space to seat 5, and put all their stuff in the trunk. And that's what people expect; go around 300 miles before fillups, be able to carry all their stuff and not worry about their engine breaking down on them. That's why we're seeing hybrid technology first so we can build on top of proven technology.
  • At least, to me. Why have this stuff installed on the vehicle at all? All you're accomplishing is adding weight to the vehicle and limiting the maximum size of your solar array. Doesn't it make more sense to install the solar panels on the roof of your dwelling and put the electrolysis equipment in the back yard?

    Does anyone have complete information on building one's own electrolysers, from disassociation to storage? I really don't want to figure it out myself, I just want to build something.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:48PM (#10461602)
    Ride the bus.
  • by SirLanse (625210) <swwg69@yaLAPLACEhoo.com minus math_god> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:48PM (#10461604)
    Detroit sees large H2 gas stations as a hazard. They see cars with H2 tanks as a hazard. This avoids the gas stations. How about plugging this in at the house to run the electrolyzer? Or set up a solar panel at the house and fill the tank at night? Keep the regular fuel option for long trips, but use H2 around town. Very much like the hybrids use electric.
  • by gollum123 (810489) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @01:56PM (#10461692)
    The problem with methane is that it will still produse CO2 which is a green house gas, and in any new form of fuel we will want to get rid of any green house gas emissions. This is the biggest reason to switch to H2 as it only produces water on burning. The storage density of H2 is bad if u store it as a gas or liquid. Its only when you start storing h2 adsorbed on some materials that the density will be practical enough for applications. Lots of work is going on in this area of adsorbing h2.
  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jesrad (716567) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:00PM (#10461737) Journal
    This truck is a poor-efficiency solar vehicle using hydrogen tank as a battery to store power generated during the day.

    I still don't get why people imagine that hydrogen will solve anything. If you have to make the hydrogen by electrolyzing water, you've already lost. Water is an ash, turning it back into gases and recombining it severly limits the efficiency of your system : you're losing around one third of the energy when electrolyzing water, and losing again when making it back into water. And you still need an energy source... so why shoot the already poor efficiency of the whole thing to hell by using solar power ?

    Save up on the high solar panel costs and weight (unacceptable on a vehicle !) by storing the hydrogen in a more convenient, easy to use way than water, like methanol produced externally. If you really want to use solar power, then extract it from plants, that's the dirt cheap way.
  • What about the O2? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:00PM (#10461739)
    Since they are spliting water, are they making any effort to store the Oxygen in addition to the Hydrogen? I'm not an expert on IC engines, but mixing Oxygen into the combustion chamber is supposed to give you more power right? Maybe they could increase the efficiency that way.
  • by caldaan (583572) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:00PM (#10461752)
    The original poster is right. The primary energy source entering the truck is solar energy. While the engine is a combustion engine, the fuel for the truck is created via solar power. The Hydrogen tank is nothing more then a battery to store energy from the solar power. It isn't terribly efficient either, and would be more efficient if it was an electric motor instead. Though the Hydrogen tank may store more usable energy then conventional batteries.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:02PM (#10461790) Homepage Journal
    "I find it curious that the commercial fuel/automotive manufacturing sector can't (or maybe won't) make significant, transparent headway in the arena of alternative fuels and vehicles."

    That is because it is hard. Liquid fossil fuels do have a lot of advantages over every alternative fuel so far.
    1. Cost. It is a lot cheaper than any of the alternative right now.
    2. Power to weight. It beats the daylights out of batteries. Try and build a car that will go 200+ miles on a charge. It is easy to with gasoline.
    3. Density. You can pack more energy in a smaller volume than Hydrogen, Natural Gas, or Propane.
    4. Ease of use. It is a lot quicker to just fill your tank than to charge an electric car. It is a lot simpler to pump gas into your tank than to refuel a tank of Hydrogen.
    5. Infrastructure. When is the last time you say a hydrogen station?

    Bio DieselD is the best alternative fuel right now but then you have the moral issue of is it right to use that land for fuel instead of feeding people?
    Frankly the first car company that makes a car that does not use fossil fuel but works as well as gas car they will make a mint.
    The idea that all the auto makers in the world are including Japan "Japan has to import 100% of its fuel" are keeping a workable alternative powered care a secret is well into the realm of the tin foil hat crowd.
  • Seriously (Score:3, Insightful)

    by over_exposed (623791) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:03PM (#10461796) Homepage
    Is anyone else impressed just by the simple fact that these are all high school kids? This is fantastic to see high school students working with technology like this. I applaud their efforts.
  • by evilpenguin (18720) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:04PM (#10461812)
    The 200w/sq. m is based on monocrystalline silicon PV. This is the cheapest but also almost the least efficient PV solution because the actual absorption is in the indirect bandgap energy of silicon.

    There are thin-film PV solutions with much higher efficiencies (and much higher costs, and much higher toxicity involved in production). But there is also research going on on other semiconductor materials the hold out promise of high efficiency at fairly low cost. (I don't think we'll ever make thin films where there aren't some danged scary chemicals involved.)

    Even so, your point is well made. Insolation is such that even if you could acheive 100% PV efficiency, you would still only have about 2kW/sq. meter.

    Any realistic ground-based fuel production will require large arrays of PV. You'll need a lot of area to power your car.

    But there are plenty of people powering their homes entirely off PV (entirely is a bit of stretch -- they use Propane or other combustion for a lot, including, often, for refrigeration).

    People also have entirely solar charged electric cars, but again, they require a fairly large of field of PV panels. The real advantage here is that the efficiency of hydrogen as the energy storage is much greater than the efficiency of chemical batteries.

    And, oh yeah, there are 100% solar powered cars right now that run on what they generate at the moment. But these are the cars in the American Solar Challenge [formulasun.org] which are a long way from practical household commuter cars.

    But we have barely begun to put resources and research and capital into energy alternatives. I have always said that it wouldn't begin until oil prices went way up. I'm not even sure that we'll a lot of progress now. But I'm quite confident that the stability and price of oil will not steadily increase anymore. We're already seeing wind power become a fairly significant energy source. PV will follow. I think it will become common for homes to have grid-intertied solar power systems.

    Alternative fuel cars are coming. Hybrids are just a first step. I don't know which technology will catch on, fuel cells or hydrogen combustion, but I'd bet we'll see petrochemical powered vehicles in the minority in my lifetime.
    (I'm in my late 30's).
  • Absolute Rubbish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:05PM (#10461825)
    Why not use Lithium Polymer batteries that can be recharged from solar cells while the car is parked, or recharged from the power grid anytime.

    The other advantage of Lithium Polymer batteries is energy can be captured from regenerative braking. Hydrogen cycle is a complete waste of energy.

    Industry should be concentraing on Lithium Polymer car battery mass production and lower costs, not riding the hydrogen fantasy that will never amount to anything for the mass public!
  • by data1 (23016) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:06PM (#10461844) Homepage
    By your convention, all current internal combusion vehicles are solar powered. The fuels we burn(gasoline, methane, diesel, kerosine) all come from crude oil which was created from plants that got their energy from the sun millions of years ago.

    Just stating the obvious here but your point is a moot one since you imply (however correctly) that oil is just the sotrage medium for the energy from the sun.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:08PM (#10461869)
    The funny thing is:

    This guy is probally right on the money even though he is making a joke.

    People tend to only look at the surface of an issue. This "Joke" goes several layers deep.

    Energy consumption requires more eating. Food is generally packaged and requires resources. Waste again requires resources.

    In the long run it may be cleaner to drive a hydrogen/solar car.

  • by bshroyer (21524) <bret@bretshr[ ]r.org ['oye' in gap]> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:11PM (#10461896)
    Actually, I think that this was a smart move. Want to get the average gas-guzzling American interested in alternative sources of energy? Which is a more effective illustration: a nearly transparent, one-passenger 50-pound "car" that my poodle could pull, or a '98 S10 running on sunlight and water?

    I'd say that the choice of the S10 was deliberate, and absolutely brilliant.
  • by plover (150551) * on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:14PM (#10461937) Homepage Journal
    It really bothers me to find people believing that the car companies aren't already researching this already. For example, Daimler-Benz (now Daimler-Chrysler) has been working on a hydrogen powered fuel cell car for over 10 years. I'm going to focus my argument on fuel cells because I'm most familiar with that topic, but most of the argument remains true regardless of the technology that the alternative fuel drives.

    Daimler's first fuel cell vehicle started as basically a large mobile laboratory in the back of a panel van (even larger than this school's truck.) They then installed one in a bus, and another in a minivan, and they now have one in a car the size of a Cooper Mini.

    The problem isn't getting a vehicle like this on the road. The problem isn't even getting a fleet of them deployed to a single commercial customer (like a bus transit line.) The problems they're encountering now is scaling the entire transportation system so that Joe Sixpack can afford to buy one, drive it home, and fill it up every week.

    The most efficient fuel for fuel cell (electric) cars is raw hydrogen. Compressed hydrogen would require an entire new infrastructure to deliver, and would be probably the most hazardous product ever sold to consumers. Liquid hydrogen would be even worse, because of the dangers inherent in delivering tanks of products at 3 degrees Kelvin. So, because of the fuel delivery problems one of the first compromises they had to make was to figure out how to fuel these vehicles with easily delivered, stable-at-room-temperature liquids, instead of compressed gasses. That took time and research. The next problem is that the catalyst required to crack the liquids into raw hydrogen is based on rare precious metals like platinum. Besides taking enough metal to make these engines prohibitively expensive, there simply isn't enough of it on earth to build the number of vehicles that a big car maker like Chevrolet builds every year. So, they've had to experiment with different ways to get the liquid fuels cracked into the base hydrogen.

    The vehicle these kids built only cost $10,000, but much of the expense (solar panels) was donated. And it still won't scale, because the solar panels are already operating at something like 30% of their theoretical output. Making a vehicle go from 3 miles per day to 10 miles per day still isn't going to sell.

    And despite the best conspiracy theorists determinations, it is far and away in the best interests of a car company to be the first to market selling a truly revolutionary fueled car. Think about what would happen to Ford's stock price if they announced a "sunlight and water powered car" were available. It would truly be a license to print money. The petroleum companies could offer no bribe in the world big enough to slow down a cash cow of that magnitude.

  • by Single GNU Theory (8597) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:16PM (#10461950) Journal
    This is not a solar-powered truck, this is a fusion-powered truck. The light energy is just a way of transmitting the power from the fusion source kept at a safe distance.

    Presumably, they could have run a wire to the sun's magnetic field to induce a current rather than use batteries.

    I only mention this because I find it annoying when people don't refer to the last step in the process as the energy source.

    It's a hydrogen-powered truck. The solar plant is a nifty method of obtaining hydrogen to combust in the engine. By using a regular internal combustion engine, they offer fuel flexibility as the truck can also be powered by petroleum (it's gasoline-powered now!) and maintainability (you can get your spark plugs at Pep Boys).
  • The article also mentions if the hydrogen tanks are charged from an external source, it can go as far as a conventional vehicle.

    I understood that perfectly.

    The big deal here is it's capable of producing it's own hydrogen/fuel, even if only a little bit at a time.

    Nothing new here. The idea has been considered many times, but rejected for its low energy yield. The project is cool, but it's not groundbreaking.

    If fuel stations were set up to use larger solar arrays than would fit on a car, or even power from the grid, much more fuel could be produced.

    That's a very good idea. That's why I believe I included it at the end of my original post.

    If I'm not mistaken, the byproduct of hydrogen combustion is water, so assuming a closed system, it would theoretically have the capability/raw material to run for a good long time.

    Assuming a closed system (your car), you'd run out of water sooner than you would have run out of gasoline. Hydrogen is less energy dense than petroleum.

    So long as there's a source of electricity (solar, battery, generator on bike pedals), there's the potential to refuel itself.

    Agreed. The problem everyone is trying to solve is, "where can we get a constant dozen or so kilowatts of power?"

    or unpack a stationary bike and pedal for a while until you have enough hydrogen to get on your way

    Perfectly feasible. Your body can sustain about 200 watts of constant output (sometimes a bit more if you're in good shape). That means you should be about to get about 10 minutes of drive time in only (10,000 j * 60 seconds * 10 minutes / 200 j/s = 30,000 seconds = 500 minutes = 8.3 hours). I suggest you walk.

    Or how about using an alternator to continuously generate power as the vehicle is moving?

    Where do you think the power is coming from to drive the alternator? Probably the engine. The engine is powered by hydrogen. The hydrogen contains X amount of power and no more.

    I know it sounds like it would work on the outset, but you just described a perpetual motion machine. :-)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:21PM (#10462016)
    OMFG people!

    Have you built a car that runs on sunlight and water?

    How far did the first airplane fly?

    Are you saying this proof of concept is impractical?

    Congratulations CHS kids!
  • by MonkeyGone2Heaven (720397) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:28PM (#10462121)

    No, I'm pretty sure the parent meant President Cheney refering to the popular view that Dick Cheney is to George Bush as Frank Oz is to Kermit the Frog; i.e., the guy with his hand up George's ass making him say what he does.
  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:29PM (#10462122) Homepage
    Part of the problem with this is thus:

    Best (expensive!) solar cells on the market available for the average person efficiency: ~25%
    Best electrolysis conversion efficiency: ~80%
    Best fuel cell efficiency: ~70%
    Best overall net efficiency: ~14%

    Note that this doesn't factor in important things like compressing the hydrogen into tanks. I'd imagine you'd probably lose another 20% or so of your energy in that process.

    Combine this with the low energy input imparted by the sun to an area the size of a car's roof, and there's not much going for this plan. Having an unfoldable sun-umbrella might make it slightly more realistic, but not very.

    Even when you get your hydrogen from oil, you get a well-to-wheel efficiency of about 58%, vs. 88% for normal and hybrid cars. And you still need regenerative braking and the other hybrid improvements if you care about energy efficiency, which means that you still need the batteries (electrolysis isn't that fast!).

    All in all: good motive, dumb concept. If they wanted a more realistic approach, they'd solar cells on the house hooked up to batteries in the vehicle (battieries have notably higher charge/discharge efficiency, and are less likely to explode... lower energy density, of course, but higher power density).
  • Re:MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jesrad (716567) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:35PM (#10462219) Journal
    We're not even sure how we got the oil in the first place.

    My point is that it's a much better design decision to unload the hydrogen production off the vehicle, where the added mass and inefficiency are critical, and instead use another method to store the solar energy. Using plant fields for this production saves the weight of solar panels and electrolyzer on the vehicle, while allowing a larger surface to convert more solar power. And you not only get water but food in the process. And we like food, too.
  • by FLEB (312391) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:43PM (#10462309) Homepage Journal
    But wouldn't the electrolyzing hydrogen car be cleaner than the petrol-powered carpool vehicle? Granted, it's marginal, taking into account the pollution generated by actually manufacturing the car, but for many usage patterns, I'd imagine things would work out in favor of the solar/hydrogen.
  • Re:just imagine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eutychus_awakes (607787) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:06PM (#10462579)
    It's hard to say. The history of the US shows, however, that military buildups are generally GOOD for scientific R&D. Some of those billions are going toward the things to which you speak - but the "power equation" always comes back around to where the ultimate source is. Hydrogen cars consume way more electricity than a pure battery-powered car does - both get their power from "the plug," afterall. But even then, our supply of clean electrical power is way inadequate to power every car, house, business, factory, etc. - we'd need solar panels and wind turbines on every street, hill, field, rooftop - you name it. SO, the agency and policy to which you speak is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. More nuclear power will mean more electric cars. Of course, the general public will need to be able to embrace nuclear power without some of the current (needless) regulatory oversight.

    BTW, I am allergic to raw spinich.
  • by Jeremi (14640) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:33PM (#10462877) Homepage
    Excellent idea! :^) But perhaps a slightly more realistic solution would be to have the solar panels mounted on your roof or in your yard, where there is more surface area available. They could generate hydrogen all day, and when you got home in the evening you could transfer it to your car.


    Combine that with advances in solar panel efficiency (both in terms of watts per square meter and watts per dollar) efficient automobile designs (so that less hydrogen is necessary), commercial renewable hydrogen generation (roof not producing enough hydrogen? Supplement your supply with an extra bottle from the solar/wind far across town), and we might have something...

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by debrain (29228) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:37PM (#10462930) Journal
    it still uses water. That's as scarce as gas in Arizona.

    Interestingly and scarily enough, (clean) water is a lot more expensive than gas. It's what, $1 for an 8 oz bottle, versus $1 for a gallon of gas?

    The developing world is interesting because they still have no notion of paying for drinking water, for better or worse.
  • by Infinite93 (664963) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:38PM (#10462941)
    far more practical idea is to have a regular fuel tank holding Hydrogen, and then have your home covered with solar cells to convert water to hydrogen (and oxygen). Even BETTER is to have gas stations that provide Hydrogen, and use electrical sources like wind to provide energy for electolysis. (This is the idea that most engineers are following. Photovoltaic->Hydrogen generation is simply too inefficient, and MUCH more expensive.)

    That is why the project plan for next year includes setting up the school with PV for a 'fueling station'. They can get 70 miles with high compression on the tanks.

    I agree that this does not seem a path to a viable final form. It is a proof of concept for the general idea (and a cool class project--we never did anything that cool in high school). This is the kind of imaginative thinking we need to promote in our kids. Even they said it not practical, but there are lessons learned and imaginations are brewing.

  • by daviddennis (10926) * <david@amazing.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:01PM (#10463266) Homepage
    What's the point of being so rude to this nice fellow?

    The odds are pretty good that in a town of 600, there aren't two people who want to go to exactly the same place at the same time. And as long as that's the case, a bus or carpool simply won't work.

    I'm in a large urban area and there STILL aren't two people who do anywhere near the exact same commute as I do. And often I want to shop or run errands on the way to work and back. Carpools don't work well if you like flexibility.

    You can be as anti-car as you want, I suppose, but it in terms of time, it's still by far the most efficient way to go around. And if you can eliminate the ecological impact of driving, why not do it instead of wasting away your life at bus stops or waiting to be picked up or dropped off?

    D

    PS Note that traffic congestion is not a problem in a rural community of 600. It's not a problem in Los Angeles, either, if you simply live close to where you work, as I do. I have a trouble-free 10 minute commute.
  • by ChumpusRex2003 (726306) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:27PM (#10463592)
    Clearly you must have some metabolic disease, or be some non-human lifeform. Metabolism is very well understood, and is very simple. Every calorie absorbed from food is either burned for energy or is stored - unless a disease (e.g. diabetes) causes them to be lost. The body has no mechanism to dump unneeded calories. This is precisely the reason why obesity is such a common problem today. Sure, some energy is needed to keep body temperature up and for the idle (basal) metabolism - but again, this is an extremely closely regulated mechanism, with virtually no difference between people (in the absence of significant illness - e.g. thyroid disease). A healthy stomach/intestine can easily absorb 15,000 calories a day without wastage - if your stomach/intestine didn't absorb all the calories in your food, you'd have hideous diarrhoea/flatulance/stomach cramps.
  • by Otto (17870) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @05:33PM (#10464363) Homepage Journal
    By your convention, all current internal combusion vehicles are solar powered.

    And he'd be correct too. All of the power we use in any form is ultimately solar powered, with the exception being nuclear fission/fusion. And the elements we use for those once came out of stars too, you know.

    In this particular case, however, it's generating it's own fuel. Therefore you can consider it to be like a closed system with only one energy input: solar power via the solar panels. Considered that way, this truck is solar powered.

    Now, if you yank off the electrolysis bits and put them in a fueling station somewhere, then it's not a solar powered truck anymore. It's a system that gets its power from the hydrogen you pump into the tank.

    Almost energy we use ultimately comes from the sun. It's just a question of what part of the total system you are talking about. I don't think that it's unreasonable to include the electrolysis device as part of the system of "this truck" because a) it's hauling the thing around with it and b) they expressly designed it to be part of the truck in the first place.

    Therefore this truck is solar powered, because "this truck" includes the electrolysis equipment.
  • by plover (150551) * on Thursday October 07, 2004 @09:18PM (#10466281) Homepage Journal
    You can keep thinking your conspiracy theories, but your own argument shows the problems a car maker would have trying to sell a system like this. When you buy one of your H2 cars, it will have to come with a home installation kit. It's a refrigerator sized box that lives in your garage. Now, you get to drive no more than 30 minutes in one direction, because there's no filling station at your destination. Don't get caught in traffic on the way home, either.

    If you opt for the solar version, it comes with 90 square feet of panels. Current "cheapo" prices for solar panels are $3.69 per watt. A car uses something like 10kwh of energy per hour. To provide you with enough energy to drive constantly powered from the sunlight, they'll cost you about $36,900, plus installation. Want to drop that to your $5000 limit? It'll take over 7 hours of direct sunlight to generate enough hydrogen for that one hour of driving.

    Ok, so maybe solar isn't the way to go for a home installer. Let's just plug it into the wall and buy cheap electricity for our converter. Do you want a hydrogen compressor running in your garage unattended, and a tank of compressed hydrogen on hand? Remember, hydrogen is very, very tiny and it leaks from machinery rapidly. So, now you have to install adequate vents in your garage to ensure you don't blow up the next time you start your car.

    Sounding good or insurable yet? It gets worse.

    This science project completely side-stepped another difficult problem that you raise: how do you engineer a completely safe compressed hydrogen gas fuel transfer system? How do you keep tramp air out of the connectors, and ensure there can be NO sparks? Today, most compressed gasses are handled by trained professionals. They understand the risks, they follow proper grounding procedures, they don't accidentally smoke while they transfer the gasses. Small consumer quantities of things like propane are readily dealt with, but even then does the service station let you fill your own propane tanks? Probably not -- in this state at least, only the station operators can refill tanks. And liquid pressurized gas is still easier and safer to deal with than a compressed explosive gas.

    OK, so maybe we take a lesson from these kids and leave the hydrogen generator on board the car, and just plug the whole car into a wall outlet when we get to our destination. Infrastructure solved -- anybody can hang an outlet. Assuming the hydrogen splitter can be built small enough, a 15 amp circuit will still take six hours to deliver 10kwh, enough energy for one hour of driving. That's sounding much closer to practical, but it still retains a lot of the problems and risks associated with storing and handling raw compressed hydrogen (even in the closed system.) It's not a vehicle you would park indoors, for example. And the other problem most engineers have with compressed gas fuels is: how do you protect the occupants from it in a crash? The tanks have to be crashworthy in all manner of collisions, and not just have a 35 MPH front impact resistance warranty.

    The auto makers reduced their efforts to use raw hydrogen as a direct-to-consumer fuel many years ago for all these reasons. They certainly could pick it up again at any time, but for now they're still focusing on direct liquid fuel-cells as a safer alternative. The infrastructure already exists to deliver liquid fuels, and the handling risks are much, much lower. Remember, the water is not the fuel in this truck, it's merely an extremely convenient storage mechanism. External fuel still is required to split it.

"Our vision is to speed up time, eventually eliminating it." -- Alex Schure

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