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Source:Burlington Free Press

In the spring, a hydrogen-powered Toyota Prius will join the city's fleet of cars.
It will fill up at the only hydrogen pump in New England, located between the Public Works
and Burlington Electric departments, and demonstrate, its pro- ponents hope, that
hydrogen-fueled cars will someday offer a realistic alternative to gasoline.

Rep. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday announced a $1 million grant from the U.S.
Department of Energy to build a small hydrogen-fuel generator and hydrogen pump at the
Public Works site. It will take its power from a BED wind turbine. The electricity, using a
device called an electrolyzer, splits water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen will be
compressed and stored in a high-pressure tank on the small site.

The station is being built and tested by Proton Energy Systems of Wallingford, Conn. The
custom Prius, slated to be a Public Works car, is an internal-combustion hybrid. It is being
converted now so that it will run on hydrogen, with water, rather than carbon dioxide, as
the byproduct of combustion.

Nick Borland, an engineer with Northern Power Systems of Waitsfield, the overall
coordinator of the project, said he recently drove a similar vehicle in California, one of
fewer than 100 in the country.

"It feels like a regular car," he said.

The Burlington hydrogen project is one of several across the country operating with
Department of Energy funding. Chris McKay, a Northern Power Systems engineer, said the
testers from the various locations will meet at the Department of Energy once a year to
exchange information and learn from each other.

The Burlington site, Sanders said, will allow testing of the new car under cold weather
conditions. It also serves as a demonstration project of a "decentralized" hydrogen-
producing plant.

The technology being used at the Public Works site is familiar from industrial applications,
said John Kassel, chairman of the board of EVermont, a non-profit group that will test the
car. Kassel, a former head of the state's Agency of Natural Resources, said the novelty of
the Burlington project is that the hydrogen will be produced on site from wind, a
renewable energy source.

Sanders, a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring independent Jim Jeffords in
November, called the undertaking "a fascinating project with huge potential."

"We cannot overstate the significance of the problem or our need to break away from
gasoline-fueled cars," he said in a prepared statement. "Cars are America's biggest reason
for oil dependence and they represent the single biggest piece of our global warming
problem."

Tim Lennon, campaign manager for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rich Tarrant, said
Tarrant supports such grants. "It's a good step for the administration and the Department
of Energy to fund these activities around the country," Lennon said.

"As a United States senator, Rich Tarrant would work to do more in the area of alternative
energy applications."

Harold Garabedian, EVermont's research director, said the Burlington hydrogen facility will
have capacity enough to serve up to eight hydrogen-fueled cars.

http://www.fuelcellsworks.com/Supppage4184.html


The single Prius, which will run about 80 miles on one hydrogen fill-up, represents "a
beginning" for the innovative hydrogen application, he said. The practical problem, he
said, is ultimately to make decentralized manufacture of hydrogen less expensive and the
hydrogen more readily available.

He said hydrogen is no more dangerous than gasoline in cars.

"The point here," Sanders said, "is to learn."


HOW IT WORKS Electricity splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using a device called an
electrolyzer
The hydrogen is compressed and stored in high-pressure tanks
The hyrdogen is dispensed into the vehicle, which has a 5,000-psi tank
The vehicle, a converted 2005 Toyota Prius, burns the hydrogen the same way a regular
car burns gasoline, except water is the main byproduct rather than CO2.
WHEN IT STARTS The fueling station is assembled and being tested in Connecticut
The vehicle is in California undergoing conversion
Construction at the Pine Street site is 90 percent complete
Equipment to be commissioned in the spring
 

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It would be nice to keep the pols. out of it but probably won't happen but did i read the fill up correctly 80 mi per fill up that has to be a misprint i hope :shock:
 

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** This is pretty good link on the basics of Hydrogen as a power source.

< http://fuelcellsworks.com/JustthebasicsonHydrogen.html >

I'm totally in favor of continuing research into Hydrogen as a fuel but... I must confess that the thought of a tank full of REALLY explosive stuff, stored at 5000 psi and sitting roughly under my butt while a Lincoln Navigator (Peterbuilt or..) rides my bumper, makes me a little nervous. San Diego has a large number of natural gas powered busses but I don't know what pressure it's stored at.
 

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JDavies said:
** This is pretty good link on the basics of Hydrogen as a power source.

< http://fuelcellsworks.com/JustthebasicsonHydrogen.html >

I'm totally in favor of continuing research into Hydrogen as a fuel but... I must confess that the thought of a tank full of REALLY explosive stuff, stored at 5000 psi and sitting roughly under my butt while a Lincoln Navigator (Peterbuilt or..) rides my bumper, makes me a little nervous. San Diego has a large number of natural gas powered busses but I don't know what pressure it's stored at.
I agree. I don't buy the fact that hydrogen isn't more dangerous than gasoline. I might buy that it isn't more dangerous than compressed hydrocarbon gas, but we are talking about an explosive gas that won't just ooze out of a leak and evaporate into a potentially explosive vapor at a low rate, but rather forcefully escape out of the rupture and turn into a blowtorch at best if ignited. If that flame gets inside the tank, or overheats the tank, we now have a bomb.
 

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"I agree. I don't buy the fact that hydrogen isn't more dangerous than gasoline."
**************************************************
Thank you Dan, I'm glad my amatuer logic is shared by others with greater technical knowlege. The catastrophic rupture of a full tank of pressurized hydrogen plus an ignition source and you could end up in the next zip code.
I'm wondering if (why) Hydrogen could not be stored in liquid form at low pressure and converted to a gas as it enters an engine - a la gasoline..?
Hydrogen's density is quite low and no doubt has a greater tendency to leak but that's a matter of engineering. I have great confidence that this is a soluble problem as are the risks inherent to nuclear energy. ~JD~
 

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Again, The problem of storing high pressure Hydrogen is taken care of when it is made on demand by the alloy/water system.
No need to store it. You just change the alloy every two months and add water.

I know that the system in the link below is just enough to operate a golf cart but a more efficent version is surely possible to run a Prius.


http://www.pureenergysystems.com/news/2004/06/10/HydrogenElectricCar/
 

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"I agree. I don't buy the fact that hydrogen isn't more dangerous than gasoline. I might buy that it isn't more dangerous than compressed hydrocarbon gas, but we are talking about an explosive gas that won't just ooze out of a leak and evaporate into a potentially explosive vapor at a low rate, but rather forcefully escape out of the rupture and turn into a blowtorch at best if ignited. If that flame gets inside the tank, or overheats the tank, we now have a bomb."

Someone demonstrated the relative dangers of gasoline vs compressed hydrogen. In each case they shot a bullet through the top of the trunk into to fuel tank.

In the case of the hydrogen, the gas vented straight up through the hole as a pillar of fire until the tank was empty. There was no explosion and the car wasn't destroyed.

In the case of gasoline, the fuel leaked out of the tank and ran down to the ground and spread along the pavement. The entire car was engulfed in flames and was destroyed.

I'm definitely no expert on this but I don't think either tank will actually explode because you have to get oxygen into the tank for that to happen. If the hydrogen or gasoline fumes were to leak into the passenger compartment and then ignite, then you probably would have an explosion. I would think that any tank designed to hold pressurized hydrogen would be strong enough to not be ripped apart by the escaping gas (not sure about that, however).

Flames welcome :)
 

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I remember watching an experiment in science class where a coffee can was filled with natural gas, a lid with a small hole placed over the can, and the hole lit. A nice flame emminated from the hole, until a certain point where the top was blown off.

I think there was another hole somewhere else though to let air in to displace the gas that was burned off.
 

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The lay person in me shares the concerns of those here about carrying a highly pressurized flammable gas near my butt. The image of the Hindenburg comes to mind. (I know there are many differences. Remember, I said lay person.)

The ex-firefighter in me knows, as rhackenb states, that oxygen is required to support combustion of hydrogen (or any flammable substance). Furthermore, this ex-firefighter also knows that any liquid, flammable or not, stored in a sealed tank is subject to a BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BLEVE) when impinged upon by flame or other extreme heat source. If the exploding tank's contents are flammable, then the heat source ignites it and the BLEVE becomes a fireball. Though the Hollywood image of exploding car gas tanks is rare in reality, it does happen. If I'm in the car, it doesn't matter what's burning; I'm toast (pardon the expression).

I also know that fires of other compressed flammable gasses like propane are easily managed (assuming they are clear of exposures like structures) and do not cause explosions as long as the tank is kept cool. The bullet test that rhackenb describes seems plausible based on my experience with LP gas fires. I would be more worried about a hole in the bottom of the tank, though, where the flame would impinge on the tank.

DanMan, I share your concerns and I too am not convinced hydrogen is not more dangerous than gasoline, but that's due to ignorance about hydrogen. And you're right, the tank could become a bomb, but so can an exploding gasoline tank. Gasoline tanks, Prius bladders, and coffee cans are not designed in the first place to hold compressed gasses, which gasoline vapors become when heated in a sealed container. Such containers will fail with far less internal pressure buildup.

Again, I frankly have to admit ignorance when it comes to hydrogen, whether stored in a vehicle or not, and its properties compared to other flammable gasses, both in storage and on fire. As opposed to LP gas fires, we didn't train to fight hydrogen fires in firefighter school.

Jim
 

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When I read discussions of hydrogen, I keep hearing that since it is so light, it escapes straight up into the atmosphere (assuming it can get to the open air). BTW, does anyone know the psi of a 20 lb propane tank and how that might compare with a tank of compressed hydrogen that might be stored in a fuel cell car?

I like the technologies that are being developed where it isn't necessary to store compressed hydrogen onboard. One good example is the technology being developed by Millennium Cell
(http://www.millenniumcell.com/fw/main/H ... ks-31.html)
They use a proprietary boron allow as a catalyst to release hydrogen from a sodium borohydride solution (basically borax infused with hydrogen). When they insert the catalyst, hydrogen is released, and when the catalyst is removed, the hydrogen stops being released. If I remember it correctly, one of their demo vehicles had a 40 gallon tank of this borax mixture and and got something like 400 miles off of it by passing it through a fuel cell. I think they were using a minivan.
The mixture itself is noncombustible and can be handled in a open container. Imagine substituting this technology for the ICE in the Prius. Both the fuel cell and the regenerative braking would feed the battery system on the Prius. They could sell the sodium borohydride from the shelves of your local Walmart, The spent mixture would be recyclable (for recharging with hydrogen).
 

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Texaco Ovonics, the company that holds the patent for the NiMh battery in your Prius, is developing a NiMh hydrogen storage tank. The hydrogen is stored at only 100 PSI as it bonds (loosly) in the nickle hydride, thus lowering the pressure. Pressure is a result of the molecules bouncing off the walls of the container. If they are held in a solid they don't exhibit pressure. They talked with the guy responsible for the battery and the tank on Motorweek last year. He had a Corolla that could go 150 mi. on a tank about the size of a microwave oven.

As for the danger, hydrogen itself isn't explosive. Until you mix it together with oxygen. If you just let pure hydrogen leak out and ignite it you get a nice low temp. flame. I've passed my hand through the flame and it got wet! The example discussed above was also shown on Motorweek. The hydrogen leaked up above the car leaving it unharmed. The gasoline incinerated it from below! Of course if you mix the hydrogen with oxygen in the correct ratio you can orbit space shuttles with the force generated. ;)
 

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Saw this interesting article;

http://www.hydrogenforecast.com/OvonicsH2Prius.php

It's very nice to see so many different developers using the Prius as the platform for even more fuel efficient vehicles. I, for one, would buy an aftermarket plug-in mod for under $5k. Don't think I would get anything hydrogen, though. Not too sure about the future of that tech., but its good to see people working for solutions to oil dependence. . . .
 

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ryecatcher said:
Saw this interesting article;

http://www.hydrogenforecast.com/OvonicsH2Prius.php

It's very nice to see so many different developers using the Prius as the platform for even more fuel efficient vehicles. I, for one, would buy an aftermarket plug-in mod for under $5k. Don't think I would get anything hydrogen, though. Not too sure about the future of that tech., but its good to see people working for solutions to oil dependence. . . .
I think I saw this on a PBS program hosted by Alan Alda. The key benefits to the Prius is that it can be driven totally by electrical means thans to MG2. So you can work on operating totally on external electrical supply, improve existing electrical storage, improve use of liquid combustible fuel by ICE, or a combination of the 3.
 

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There are two key environmental issues with hydrogen:
1) where does the hydrogen come from?
2) what are the inefficiencies involved in utilizing it?
Both of these result from the fact that hydrogen is a fuel, not an energy source.

1) Most hydrogen today is produced from steam reformation of natural gas. Unless the hydrogen is produced from renewable energy or from fossil energy where carbon is capture and sequestered, it does not reduce carbon emissions and therefore doesn't address global warming (a MUCH bigger problem than Americans have been led to believe). Coal gasification with carbon capture and storage makes sense, but the easiest thing to do with the hydrogen produced at a central coal gasification plant is to burn it in a turbine and put more electricity out on the grid. If we use renewables, like wind or solar, electrolysis of water is the most practical current method. But once you have electricity it makes sense to put it on the grid because of 2:

2) It takes energy to produce hydrogen, transport it, store it, remove it from storage, and ultimately use it. Each step in this chain suffers from inefficiency, to say nothing of cost. Even in the polluting process of producing hydrogen from natural gas, the "well-to-wheels" efficiency of hydogen for powering a vehicle is very low.

Yes, hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel and it makes sense to explore every alternative energy option to improve efficiency and lower cost. But for the reasons given above, many people who work in the alternative energy field are more enthused about plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that can utilize renewable-generated electricity off the grid. (All those batteries being charged at night would provide storage to lessen the impact of variations in wind power output.) Plus we already have an electric grid and developing a hydrogen distribution system would be very expensive. A plug-in Prius with an ICE that can run off cellulosic ethanol would be hard to beat from an environmental standpoint.
 

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Another good site is a chemical supply company (United Nuclear,) that tried to market a hydrogen combustion conversion kit. They had some issues with corrosion, now they're having issues with the CSPC trying to stop the distrubution of 'hazardous chemicals' that is making it so they can't make the systems any more.

But, they do have a good explainer of how hydrogen combustion works, here.

They have converted a Corvette (yes, really,) and a Mistubishi Endeavor to run on Hydrogen. A Hydrogen Prius would be excellent.
 

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On a PBS documentary, a guy developed a way to store hydrogen in solid pellets. He used a Prius as his vehicle for experimentation, and I believe he used the hydrogen to fuel the engine. I wonder what became of it.

A bit off topic, but still related, I saw something really silly on a home improvement show. They had an energy system that took excess energy from their solar panels and converted water to hydrogen. When electrical demand exceeded supply, a fuel cell system would take the stored hydrogen and convert it back to electricity.
Seems to me that would be much less efficient than storing the electricity in batteries. It certainly seemed like over-engineering to me.
 

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DanMan32 said:
On a PBS documentary, a guy developed a way to store hydrogen in solid pellets. He used a Prius as his vehicle for experimentation, and I believe he used the hydrogen to fuel the engine. I wonder what became of it.

A bit off topic, but still related, I saw something really silly on a home improvement show. They had an energy system that took excess energy from their solar panels and converted water to hydrogen. When electrical demand exceeded supply, a fuel cell system would take the stored hydrogen and convert it back to electricity.
Seems to me that would be much less efficient than storing the electricity in batteries. It certainly seemed like over-engineering to me.
Yeah, if you're on the grid, most states let you 'sell back' your excess power, so when your solar panels are producing more power than your house is using, your meter runs backwards, when you need power from the grid, it runs forward. At the end of the month, the meter reader just sees the 'net usage' you have used. In some states (mine included,) the electric company even has to pay you the same rate they would normally be charging you if you end up having generated more power than you used that month. (So they pay you full 'consumer rate' for your electricity, not their 'wholesale' rate.)
 
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