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Has Any one Tried to build an Automotive Hydrogen Fuel Cell??  RSS feed

 
                    
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Has Any one Tried to build an Automotive Hydrogen Fuel Cell??

I'm not talking about a car that runs on water but rather a device that augments the petrol fuel.

We know a man who is working with this idea & would like to hear first had experiences as well as opinions.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Location: Oakland, CA
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There's a hydrogen-powered fuel cell car in the fleet at work. It's a modified Toyota Prius, and from the looks of it, the hydrogen tank takes up all the space a battery would, plus the space the gas tank would, plus the trunk space. Part of this is due to it being a retrofit, part of it is due to the fundamentals of hydrogen.

One major barrier is the high price of most catalysts that one would use. The anti-smog device in a usual car contains a fair amount of similar stuff (platinum or palladium), but only a small fraction of what most designs of hydrogen fuel cell would require. To replace the whole fleet would probably take more of those precious metals than are available. Surface chemists are making great strides toward good catalysts made from less-scarce raw materials.

I think people have tried to work with fuel cells as an energy storage device for hybrid vehicles. Generally, a NiMH battery (like comes standard in a Pius or Insight) is doing the same thing, electrolysing water to make hydrogen, then re-oxidizing that hydrogen to make electricity. But NiMH batteries are more practical all around, especially if space is a factor or large numbers of them might be made. Fuel cells are great for hybrid solar aircraft, and a few other niches.

As to primary fuel cells, an old professor of mine, Lutgard De Jonghe, works on solid oxide fuel cells. Rather than harness the flow of hydrogen ions to generate electricity, this type of fuel cell harnesses the flow of oxygen ions. It can run on any liquid or solid fuel with a low enough sulfur content, from straight vegetable oil or kerosine to propane or hydrogen. They really shine when used as the combustion chamber of a gas turbine system; in that case, they can extract 80% of the fuel's energy as electricity, well over what's theoretically possible for heat engines (though, as a heat engine, usual rules apply to the gas turbine part). They're made of ceramics, so adapting them for use in vehicles has been a matter of tweaking the chemistry so that they operate at lower temperature, and can be packaged in less-expensive, less-brittle materials. I think they might be best-suited to locomotive use, ultimately.

SOFC
 
Daniel Zimmermann
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Location: Sacramento
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Joel, that sounds almost like a catalytic heater!
 
Emerson White
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Location: Alaska
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I think there is a chance she was talking about something entirely unlike a fuel cell that is advertised, confusingly enough, as a fuel cell. Some people hook the alternator up to an electolysis chamber then feed the hydrogen gas into the cylinders in hopes of causing the fossil fuels to burn more completely and reduce the amount of fuel waste. However the mechanical energy needed for the extra juice from the alternator is typically going to be greater than any gains you make.

You are much better off doing routine preventative maintanence and seeing a mechanic regularly to have your engine tuned.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Emerson White wrote:Some people hook the alternator up to an electolysis chamber then feed the hydrogen gas into the cylinders in hopes of causing the fossil fuels to burn more completely and reduce the amount of fuel waste. However the mechanical energy needed for the extra juice from the alternator is typically going to be greater than any gains you make.


Oh...I agree.

Antibubba wrote:Joel, that sounds almost like a catalytic heater!


It is a catalytic heater, except with two separate catalysts for different stages of the combustion process, and with a means of placing an electrical load in between the reduction part of combusion, and the oxidation part.

It goes like this:

Air intake -> compressor turbine -> pre-heater -> air catalyst of fuel cell -> after-burn chamber -> drive turbine -> exhaust cooling system (heats pre-heater)

 
                      
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I have built and installed at least 6 different "brute force" electrolysis generators and installed on a 1998 Ranger and a 1990 Wrangler and did not get any significant change in mpg. The Ranger gained a little torque going up hills (didn't have to down shift as often).
 
kai weeks
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Location: The forest, Sweden. Zone 7. Sandy, acidic soils.
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In my opinion I could see that on a diesel motor the alternator powered electrolysis chamber add-on could work. Marine diesels run much of the time at steady rpm. This makes it easy to switch on, and off the alternator-powered "hydrogen generator" and monitor changes.

Now, obviously the increased load on the alternator requires burning more fuel to turn it. The benefit's lie not so much at the "mpg" but rather in lower operating temperature. Also, apparently, less carbon build-up. Extending engine life in other words.

Now the hydrogen generator has water with electrolyte in it. When the bubbles of hydrogen form they also capture water vapor and that's brought into the combustion-chamber together with diesel, hydrogen and air. Diesels like humidity once at operating temperature. Driving in fog/mist is good for fuel economy =P

If the alternator is assisted by a solar-panel/wind generator (on a boat) then we're straight away talking higher "mpg". Cars could have 400W of solar-panel on the roof.... and that would give perhaps a 1/4 to 1/3 the energy required for moving the car along the road - through hydrogen generation.
 
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