Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Hydrogen Powered Cars

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the wie-sagt-man-'fill-'er-up'? dept.

Technology 219

ErrantKbd writes: "CNN's science section features this article about BMW's recent tinkerings with hydrogen-powered cars. It has some interesting information about safety issues, which are understandably a major concern for cars no less than for zeppelins. Hopefully other manufacturers will adopt the same attitude as BMW, so the rest of us can afford these if they should ever emerge on the market." For now these cars have a limited range and one (1) fueling spot, which is fine if you commute to and from the Munich airport. One day, though, it'd be great for the rooftop solar collector to be separating fuel for the next day's commute ...

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

It's not a myth. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#356674)

It's not a myth. Observe what happened to hemp in 1937 when something invented a process to make better and cheaper paper than that from trees.

The Original Threat to the Petro-Chemical Industry []

Breaking News: _OCEAN_ Sinks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#356675)

March 17, 2005

It seems that the long touted "clean fuel" of the 21 Century had some unfortunate and unexpected consequences today when the massive amounts of H2O converted to car fuel finally caused the ocean to sink (The process of the surface of the ocean passing below the rising continents) due to the demand for hydrogen created by urban commuters.

"We were really caught off-guard on this one," says John Shepley, an engineer at the BMW Deep Valley Station, one of the three man made structures still with a beach front. "Everyone knows that the coasts have been crawling farther and farther for years. The granola eater types really started complaining when California lost its coast, but we figured all that liberal spouting was just hyperbole. I guess we were wrong."

The engineers have been working for some time on further innovations that may make the world inhabitable once again. "Yeah. We can make a machine that uses combustion to turn H2 and O2 molecules back into water, but the only design we could come up with didn't use fossil fuels. We figured, no, we'll stay away from that. Not using fossil fuels would be a blow to our economy."

Irrelevant (1)

Cardinal (311) | more than 13 years ago | (#356680)

Price has nothing to do with it, the context [] was the allegation that hydrogen cars aren't clean because of the electricy involved in creating hydrogen.

Please read the whole thread before responding to the middle of it.

Some thoughts (2)

Cardinal (311) | more than 13 years ago | (#356681)

Electricity is needed to extract oil too, y'know. And as many have already pointed out, hydrogen is no more dangerous in cars than gasoline. In fact, it could be argued that it's less dangerous.

It's a "clean energy" because the car itself isn't polluting much. Of course, this argument has the same flaw that electric-powered cars do, which you pointed out. No matter how egological the car itself is, the power it uses has to come from somewhere, and in most of the US, that means coal-burning plants.

And from what I understand of the CA situation, coal plants are the only new source of power being seriously considered down there, because they're simple and cheap to build. Sigh. As if we didn't have enough rampant pollution already.

Me, I want a fuel cell car. I won't drive an electric car, though, since so much of the electricity to charge it gets lost in transit over the power lines.

Wait a minute. Electric cars are clean? (2)

Cardinal (311) | more than 13 years ago | (#356682)

I'm confused. You spent all that time explaining why hydrogen isn't really efficient, it just moves the pollution.

And the you say to use electric cars? Can you please go back and read your argument again, and tell me why electric cars are any better of a solution?

Wie sagt mann "fill 'er up"? (2)

MoOsEb0y (2177) | more than 13 years ago | (#356690)

Die antwort ist.... füllen Sie sie herauf

Re:clean? (2)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 13 years ago | (#356697)

You are assuming hydrogen combustion. The much more interesting work in that regard is on hydrogen fuel cells, which produce electricity from hydrogen and oxygen from the air via catalytic reaction. From what I've read, they are extremely clean, nearly distilled-grade water as the exhaust. "mmm thirsty, need to drive somewhere..." 8-)

Re:They'll never become widely accepted. (2)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#356700)


Great sig. In the good old days, this sig would cause many fights. It seems that some stupid terminal programs would see this in people's sigs and proceed to reset the modem for a redial. It was a pretty good prank.

Re:Hydrogen powered? (2)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#356701)

What would you rather have? A tank of hydrogen in a 1/2 inch thick steel bottle, or a tank of gasoline (with just as much energy) in a tank made of *plastic*?

I'll take the hydrogen.

Re:Hydrogen Power (4)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#356704)

Toilet cleaner (with HCl) and aluminum foil work well too.

I'd like to see alcohol become a widely used fuel. The corn gets carbons from the air, so when it is burned, the carbons go back to the air. It would solve a big problem with CO2.

Re:clean? (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 13 years ago | (#356706)

Solar energy hitting the earth will get transformed into heat pretty quickly no matter what happens. All we're doing with solar collectors is doing a little work with the heat before it gets tossed out. The waste heat situation ends up no worse than if there were no solar collectors to begin with.

Re:Really slashdot... (1)

An Ominous Coward (13324) | more than 13 years ago | (#356708)

That's not quite correct. Hydrogen absolutely had something to do with the Hindenburg disaster. However, it was not the only factor. The Hindenburg was repainted for that flight. The new paint was metal-based. Electrostatic in the air was able to flow as a current on the surface of the airship. The current produced a spark which ignited the hydrogen.

So, yes, the Hindenburg wouldn't have gone down in flames if it weren't for the canvas paint. But it also wouldn't have ignited with a helium-based lift.

Fueling Infrastructure Solution (2)

weston (16146) | more than 13 years ago | (#356712)

The solution to the fueling infrastructure problem is obvious. Not simple, but obvious.

Let the consumer buy their own filling device.

Like timothy said, someday they oughta be built into the car, with solar panels on the roof providing the energy to seperate the water by products back into hydrogen....

But in the meanwhile, they oughta be able to come up with something the size of a wardrobe or two that you can stick in your garage and use....

(powered, of course, by the solar panels on your roof and windmills in your yard)


Re:Hydrogen is Safe (2)

KFury (19522) | more than 13 years ago | (#356714)

So if a drunk driver's breaks fail, then it's okay to drive drunk, because driving drunk didn't cause the accident?

Hydrogen is still dangerous, Hindenberg anecdote or not. If Challenger wasn't sitting on a tank of liquid Hydrogen and another tank of liquid Oxygen, the challenger disaster would have looked very different, and might not have even happened, despite the fact that Hydrogen wasn't responsible for the failed o-ring.

Hydrogen isn't safe. Not that gasolene is particularly safe, but the logic in the parent post is pretty contrived and false.

Kevin Fox

Optimism (2)

toofast (20646) | more than 13 years ago | (#356717)

As optimistic as I am about alternative-powered cars, I always fear that the multi-billionaire oil companies will just step in and squash whatever idea people have about alternative fuel.

Maybe it's just a myth, but if I were some huge rich cigar-smoking king-of-cash, I'd want to trample whatever threatened my empire. Kinda like Microsoft :)

Really slashdot... (1)

G-funk (22712) | more than 13 years ago | (#356723)

... I expect more of the editors than this. No don't ask me why. Two things I need to pick a bone with:

1. The hydrogen had nothing to do with the hindenburg disaster. The fire was caused by the rocket-fuel they used on the canvas for paint, or sealant, or somesuch.

2. The danger with hydrogen powered cars also has nothing to to with the flammable nature of hydrogen, it's simply the fact that it's stored under very pressure....

Anyway, enuff from me. Just had to get that off my chest.


The future of hydrogen power... (2)

Colin Winters (24529) | more than 13 years ago | (#356724)

Hydrogen power is great for cars. I'm all in favor of it. Assuming that all the engineering aspects are worked out, and the oil companies don't block anything (which is assuming a lot) there is still a problem-supply of hydrogen. You can't just go and pick it up off the street. Electrolysis of water is expensive and time-consuming. One of the solutions to this problem was using natural gas plants to produce hydrogen during the non-peak hours. This was a great idea until natural gas prices skyrocketed. So this probably won't be a viable method. However, some of you may remember a story on slashdot a year ago about how algae can produce hydrogen. I'm placing a lot of hope in this. Maybe, in the not too distant future, people can have little algae ponds outside their houses that will produce hydrogen to fuel their cars. Other than these three methods-algae, power plants, and electrolysis, I don't know of any other ways to really make hydrogen for fuel cells. And none of them is that practical right now. Just something to consider in the hydrogen fuel cell debate.

Colin Winters

Its not just the fuel... (2)

Killean (25381) | more than 13 years ago | (#356725)

Has anyone here really stopped and considered that millions of people driving personal trasportation devices is just going to be bad for the environment regardless of how they are powered? Sure, switching to a cleaner energy source will clear up alot of the pollution from emmisions, but what about the 'other' emmisions?

For instance, how often do you replace the tires on your vehicle? Once aevery year or so... and where do you think all that tread is going?

Wiper fluid... lubricants... turtlewax... it all adds up, you know? Maybe we should focus on ways to scrub our environment instead of just limiting what millions of people release into the world every day.

Re:Optimism (1)

James Lanfear (34124) | more than 13 years ago | (#356730)

Not to mention that some of those oil companies would like to be remain in business after we run out of oil.

Hydrogen Power (1)

chill (34294) | more than 13 years ago | (#356731)

The best info I have found is []
here. Very informative.

Re:They'll never become widely accepted. (1)

yomahz (35486) | more than 13 years ago | (#356732)

you forgot the most important one []

A mind is a terrible thing to taste.

c'mon... (1)

RoLlEr_CoAsTeR (39353) | more than 13 years ago | (#356739)

while you're at it, get paranoid about your gasoline tank spontaneously exploding too...

H2 is not energy source, not safe, not efficient (1)

bertd (53884) | more than 13 years ago | (#356744)

>>Hydrogen is NOT abundant in nature. The only source of it is water.

>Water, eh? Not much of that around.

The hydrogen in water is tightly bound. You have to add energy to split the water. So hydrogen is not a source of energy, it is merely an energy carrier. Let me repeat that.


>>When you move from an internal combustion engine with it's small size and all those moving parts up to a big, ole power plant you can get an order of magnitude or so more power out of the same amount of fossil fuel.

This is just not correct. I think at most you could gain a factor of 2. And I believe that this would be less than the losses involved in *making* hydrogen, *compressing* hydrogen, and then *using* hydrogen.

Anyhow, electrolysis is an expensive way to make hydrogen. It is better to skip the electricity step and use a chemical process to go straight from natural gas to hydrogen. By expensive, I mean using more fuel, and making more pollution.

Also you ought to check out the NASA hydrogen safety site. Hydrogen has a low energy of ignition, and a wide flammability range in the fuel to air ratio. By both of these measures hydrogen is more dangerous than gasoline. 16 .htm

The gasoline tank explosions that you see on TV after every collision are a gross exaggeration and not representative of gasoline safety.

Hindenberg (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#356746)

They used a pigmented dope on the fabric. The pigments used were iron oxide and aluminum.

You may remember that pair of powders from your chemistry class. It's called "thermite".

It's really hard to ignite. (You have to get the oxide layer off a particle of aluminum and melt the particle. Think of the oxide layer as saphire, or corrundum.) But a spark can do it if the pgiment is spread sufficiently thin or if the spark is hot enough.

Once it's lit, it burns by the aluminum pulling the oxygen out of the iron oxide, leaving elemental iron and the difference in the heat of formation of iron and aluminum oxides. Iron oxide has a moderate heat of formation - you can burn steel wool if it's fine enough. But aluminum oxide has THE highest heat of formation of ANY compound. The difference is enough to leave the iron molten and glowing brilliant white.

They weld railroad tracks by putting a thermite crucible above the join and letting the resulting molten iron pour down into a form wrapped around the rail. It melts the ends of the rail and fuses the whole thing into a single piece.

Forget the solar panels. (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#356747)

... someday they oughta be built into the car, with solar panels on the roof providing the energy to seperate the water by products back into hydrogen

You can forget the solar panels on the car. And Timothy can forget the ones on the roof, too. If you've got a few acres you might be able to swing it.

The reason is the sheer AMOUNT of energy involved in mechanical motion. One horsepower is almost exactly 3/4 KILOwatt. Your car needs about 18 of them just to push the air out of the way as you cruise, more than a hundred to start up from a stopsign without inducing road rage in the people behind you.

A 135 HP engine is putting out a tenth of a MEGAWATT. That's enough to power a thousand houses. The heat wasted in the brakes of a car stopping from 50 MPH, once, could heat a snowbound four-bedroom house for half an hour.

Insolation is about one kilowatt per square yard. At the mid-latitudes of the USA you have about 5 solar hours per day. Let's be generous and say the panels are 10% efficient. And let's say your car has 3 square yards of panel area, you park it in unobstructed sunlight, and you have no weather. 4/3 * 3 * 5 * 1/10 = 2 horsepower-hours per day.

But that's as electricity out of the panels, with perfect storage, perfect motors, and perfect regenerative braking. We were talking using it to make hydrogen and burning it in an engine. Divide by another factor of 5 (at least).

Ok, now you're down to 2/5 horsepower hour. Call it one horsepower for twelve minutes. Call it enough to cruise for about a minute and a half at highway speed, or maybe enough to accellerate from a standing start to highway speed - ONCE.

Not going to do much commuting that way.

Of course that's why people are talking hydrogen rather than batteries and electric charge. Pumping gas into a car is equivalent to "charging" it at a rate in the BILLIONS of watts. You're not going to pull an electric into a station and give it a quick charge. You'd be using the entire output of a fossil fuel or nuclear plant to charge ONE car. The magnetic fields around the cable would bend the sheet metal.

Ever wonder why electric cars are a BAD idea? Think about the power shortages in California. Then think about everybody commuting with electric cars. Figure a one-hour commute and perfect efficiency so you can approximate it as averaging maybe 24 horsepower. Figure charging them for 12 hours - 2 HP average. That's 1.5 times the power demand of the house, JUST to charge ONE very efficient car for ONE hour of commuting for ONE driver. For every two power plants we have now, build three more.

Now add in shopping. Stop-and-go. Call it another four power plants. Drive from silicon valley to San Francisco and back for a little entertainment - five more. Don't even THINK of a pleasant drive in the country, or going to visit grandma for the holidays.

Re:why are these so popular? (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#356748)

You're right when you say that this just moves the polution. The difference is that those big power generation plants are _much_ more efficient then your typical car engine. The typical oil power plant is ~40% efficient - compared to ~25% for a car engine.

Those plants are heat engines. "Perfect" is closer to 35 if I recall correctly.

But if you're using it to generate hydrogen, and burning the hydrogen in the car, the car engine is STILL going to get about 25%. So (using your numbers) you're getting 25% of 40%, rather than 25% of 100%, of the energy from the fuel.

Oops! Now you're burning two and a half times as much fuel.

Now if you could take the power the plant makes and store it 100% efficiently, transport it to the car without loss, and use it in the car without loss, THEN you'd have a 40% efficient car instead of a 25%. And you'd have moved the pollution and reduced it somewhat. That's what they're TRYING for with the electric cars.

But forget about it. You make the car heavier with those batteries, so you need to move the batteries around, too. Net payload stays the same while gross vehicle mass goes up, and even with perfect motors, batteries, and transmission lines you end up with less efficiency.

Better would be to use a car with regenerative braking and flywheel storage. LOTS to be gained there.

But if you have regenerative braking and flywheel storage, you can use it in combination with a LITTLE internal combustion engine running at max-efficiency, and get rid of the major storage. Call it 200 horsepower-minutes of flywheel storage and a 25-horsepower engine running at closer to 30% efficiency than 25 and you'll get city mileage beating the country mileage of current vehicles, while country mileage also goes up, though not in proportion. You'll need a few other things to break 100 MPG, but it's no longer unattainable.

Rails (2)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#356749)

I live near many different railroad lines and have never seen this done (or a fused rail).

Most railroads don't use welded rail. It's tough to do an expansion joint with no joints. B-)

Congrats on repealing Conservation of Energy (4)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 13 years ago | (#356754)

Let's see...

You're using energy from your electrical system to electrolyze water into hygrogen and oxygen. The electricity replaces, at a minimum, the "heat of formation" energy of the water as it cracks it to its elements.

Then you inject the hydrogen into your intake manifold, where it burns with oxygen from the air, releasing the heat of formation - as heat.

The heat is converted to mechanical power by the engine, which turns the generator to make the hydrogen.

Perpetual motion? Hardly.

A PERFECT heat engine only gets about a third of the energy out of the heat it uses. The other >2/3 goes to heat up a cold place. So you lose AT LEAST 2/3 of your energy each time through the cycle. And while automobile engines are pretty efficient they are optimized for portability, power-to-weight ratio, and a wide operating range. So they don't approach Carnot Cycle efficency all that closely. You need a big stationary power plant for that.

Electric generators are good - you'll probably only lose another 10% there. More for the fan belts.

Your electrolyzer won't be 100% efficient either. And that pump is pure loss.

The hydrogen might do something useful to the mixture. But more likely it will just confuse the engine control computer, which expects to be working with a mixture of gasoline and air, and lower the efficiency of the engine further. (But probably not as far as if you tried it on a pre-computer engine, which doesn't have feedback from an exhaust oxygen sensor to let it adjust the gasoline flow to compensate for the hydrogen.)

I suspect any mileage improvement to be an illusion. But there's one possibility for some improvement from this setup. The bubbler is probably putting some fine water droplets into the intake manifold. Water injection does help an otto-cycle engine, making a non-trivial improvement in both mileage and NOx emissions. The droplets boil and the steam helps transfer the energy into mechanical effort against the piston, while the boiling water cools the burn and reduces combustion of nitrogen.

It's not done in cars because it's an expensive extra complexity, leaves you with TWO consumable liquids to run out of, and tends to rot the metal. Compared to a computer controlled engine without water injection it's not enough of an improvement in performance to justify the costs.

Re:Doesn't seem like a very good ide for me. (2)

hernick (63550) | more than 13 years ago | (#356756)

Actually, producing hydrogen is very expensive, especially when using eletrolysis. The steam reforming method might be another story, though. But let's look at the cost of getting a megaJoule worth of hydrogen.

Electrolysis is approximately 15% efficient, and you're going to pay about 0.04$ for a kWh of power. so .04/.15/3.6

That means a megaJoule worth of hydrogen is going to cost you 0.075$.

Now, gasoline costs 0.5$ per liter, and a liter of gasoline is good for about 31.5 megaJoules. That means gasoline costs 0.016$ per megaJoule.


0.075$/MJ Hydrogen (electrolised)
0.016$/MJ Gasoline

Conclusion ? You're going to need to produce lots of power to make your oxygen. Power isn't free, or even cheap. Worse, you're using a 15% efficient process. It's going to cost you a lot of money to make your hydrogen on a commercial scale.

Now, if you're using the latest hydrogen making processes, you might be able to achieve 80% efficiency. Over 5 times as efficient ! It drops the price of the power needed to make your megaJoule worth of hydrogen to less than 0.015$. That doesn't include all the equipement, personnel and taxes, methods of transportation and everything that you'll need to add to the cost of your hydrogen..

Re:Congrats on repealing Conservation of Energy (1)

Jace of Fuse! (72042) | more than 13 years ago | (#356765)

It's not done in cars because it's an expensive extra complexity, leaves you with TWO consumable liquids to run out of, and tends to rot the metal.

Actually, I've thought about the lower-temperature and higher energy output of having "water" in the air...

And it seems to me this very thing IS happening anyway, though some people don't realize it. (Probably because it's too little to notice, normally).

I've been thinking about it because once there was this old throttle body engine that used to be in a Blazer I drove. It was slow. It wasn't very powerful, and it wasn't even good on gas. The throttle responce was lacking and basically this machine had just seen better days.

But I noticed that on cool foggy summer nights here in Tennessee, the machine seemed to get a slight boost in power. As if the humidity had some effect on this worn engine.

It wasn't mine (thank god) and when it was finally gotten rid of I didn't miss it.

Now days I drive a 2000 Camaro SS with Ram Air injection, and I've been wondering -- does the humidity add a couple of horsies? It's already pushing over 320 horsepower, so I probably wouldn't notice -- but what about smaller engines? Ram Air DOES have noticable power benefits and it doesn't seem to effect fuel efficiency much. (Compare a Z28 to a Z28SS...)

Just something I've actually been thinking about lately. Hmmm.

"Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"

Breaking News: Earth Sinks (5)

PhatKat (78180) | more than 13 years ago | (#356767)

March 17, 2005

It seems that the long touted "clean fuel" of the 21 Century had some unfortunate and unexpected consequences today when the massive amounts of H2O released into the atmosphere finally caused the earth to sink (The process of continents passing below the rising surface of the ocean) due to the exhaust created by urban commuters.

"We were really caught off-guard on this one," says John Shepley, an engineer at the BMW Space Station, one of the three man made structures still in existence. "Everyone knows that the coasts have been crawling closer and closer for years. The granola eater types really started complaining when California went under, but we figured all that liberal spouting was just hyperbole. I guess we were wrong."

The engineers have been working for some time on further innovations that may make the world inhabitable once again. "Yeah. We can make a machine that uses electrolosis to turn water back into its component H2 and O2 molecules, but the only design we could come up with used fossil fuels. We figured, no, we'll stay away from that. The use of fossil fuels can get you into all sorts of trouble."

Hydrogen is not evil (1)

StorminNorman (83059) | more than 13 years ago | (#356768)

I recently saw a documentary which discussed how hydrogen wasn't the cause of the Hindenburg disaster. Instead, it turns out that a coating used on the cloth that surrounded the hydrogen ignited due to a spark. I can't remember the exact details, or provide a link, but from memory the investigation was conducted by an ex-NASA employee.

Re:Hydrogen powered? (1)

yuggoth (85136) | more than 13 years ago | (#356770)

Why "instead of nuclear terrorism"? You just have to wait one or two millenia, till hydrogen powered vehicles make use of the true powers of hydrogen, and bingo! Although you'll probably need a degree in nuclear physics if your car happens to break down...

heh (1)

Mox-Dragon (87528) | more than 13 years ago | (#356772)

lol... that reminds me of the simpsons episode where the teachers go on strike... "Lisa! In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"


Actually with the Hindenberg... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#356773)

There were a number of factors involved, not least of which being that the surface of the blimp was sealed with rocket fuel. It's a lot more likely to dissapate safely and cleanly than your average high octane (Which just sits there messing up the environment until it either sinks in and pollutes the water table or catches on fire.)

Hydrogen Exonerated in Hindenburg Disaster (1)

lowy (91366) | more than 13 years ago | (#356777)

Acording to this article [] the Hindenberg Disaster was caused by "the extreme easy flammability of the covering material brought about by discharges of an electrostatic nature" and not by Hydrogen.

clean? (2)

jmv (93421) | more than 13 years ago | (#356778)

OK, hydrogen is supposed to be clean. However two things need to be taken into account:

1) Normal cars produce three (at least) kinds of pollutions: carbon monoxide/dioxide, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ozone (O3). Of course, hydrogen will not produce carbon oxides, but it will likely still produce nitrogen oxides and ozone. These are not created by the fuel burning, but by the effect of heat on the air (ie. the nitrogen in the NOx come from the air).

2) How do you produce hydrogen? If you use electrolysis, then you need to get the energy from some place. If you burn fuel to get that energy, you're just moving the pollution. Note: while power plants are more efficient than a normal gas engine, the gain you have will likely be lost in the electrolysis.

Re:clean? (2)

jmv (93421) | more than 13 years ago | (#356779)

If you read carfully my comment, I totally agree that power plants are more efficient than most (all) car engines. However, AFAIK, producing hydrogen using electrolysis is not that efficient, so the total loss may not be far from that of normal cars. Count the trouble of carrying hydrogen and I don't think the hydrogen solution is much better than the current gas-electric cars like the Honda Insight.

Re:clean? (2)

jmv (93421) | more than 13 years ago | (#356780)

Well, since I started working for a speech recognition company (Locus Dialog [] ), I cannot (I'd be in a wierd position) work on a free speech recognition engine anymore. There are already (at least) two free speech recognition engines anyway (sphinx and isip).

However, I'm still activly contributing to the Overflow project (a visual development environment), which started from the Open Mind Speech. (link in my new sig!)

Hydrogen powered? (1)

Zaphod B (94313) | more than 13 years ago | (#356782)

Great, instead of nuclear terrorism we can have terroristic opportunists in these BMWs deliberately having gruesome accidents, sparking flames from combustion-powered cars, and blowing huge areas to bits.

Does Ted Kaczynski know about this yet?

Re:Optimism (1)

Zaphod B (94313) | more than 13 years ago | (#356783)

Believe it or not, the multi-billion dollar oil companies promote efficient and alternative engine types - the profit margin on gasoline, particularly in the U.S., is among the lowest of any petroleum product.

Heating oil, now...

Not based on fuel cells (1)

jeti (105266) | more than 13 years ago | (#356785)

I looks like the article doesn't tell you much about the tech part. AFAIK BMW is only working on combustion engines modified for hydrogen. In other words you don't really get a boost in efficiency and you're car is likely to break down as your old one.
A real alternative concept are cars that draw the energy from fuel cells and use electric motors. This gives you higher efficiency, nearly no moving parts and you can can build the cars somewhat lighter.

An interesting sidenote is that Iceland, which produces energy by making use of geothermal activity, plans to ship lots of hydrogen to the europen market. It's kind of a national effort.

Re:Optimism (2)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 13 years ago | (#356787)

My father works for BPAmoco, and he seems to believe that the company isn't really scared of these new technologies, or at least they won't be threatened for quite a while.

Think about all the gas-powered cars there are out there. Think about how (relatively) inexpensive gas is, how readily available it is (there must be 5 gas stations within 5 miles of my house), and most importantly, how USED TO gas people are.

Nothing is going to replace gas until it absolutely HAS to.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Using sunlight FAQ (1)

HalfFlat (121672) | more than 13 years ago | (#356790)

Things have improved a little on the solar front since, and further, if one really wanted to have a locally-solar powered vehicle, one would use the generating capacity of one's home to produce a portable form of energy (e.g. hydrogen) to fuel the car.

Doing the calculations though, is pretty grim:

  • In California, 20 square metres of area gathers on average roughly 110 kW hours of engery in a day.
  • The top theoretical efficiency for solar cells is about 88%. Current best in a commerical product is about 25%.
  • Best efficiency for producing hydrogen from water using electricity is about 70%. Best effeciency for a fuel cell in a vehicle is about 60%.
So, using best available technology, using a solar -> electricity -> hydrogen -> fuel cell path, we get about 10kW hours of energy per day from one house. This will drive an efficient crusing vehicle (stretching here, and claiming 10kW power consumption) for one hour.

With processes closer to the maximum theoretical efficiencies, and perhaps utilizing some more direct solar->hydrogen processes, one could possibly extract up to 5 hours worth of vehicle driving per household, foregoing any other sort of energy consumption.

Clearly, this isn't feasible, at least with that sort of energy consumption for a vehicle. With that consumption, it's basicly impossible to power a car with an energy source which is both renewable and local. The options are:

  • Non-local sources: there are great tracts of very sunny land that can be used to produce hydrogen.
  • Non-renewable but `nice' power generation: for example one can speculate that fusion energy will one day be both viable and cheap.
  • Find another solution to the transport problem: there are many negatives to spending 2 hours per day in traffic, energy waste is just one of them.

As far as I can tell, the only shortish term solution is the third. If we want to use energy sustainably, we have to rework our transport systems in a major way. At the moment, we're chewing up thousands of years of stored solar power in the form of fossil fuels.

On the bright side, 10kW hours of energy per household per day is quite nice, if we didn't have to worry about this whole transportation problem. It demonstrates that currently available solar and hydrogen technology is on the verge of being able to locally supply well in excess of all of our domestic energy needs, for those in the sunnier parts of the world.

Re:Hydrogen Power (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 13 years ago | (#356793)

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) plus aluminium is the usual "recipe" for making hydrogen in chemistry textbooks:
2Al + 2NaOH + 6H2O -> 2Na(Al)(OH)4 + 3H2
With an excess of sodium hydroxide solution, you get about 1.25 litres of hydrogen from one gram of aluminium (plus a lot of heat...) The hydrogen contains a lot of water vapour, so it is usually dried by bubbling through concentrated sulphuric acid before use.

Re:Hydrogen is Safe (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 13 years ago | (#356794)

And here I was hoping for interesting newscasts whenever a car accident occurred :(

Re:Hindenberg (1)

Chagrin (128939) | more than 13 years ago | (#356795)

  • They weld railroad tracks by putting a thermite crucible above the join and letting the resulting molten iron pour down into a form wrapped around the rail. It melts the ends of the rail and fuses the whole thing into a single piece
I live near many different railroad lines and have never seen this done (or a fused rail). All the lines I've seen use large metal bars on each side bolted into the rail. Does make you think that a thermite weld would be a helluva lot cheaper though.

Trademark issue.... (2)

tcc (140386) | more than 13 years ago | (#356800)

Click Boom! is already taken, amiga software company ;)

Postgres! (2)

elegant7x (142766) | more than 13 years ago | (#356801)

You should look into postgresql! I mean, I realize this is a troll, but postgres is a much nicer database.

Rate me on []

Are you stupid? (2)

elegant7x (142766) | more than 13 years ago | (#356802)

Ok, lets take this real slow and simple. When you burn something, you're combining with oxygen at a lower energy level. The energy you release is the difference between energy in the old chemical bonds and the new ones. Now these cars work by burning hydrogen, what do you get when you combine Hydrogen and Oxygen? That's right, water. Water is the byproduct of burning hydrogen (or, usually water vapor). In order to extract the hydrogen from the oxygen, you need to put energy back into the system... Burning the hydrogen would get you exactly as much energy as you put in to make it. Of course, you would loose tons of energy along the way (gas seeping out, mechanical ineffectiveness, etc). In other words, its not going to happen, and thinking that it could is ridicules.

If you think you can somehow power a car by simply converting hydrogen and oxygen into water over and over again, well then, you are an idiot. Please stop telling people what they need to do.

Rate me on []

using electricity to extract oil (2)

elegant7x (142766) | more than 13 years ago | (#356803)

There is a huge difference between using electricity to extract oil, and using it to extract hydrogen from water. In the first case, you're going to be using a lot less energy then you're going to be putting in, the energy is already there in the form of carbohydrates. You'll be able to get all the electricity you need to power the drill (or whatever) by using a tiny fraction of the oil you just got. On the other hand, there isn't any readily available chemical energy in water, the only thing you get out of it, is what you put in. It's more like charging a battery then anything else, and you're always going to loose some energy a long the way. You'll never be able to power a hydrogen creation plant off of the energy you get from burning the hydrogen you just got.

Rate me on []

They'll never become widely accepted. (4)

Chester K (145560) | more than 13 years ago | (#356804)

I [] think [] you [] can [] figure [] out [] why [] .

why are these so popular? (1)

HenryC (147782) | more than 13 years ago | (#356805)

Why are hydrogen cars so popular? There is 0 to be gained from building hydrogen cars. Contrary to popluar belief, there is no help to the enviroment. Hydrogen is NOT abundant in nature. The only source of it is water. However, the hydrogen atoms are bonded to oxygen atoms in water, and need to be seperated. The only way to seperate the atoms is woth force. So to extract hydrogen from water to use as fuel, a processing plant needs to be built which will extract the hydrogen. B/c this country is very much against nuclear power, the plant that seperates this will probably use fossil fuels. This means that to produce a tank of hydrogen, a lot of fossil fuel will be burned. This does not help the enviroment. All this does, is moves the source of pollution from the individual car, to one centralized plant. While adding an additional step (The processing of the water), to lose effeciciency. It would be a much wiser invesetment of all thees companie's time to find some magical way of producing hydrogen, or developing electric cars. After all, combustion isn't very efficient. Why must we insist on using it?

-- Henry Cipolla

Chalk up one for hydrogen, it's lighter than air (1)

Manhigh (148034) | more than 13 years ago | (#356806)

Should hydrogen begin to leak from the tanks or fuel lines it will rise into the air, rather than pooling under the car waiting for a spark to ignite it like gasoline would. As for the reluctance to have a tank of hydrogen in one's car... We already have automobiles with tanks full of gasoline. When it comes down to igniting a fuel, it doesnt make much difference whether its gasoline or hydrogen, if it ignites you have a huge problem one way or the other.

Stonecutters? (1)

gordon_schumway (154192) | more than 13 years ago | (#356808)

Who keeps down the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenburg a star?

Re:Hydrogen powered? (2)

Ig0r (154739) | more than 13 years ago | (#356809)

I agree to your points, but I still believe that liquid gasolene flying (and sticking) everywhere is more dangerous at the scene of an accident than hydrogen wafting up and away in the breeze.


Re:Hydrogen powered? (5)

Ig0r (154739) | more than 13 years ago | (#356810)

Hydrogen burns quickly and more importantly goes UP as it burns, away from the veichle.
Gasolene on the other hand burns slowly (in liquid form), flows everywhere, and sticks to everything it touches.

Now which one, do you think, would produce more 'gruesome' accidents?


Re:Doesn't seem like a very good ide for me. (5)

Ig0r (154739) | more than 13 years ago | (#356811)

The amount of electricity required to electrolize water isn't that much, and isn't required all at once.
You could have a giant field of solar panels slowly generating electricity and breaking tanks of water into O2 and H2 with little supervision needed.


Re:Fuel Cell Pinto? (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#356819)

You're talking out your ass, Pinto man.

Why do you think gasoline, yes, gasoline, the stuff you can easily make napalm out of, so much safer than hydrogen? Never mind the fact that the Hindenburg blew up becuase it was coated with fscking rocket fuel. Never mind the fact that if the fuel tank ruptures, hydrogen will float upwards and disperse quite nicely, while gasoline will pool around and burn slightly less nicely. Never mind that while gasoline prices are constantly rising, LO2 is one of the cheapest fluids out there, and along with other gasses can only get cheaper as usage increases.

Did you read the article? That hydrogen fuel tank is armored, man! If you you are involved in something that breaks it, you've got bigger problems than crummy H2.

And as a bonus, we wouldn't be dependent on nutty middle eastern dictatorships with delusions of mediocrity to run our cars. Air, last I checked, was fairly commonplace.

I would buy one of these in a heartbeat, if I could get H2 easily.


Re:Hydrogen just doesn't work as well (2)

Dyolf Knip (165446) | more than 13 years ago | (#356820)

Well, Hydrogen has 3 times as much energy per unit weight as gasoline. But you can't get it as dense as gasoline, even in liquid form (1/10th), so it has less power than gas per unit volume. Thus you need the 140 liter H2-tank featured here.

Come up with a way to compress it further, and you're golden.


Honda? (1)

iotaborg (167569) | more than 13 years ago | (#356822)

Um, doesn't Honda ALREADY have a hydrogen fuel cell car, almost ready to ship? What is with this news...

Hydrogen just doesn't work as well (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 13 years ago | (#356823)

Hydrogen has about 1/6th the amount of energy stored per gallon as gasoline. That means 1/6th the mileage, and 6 times the fuel to get the same range.

Ethanol has about 2/3 the amount of energy, methanol about 1/2. Neither of them has proved all that practical either, though there's tricks that can be played that improve this.

Re:Doesn't seem like a very good ide for me. (2)

Bluesee (173416) | more than 13 years ago | (#356824)

The simple economic fact is: You will put more energy into creating the hydrogen fuel than you can ever get out of it since 1) entropy rules all energy transactions, and 2) the efficiency of a fuel-burning combustion engine is ultimately limited by the Carnot efficiency of the engine, which states that you can only get the working fluid to expand from its previous state by the ol' PV~T rule. Therefore it will be at least as expensive as that many joules of electricity, which is that many tons of coal, air, or wherever the hydrogen plant gets it from.

The only reason that drilling for oil is cost-effective is that there is more energy contained in the product than it takes to get it out. Obviously. The same for coal, natural gas, and even wind turbine energy, etc... Once the return on investment slips to a lower level than is profitable, the energy companies stop mining it.

How is this supposed to be different with hydrogen? Can someone with a calculator please tell me how much a mile of hydrogen will cost in terms of kW-hours of electricity? I suspect that it can't be more effective than the ol' 13.6 joules it stores and releases...

When I took Direct Energy Conversion in college we talked about hydrogen, but only in terms of electric fuel cells, i.e., battery-powered vehicles. This is because the specific-energy stored in a cell (energy per unit weight) was much higher than lead-acid batteries (you need a trunk full of Pb batteries, and then your pickup and go suffers terribly due to all the weight).

But, remember that it is never a question of 'creating energy', only moving it around, and entropy is there at every step, robbing the transaction of precious joules. So, it is really a case here of plug-in cars, just like the flywheel concept and the battery-driven vehicles.

But perhaps Dean Kamen can help us gain economic feasibility of hydrogen where all but the Kaiser failed? Why are we not talking a little more about that, anyway? That is fascinating stuff, IMO...

Re:Hydrogen is Safe (1)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | more than 13 years ago | (#356825)

Yeah, that stuff they coated the hindenburg with was just ground aluminum. They did it so the ship would reflect the sun light and wouldn't heat up and expand during the day. Look at your beer can. It is hard to believe that ground and processed right it would make a very nice bomb. Rocket fuel is nasty stuff. The stuff they use in the space shuttle can't be put out once it is ignited ( what are you going to do -- cut off it's oxygen supply? The stuff was made to work in the cold vacuum of space.) The safety people get real concerned when you start playing with rocket fuel.

Re:Hydrogen powered? (1)

L0rdByt0r (200630) | more than 13 years ago | (#356831)

And remember, any time a car gets in a movie gets into an accident there has to be a fireball the size of the trinity blast to accompany it.

Right after plunging off a cliff, of course...

What this needs to be successful. (2)

commandant (208059) | more than 13 years ago | (#356832)

BMW, and other manufacturers, need to investigate the possibility of creating hydrogen from water in the vehicle, not at the filling station or earlier.

I'd definitely buy a car that can be refueled by dragging the hose around the side of the house and sticking it into a tank. It gives new meaning to the term, "Free car wash with every fill up!"

Imagine the savings. What is water, a few cents per gallon in cities? In rural areas, it's absolutely free, because people have wells dug for them. Suddenly my monthly autmobile-related bills drop dramatically.

Furthermore, since water is nonvolatile, it could be stored in every feasible spot--in the door cavities, in the engine compartment, in a regular tank, in the roof. All one would need is a small pure-hydrogen tank, and the water-hydrogen conversion could be done in the last few stages of the energy consumption chain.

217 miles isn't a bad range at all for these cars... my '98 Contour gets 280-320 miles per fill up. This is much better than the 60 mile range the EV-1 sports, and with hydrogen refueling stations where every gas station used to be (assuming my ideas above don't come to fruition), America could survive with cars that get 220 miles per tank.

I'd like to see this succeed... it would make cheap, clean transportation available to the masses, and there are no real crippling problems that other technologies bring.

A new year calls for a new signature.

Re:why are these so popular? (1)

willy_me (212994) | more than 13 years ago | (#356836)

You're right when you say that this just moves the polution. The difference is that those big power generation plants are _much_ more efficient then your typical car engine. The typical oil power plant is ~40% efficient - compared to ~25% for a car engine.

The other point is that it is much easier to impose enviromental regulations on a few power plants then a few million cars. Most of the people where I live just bore out their catalytic converters. And how many people do you think are running around with catalytic converters that barely work? Just putting some high quality/well maintained converters onto the power plants would provide much better protection for the enviroment.


Re:Using sunlight FAQ Oops (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#356838)

Crusing is 200 to 500 Watt hours per minute, not Kilo Watt Hours. Sorry for the typo.

Using sunlight FAQ (2)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#356839)

This is not a flamebait. This is the math on typical solar collection and full size electric vehicle power requirements. Most fuel cell cars need a fuel cell in the 12-25 KW range giving them poor acceleration. Adding the weight of a bank of batteries increases the vehicle weight so the higher acceleration power is needed to make it onto a freeway ramp.

Q How much power can I get from sunlight?

A typical 2 ft X 4 ft solar panel is about 65 watts. If you can park in the sun for 8 hours you will collect about 500 Watt hours.

How much power does it take to drive a sporty car on the freeway?

Accelerating onto a freeway, about 100,000 watts. Divided by 60 minutes shows a consumption of 1.667 KWH per minute. Cruising on the freeway, about 12-25 KW uses about 200-500 KWH per minute.

Q How far can I go on a day's sunlight?

A About 1/2 mile at expected performance.

For references, look up electric vehicles and fuel cell cars in google.

Re:Hydrogen powered? (1)

NecroPuppy (222648) | more than 13 years ago | (#356840)

Actually, given the amount of hydrogen these cars would have, the explosion wouldn't be that big.

And, to be technical, current cars are combustion powered. That's why their called internal combustion engines.

Hydrogen is Safe (5)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | more than 13 years ago | (#356842)

The Hindenburg dident blow up because itw as full of hydrogen, it blew up because it was coated in the same stuff the Solid rocket boosters on the Space shuttle use for fuel, or at least something verry similar.

Interesting possibilities (1)

bertok (226922) | more than 13 years ago | (#356843)

What impressed me was this quote from the article:
"While hydrogen is the lightest element, it has some tricky characteristics. It only becomes liquid at dramatically low temperatures -- -423 degrees Fahrenheit (-253 degrees Celsius). To keep the fuel that cold, fuel tanks in the BMW cars are made of 70 layers of fiberglass and aluminum."
AFAIK, most other hydrogen powered cars store the gas either at room temperature but high pressure, or by dissolvingthegasin something and extracting it using heat. Hydrogen boils at [] 20.28K [-252.87 C or -423.17 F] which wouldmean that storing it in liquid form would have it's own set of entertaining side effects and dangers. The container might become brittle from the extreme cold, unless it's very well insulated or actively heated it would acquire a skin of frost, and your car would slowly loose it's fuel as it evaporated. That means that you'd have to refuel regularly even if don't drive!
If this becomes popular, the common availability of liquid Hydrogen would allow some really cool do-it-yourself experiments and engineering projects. For example:
  • At low temperatures, many electronics have much better performance. Thermal noise is reduced, transistors switch faster, and laser diodes are brighter. The backyard astronomer could make near-zero K amplifiers or CCD cameras for radio or infra-red astronomy, and the computer hobbyist could overclock his computer to unheard of levels.
  • A lot of materials superconduct at that temperature.
  • Liquid Hydrogen is an ideal fuel for a lot of purposes. It is powerful, and it can be used to cool the engine too. (Model planes or rockets, gas turbines, etc... )
  • If you have liquid Hydrogen, you can use it to make liquid air and then by simple distillation, liquid Nitrogen [] (77.3K) and Oxygen [] (90.2K)!
"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least
once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."

Re:Home-brew Hydrogen (1)

Deffexor (230167) | more than 13 years ago | (#356845)

This is a very do-able thing, but only if you have experience with repairing cars. I was all excited to try this myself since I understand all the basic principles and the plans seemed relatively simple. The only problem that I ran into was when I got to this paragraph: If the timing is the same as in a normal gasoline engine, the new fuel's explosive forces will fire before TDC and will not be properly harnessed. This will not aid mileage, but actually could retard it as well as cause possible engine damage. Yikes!! I don't want to damage my car!! Of course there is a fix: The damage might be caused because the explosive force is pushing down when the piston cannot really move much (when at the TDC point). By retarding the timing, the forces can fire when the piston is ready to go down. You can set the timing for 3-5 degrees later. A tip for setting your timing: I have found (if you have no timing light) you can use a vacuum gauge. Just set the engine to the highest vacuum at idle. This stopped me. How do I do this? Who do I talk to? I'm not about to go to my mechanic and say "Hey man, can you help me with this totally experimental hack?" Otherwise, this setup seems like a pretty cool way to increase your mileage at least 25%!! (possibly more as the article mentioned)

Well it's the 21st century (2)

Hobobo (231526) | more than 13 years ago | (#356848)

Where can I pick up my hydrogen-powered hovercraft?

Re:Hydrogen is Safe (1)

iamblades (238964) | more than 13 years ago | (#356849)

I know this, I fried my hand pretty badly once with a mixture of aluminum dust and solid rocket fuel. I got to skip school for like 3 weeks tho... and got a bunch of heavy duty painkillers...

I especially liked the robotic fuel station. (1)

tulare (244053) | more than 13 years ago | (#356850)

I personally believe we are foolish not to go after this technology. After all, most of what we do with gasoline is burn hydrogen, and then spit out what doesn't burn as dangerous byproducts(of course, CO2 isn't a pollutant [] , and catsup is a vegatable [] , if you follow a certain way of thinking). Besides, as I'm sure many previous posts mention, it's just about as dangerous to use gasoline as it is to use hydrogen in terms of unexpected combustion. As any welder will tell you, a fuel gas cannot burn until it's mixed with oxygen. A far more salient concern would be explosive decompression of the fuel container under heat or a good hard knock, but, although I can't remember who it was, there was a company recently experimenting with using a metallic matrix for hydrogen fuel storate, with the idea that even if the tank were cut in two, the gas as it escapes rapidly cools (as gases do) and would freeze over the opening, thereby sealing it. I dunno, but the BMW engineers don't seem the least bit concerned, as they say the liquid H just dissapates, which you may or may not choose to believe. Besides, I see natural gas-powered vehicles all over the place today, and where's the outcry? And what's the difference between powering a vehicle with natural gas or powering a vehicle with hydrogen? The natural gas is, of course, supplied by the oil companies, where just about anyone with the gumption can produce hydrogen with nothing but electricity and water! Which may explain the somewhat hysterical opinions circulated against hydrogen-powered vehicles.

As far as the autopump thingy goes, didn't the nozzle on that thing look sort of like the torture machine Darth Vader used on Princess Leah in Star Wars? Around here, we probably wouldn't use one, though, as it would put people out of work [] .

Paranoia (1)

Interrobang (245315) | more than 13 years ago | (#356851)

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing, except the thought expressed itself as

"Gee, we must really be getting close to the end of the oil if the oil companies are actually letting this one out of the bag."

Then again, a friend of mine once told me about meeting a shit-faced automotive engineer at a party who said he'd been on a team that helped build a car engine that could get 'mileage' on the order of hundreds of kms to the litre. She said that he said they eventually took the pieces out of the factory in envelopes, which tells you something. OTOH, he was drunk, but that story almost falls into the "I couldn't make up anything that weird" category.

Then again, the first "hybrid" cars are out...which either confirms my theory, or just implies that that particular cat is already out of the bag, or both.


Re:clean? (1)

The Fanfan (264958) | more than 13 years ago | (#356859)

Any internal combustion engines indeed produce NOx and O3 but it fairly easy to reduce or eliminate them with a catalytic converter in the exhaust pipe. Actually, hydrogen is way better than the usual hydrocarbon fuel for catalytic converters as burning H2 in our everyday air (N2 and O2) doesn't send half-burned hydrocarbons or carbon particles (diesel engine) in the converter. I'm no chemistry expert but AFAIK, those 2 kinds of compounds tend to "poison" the catalytic converter over time and are a big pain in the bottom end if you want produce converters which are cheap AND efficient AND reliable over time. Burning H2 = cheaper better converters.

Also the beauty of using a classical internal combustion engine vs. fuel cells is that those engines are light, cheap, fairly efficient, and, best of all, they can work with normal gasoline, which is kind of a good idea until H2 refueling stations become common thing. Also, your good ol' car engine is available today which is way more than one can say about fuel cells...

I'm really impressed with BMW. Their tank design is really great news. I've always been told that H2 storage was a complete sore. H2 has all sort of funny properties when you try to trap it in a container. For instance, if you let H2 in an perfectly seal metal can, it leaks anyway by loosing its electron to the metal and then its tiny nucleus (a mere proton, you can't get anything smaller :) can migrate through the metal and recombine on the other with an electron. H2 is used for semiconductor processes and I think they always use double skin pipes, high pressure H2 in the center tube and a constant flux of inert gas on the outside to collect the leaking H2.

Doesn't seem like a very good ide for me. (1)

flynn_nrg (266463) | more than 13 years ago | (#356860)

From the article:
"No more smelly fumes at the gas station. No more polluting C02 emissions. Far less dependence on uneven supplies of fossil fuels."
I find this really debatable for this reason: most (if not all) hydrogen comes from water. To obtain it a lot of electricity is needed which comes from one of those sources anyway, in some cases nuclear energy, but in many others no. So the argument that this a clean energy is not valid for me. Add to that the fact that there is a risc when working with such a volatile gas.

Fuel Cell Pinto? (1)

Mr. Arbusto (300950) | more than 13 years ago | (#356861)

2 things are needed for fire. Air and Fuel.

In a fuel cell you are carrying Hydrogen, Yes, Hydrogen that stuff that was in the big blimp looking thing that tried to land in the US from Germany.


In a fuel cell you are carrying Air, yes, Oxygen. That stuff that an MIT professor thought would be fun to poor in liquid form on charcole so he could cook his hamburger in all of 2.5 seconds flat.

When I get hit in my FUel Cell Pinto, It will take out Me, the car that hit me and anything within 20 feet. Possibly my girlfriend, depending on when you hit the car and how roomy it could be with a fuel cell.

It's true, I don't spell check.

Re:Rails (1)

agallagh42 (301559) | more than 13 years ago | (#356862)

Most high speed rail lines use welded rails (with some expansion joints i'm sure). They're not really necessary in a normal speed line.

Re:score(-1, Offtopic) (1)

agallagh42 (301559) | more than 13 years ago | (#356863)

First of all, a hardware forum like Anandtech [] would be a better place to ask than slashdot. Second, CPU clock speed is controlled by the motherboard via either jumpers or the bios. Windows has nothing to do with it.

Re:They'll never become widely accepted. (1)

BLAG-blast (302533) | more than 13 years ago | (#356864)


Why? did they buy BP Amco?


hydrogen powered cars are good (1)

wireless18 (303985) | more than 13 years ago | (#356866)

they are just as dangerous as regular cars. when the combustion engine was made, the first cars which also ran on a highly volatile liquid, gasoline, were thought to be too dangerous. the thought of a cart powered by explosions was proposterous. hydrogen is just the same. the only problems really arecost, lack of fueling stations (the chicken or the egg problem), problem of maintaining hydrogen in liquid state.

Home-brew Hydrogen (2)

tlipcon (304220) | more than 13 years ago | (#356867)

You can "tinker" your own car and get a little extra mileage with just a little bit of acid and water and these plans [] . Basically, it runs a current through the electrolyte-filled water, causing it to electrolyse into Hydrogen and Oxygen gas. These go boom and you go faster. (don't worry, it's a little boom.)


Hydrogen Power (1)

BuffJoe (307408) | more than 13 years ago | (#356869)

You can produce hydrogen without electrolysis. Just get some pool acid (muriatic acid), zinc nails, a beaker, and a balloon. Put the acid and nails into the beaker, put the balloon on top of the beaker, and WHAMO! The ballon inflates with the hydrogen it is collecting! Ultimately Hydrogen IS the future fuel, as a Wired magazine article discussed. Hydrogen is cool as a fuel because with it, it is possible to build a car that never needs refueling! Since both fuel cells and direct combustion of hydrogen produce water vapor as their exhaust, it would be easy enough to recollect the exhaust and feed it back into an electrolysis device that breaks the exhaust (water vapor) back into the fuel (hydrogen). The electrolysis device could be powered by batteries or possibly solar cells. Now, talk about a hybrid car! BTW, BMW isn't the only company looking at hydrogen... Ford's new museum next to the Henry Ford Museum (& Greenfield Village) in Deerborn, Michigan, has a display that says Ford is investing in fuel cell technology. It's only a matter of time before we have hydrogen cars, especially if they are made to never need refueling. And safety concerns are moot, as the article points out, since hydrogen is just as combustible as gasoline.. Hell, a hydrogen powered car could be much safer because in an accident, all the hydrogen fuel that seeps out of the car will float away.

Re:Congrats on repealing Conservation of Energy (1)

BuffJoe (307408) | more than 13 years ago | (#356870)

Ummm.. no. Obviously as you point out, there needs to be some sort of energy pumped into the system. Hydrogen combined with solar cells & good 'ol batteries (which would be charged) would make at least hybrid cars more feasible. All I was suggesting was additional inputs of energy into the system, not a design for a perpetual motion machine (which can't work anyway).

score(-1, Offtopic) (1)

robert-porter (309405) | more than 13 years ago | (#356871)

This is a very offtopic post, I'm using a windows box right now and I desprately need to change the clock speed(don't ask why). The unfortunate part is that I have no idea were to get help with windows(I use linux). Can anyone please help me, or direct me to a site where I can get help with this, prefrably help me. I'm using WinME with a P-III.

Thanks Robert.

Re:Home-brew Hydrogen (1)

yagi1 (310823) | more than 13 years ago | (#356872)

Not to appear negative, but do you have any idea what free oxygen is going to do to the metal in your engine, not to mention the MUCH higher heat of combustion? Hydrogen/oxygen is a bad fuel for a reciprocating engine, it will burn holes in your pistons pretty quick. Using straight oxygen in the fuel/air mix will do it even quicker.

Plus there is always the dandy possibility of the fuel mix detonating in the intake manifold. This is why Top Fuel dragsters have chains attached to the supercharger: it keeps the blower out of the grandstand if the fuel blows up in the manifold. 70 foot trajectories are not uncommon. In a normal car it will just blow the living crap out of your manifold and carb, and maybe start a nice fire.

Try an NOS injection system. Nitrous Oxide is the poor man's supercharger. It won't help the mileage, but it WILL help you smoke your tires at the stoplight. Nitrous is the only safe way to introduce more oxygen into the mix without a blower or a turbo.

Water injection is somewhat beneficial as another poster mentions, but tends to rot the cast iron parts rather fiercly. Plus, there is the danger of vapour lock. Water is incompressible! Saw a rod out of a motor that vapor locked on a drag strip once. It was bent in every possible dimension. Extensive repair required, big bucks.

Don't try this at home kids!

Fuel Cells vs Hydrogen Combustion (1)

mzweng (315862) | more than 13 years ago | (#356875)

Several companies, including auto-makers, are currently looking into non-combusting fuel cell systems (as is the US Navy [] ). Fuel cells, imho, are much more practical than hydrogen combustion systems. They don't combust, so they produce no gaseous emissions. Fuel cells exist that run on hydrogen (these are perfectly non-polluting), but there are also ones that can run on de-sulfured diesel fuel and gasoline, as well as natural gas. The non-hydrogen ones use fuel reformers to utilize the hydrogen in the fossil fuels. These are usually used in large-scale applications like power plants, but they are being scaled down.

Non-hydrogen fuel cells provide the emissions benefit of hydrogen combustion systems without the problems in making new 'hydrogen stations'. Of course, you're getting energy from fossil fuels, and they do produce some waste (along with some other disadvantages, too), but they don't combust in a giant ball of flame, like people worry hydrogen systems will.

For more info, try [] and [] .

Re:clean? (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 13 years ago | (#356876)

OK, I'm getting kinda tired of people claiming that electric cars and such simply "move the problem" to a different area, because the energy has to be produced somewhere.

Of course the energy has to be produced somewhere, but which would you rather: Millions of inefficient engines all over the place, with a large concentration in big cities where lots of people live, OR in centralized power plants with efficient, highly government regulated generators? If you think about it, you'll realize that centralizing energy production allows much tighter emissions control. Large power plants can afford to have giant scrubbers that clean their output, and can have the most efficient fuel->energy conversion equipment available. Cars, on the other hand, have many requirements (must be small, start fast, light, etc) that dictate that their engines can't run at the highest possible efficiency.

Centralized energy production also allows the source of energy to be placed far away from cities where people live, reducing pollution in cities. Also, it is easier for centralized power plants to use alternate energy sources (ever seen a hydroelectric or wind-powered car?).

In short, any technology that takes the pollution source out of the car and puts the burden of energy production on centralized electric plants is good for the environment.

[me@localhost]$ prolog
| ?- god.
! Existence error in god/0

Re:clean? (1)

Spy Hunter (317220) | more than 13 years ago | (#356877)

The efficiency isn't the only thing to consider, though. What about the other advantages of centralized power generation, such as:
  • The ability to use alternative energy sources as they become available. It's easy to convert a few power plants to use solar power (or some other technology that may become practical in the future), but changing millions of cars to use solar power is a process that would take decades and tons of $$$.
  • The ability to locate plants anywhere. Get pollution out of the cities where people live!
  • The ability to use sources of power that are impractical for use in cars, such as: geothermal, wind, and hydroelectric power.
These advantages, combined with the fact that centralized power generation can be FAR more efficient than your car, make hydrogen-fueled cars pretty attractive, even if the process of electrolysis isn't that efficient (yet!)

BTW, that Open Mind Speech Recognition thing looks pretty cool! Do you work on that? Will you get an actual working speech recognition engine in the near future? (or even far future?)

[me@localhost]$ prolog
| ?- god.
! Existence error in god/0

Re:Some thoughts (1)

janpod66 (323734) | more than 13 years ago | (#356880)

Electricity is needed to extract oil too, y'know.

Yes, but that's already accounted for in the price of oil.

Re:Doesn't seem like a very good ide for me. (1)

janpod66 (323734) | more than 13 years ago | (#356881)

Making hydrogen by electrolysis using electricity from oil, gas, or coal powered power plants is clearly not the way to go.

Since hydrogen can be stored and transported losslessly, you can generate it by solar energy in regions where solar energy is plentiful, cheap, and easy to use--like deserts. You can also generate it biologically.

Re:Doesn't seem like a very good ide for me. (1)

janpod66 (323734) | more than 13 years ago | (#356882)

The simple economic fact is: You will put more energy into creating the hydrogen fuel than you can ever get out of it

If you are thinking of "burn oil, drive turbine, run generator, electrolyze water capture hydrogen", that's true. But that would be a lousy way to use hydrogen. The whole idea is that we want to get away from burning fossile fuel altogether because it's bad for us in many ways.

A process of "use bacteria to make hydrogen" or "use solar energy to make hydrogen" or "use biomass to make hydrogen" may or may not have a low efficiency, but it doesn't lose any energy at all relative to the alternatives since it captures solar energy that otherwise would have gone unused. And it has a lot of practical advantages, like using up CO2 and being less polluting.

Alcohol-powered miniature fuel cells (1)

evenprime (324363) | more than 13 years ago | (#356883)

These miniature fuel cells [] would be a great source of hydrogen. That might let them avoid some of the difficulties of storing liquid hydrogen in the car. Also, an alcohol-powered fuel cell would allow for a cheap and easy fuel distribution system....just use the methods we use now to transport alcohol.

Re:Hydrogen powered? (1)

Anti_Marxists (344268) | more than 13 years ago | (#356887)

I grew up in the countryside and once shot a 9mm at a can of gas. It didn't do anything. The mentioned car will run off of hydrogen and oxygen. When they are mixed and ignited the will undergo the following reaction: 4H + O2 = 2H20 This results in water but only after a big boooom! If you hit/shot this device you would have to hit both tanks and then create a spark to make it ignite.

Re:Home-brew Hydrogen (1)

Anti_Marxists (344268) | more than 13 years ago | (#356888)

You can make a circuit that could adjust the voltage and/or power very easliy.

Re:Think H2 is dirt cheap. No. Taxes will xfer ove (1)

Anti_Marxists (344268) | more than 13 years ago | (#356889) you know that H20 is water? water already covers 2/3's of our earth... I don't think an extra 2-3 gallson a year will change the earth that much.

Re:Optimism (1)

Vornzog (409419) | more than 13 years ago | (#356892)

My father also works for an oil/gas company, and I guarentee they are not scared by this. A very small portion of their profits come from gas-powered cars.

He does, however, get very excited when the weather gets cold. Winter time heating drives energy use way up, and usually takes gas prices with it.

Personally, I'd be happy to see hydrogen powered cars replace traditional gas powered cars, if only to have the convenience of splitting my own fuel in the garage with the energy from a solar panel. Some thoughts to ponder:

  • A good one time investment in a water tank and solar panel, and I've got a cheap fuel source for my car a long time to come.
  • The gas tax won't go away, it'll just take some other form. The government will still get my money, as long as they use it for road repairs, like they are supposed to.
  • Hydrogen gas does not burn very well unless it is in a rich oxygen environment. I'd be less afraid of my hydrogen car blowing up than I am of my current gas powered one. (Yes, I'm a chem major - I do have some clue what I'm talking about.)
  • That whole 'water is a greenhouse gas too' thing is a bunch of bunk. If you are really worried about it, set you car up with a condenser/collection tank. Then you go from a clean emission car to a zero emission car - can't beat that with a stick. It still won't have a huge impact on smog, though. A lot of that is dust kicked up by the cars or industrial emissions
Nothing will really change.

Oil and gas companies will still be around for a while yet to come. Only when we have a reliable means to heat a house without gas will the oil industry be threatened.

And despite what anyone says about global warming, it still gets mighty cold in winter here where I live. In fact, it seems to be snowing right now...


Who can decide a priori? Nobody.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>