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Hydrogen Vehicle Generates Its Own Fuel

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the baby-steps dept.

Technology 662

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

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It's near performance already (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461376)

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

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

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

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

Now if they wanted to prove that hydrogen fill stations could use large Solar Power arrays to power their electrolyzer, then I'm with them all the way. :-)

Re:It's near performance already (5, Interesting)

officepotato (723274) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461419)

For someone that lives in a tightly-knit community, and only drives a few miles to work and school each day, this seems like it could really be a "free fuel" solution though. Expecially with the switchable conventional gas system for longer trips.

Re:It's near performance already (5, Insightful)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461485)

It seems to me that someone who lives in a tightly knit community and only drives a few miles to work and school should invest in a bicycle.

Much cleaner.

Re:It's near performance already (5, Insightful)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461571)

I live near work and walk most of the time, but there are instances when it is handy to drive because I'm planning on carrying around more than what would be easy to carry.

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

Re:It's near performance already (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461602)

Ride the bus.

Re:It's near performance already (2, Interesting)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461639)

No bus. Small town of 600 people and no transportation like that around. Like I said, there are uses for such a commuter vehicle.

Re:It's near performance already (5, Funny)

justanyone (308934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461591)


The power from bicycles comes from humans eating food and producing poop. The food production takes an unbelievably large amount of energy intensive fossil fuel burning machinery to produce, and quite a bit of value-add from packaging, marketing, etc. (grin).

Likewise, the 'CLEAN ENERGY' aspect of this ignores POOP. Humans that bicycle would use more energy and create more Poop. This would in turn create proportionately more feces, which would have to be processed in an energy intensive sewage treatment plant.

Manufacturing the bicycles, paving for the roads suitably, etc. is very inefficient and Anti-Green (shall we say RED?). The most GREEN thing we can do is stop emitting greenhouse gasses ("farts"), poop ("feces"), and consuming valuable resources by eating things. I recommend all humans should hold their breath until they die and save the planet.

SATIRE ALERT! The above is Satire. Any correspondence between this and a valid opinion would be in the direct opposite direction, ideologically speaking.

Re:It's near performance already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461708)

whoa thanks for the satire alert, I nearly modded you -1 Troll.

[/sarcasm alert]

Re:It's near performance already (4, Informative)

azaris (699901) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461597)

It seems to me that someone who lives in a tightly knit community and only drives a few miles to work and school should invest in a bicycle.

Except if the tightly knit community is located in a geographical area that gets snow for four months of the year, at which point cycling to work/school every day gets to be at best inconvenient if not downright dangerous for a good time of the year.

Re:It's near performance already (1)

Christopher_Wood (583494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461696)

Bicycles can be impractical in rural Canada in winter. It's not just the ice -- it's the snow, and the ice, and the cold, and the long hours of darkness, and the poor visibility.

Re:It's near performance already (5, Interesting)

carlos_benj (140796) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461449)

Our average day here in the Phoenix area is a little better than the average elsewhere. Still not enough to make this practical for now. If this is the same guy I talked to a few years ago, he's building a hydrogen "refinery" and they're looking into all kinds of ways of generating hydrogen for automotive use.

He had a hard time getting his truck to pass emissions at first since the exhaust was so much cleaner than the air around the test station. The machine just said he registered "off the scale". Finally got a waiver from the state.

Re:It's near performance already (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461734)


It seems that the Inventor, despondent over the rejection of his ideas by the major auto manufacturers, was found dead of an apparent suicide.

--end future newscast

True but now chance a few things (2, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461528)

Make the car a not so asshole american version removing at least 2 tons from the weight to be moved. Now put the solar panels on the roof of the house as well as the other equipment saving yet more weight and space plus gaining a lot of area for solar panels.

So what you got? Free fuel when you park the car at your house. Will enough be generated? Well depending on the money and eviromental cost of the setup it might make a difference not just because of less fuel consumed but also in less fuel consumed getting the fuel to you.

A few miles isn't that impressive yet but if you can save a few liters of bought fuel per day it might start to add up.

Performance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461533)

a quote from thier web site:
Conversion technology like any other."

Well, I am for one impressed that this techology is just like any other technology.

Re:It's near performance already (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461563)

Build solar powered hydrogen plants on the house for small hydrogen burning scooters?

Re:It's near performance already (1)

dmoore (2449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461578)

The energy from the solar panels is not the limiting factor.

The energy used by the car for propulsion is the energy already stored in the water. You only need enough solar power to convert the water to hydrogen. Now, it might be true that even at perfect efficiency, you'll never get enough hydrogen from the water using solar power, but that's a different calculation that what you're doing.

No. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461719)

The energy is coming from the sun. All of it is. The truck takes solar enegry uses it to split water into hydrogen and oxygen and then recomines them when needed to power the car. So he's doing a calculation that is overly optimistic by neglecting the amount of energy lost due to the transformation from and to water.

Duh! the answer is obvious (4, Funny)

955301 (209856) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461589)

Just have a group of other cars follow it around with mirrors pointing more light on the solar panels.

Problem solved.

Only needs a solar panel sail ... (1)

quarkscat (697644) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461620)

to get the power required to generate the hydrogen gas. Guaranteed that 10kw would not be enough for the truck to be truly useful. Of course, if you have enough solar "sail", you really only need a steady wind. (Just watch out for low overpasses, hanging branches and wires, etc.) oh, nevermind. Just not practical.

Re:It's near performance already (2, Interesting)

DarkBlackFox (643814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461661)

The article also mentions if the hydrogen tanks are charged from an external source, it can go as far as a conventional vehicle. The big deal here is it's capable of producing it's own hydrogen/fuel, even if only a little bit at a time. If fuel stations were set up to use larger solar arrays than would fit on a car, or even power from the grid, much more fuel could be produced. If I'm not mistaken, the byproduct of hydrogen combustion is water, so assuming a closed system, it would theoretically have the capability/raw material to run for a good long time. So long as there's a source of electricity (solar, battery, generator on bike pedals), there's the potential to refuel itself. Imagine running out of gas, where all you have to do is wait a bit for the sun to do it's thing, or unpack a stationary bike and pedal for a while until you have enough hydrogen to get on your way. Or how about using an alternator to continuously generate power as the vehicle is moving? It still wouldn't be a whole lot of hydrogen generated, but heck, I don't see mobile oil refineries happening any time soon to generate gasoline on the fly.

Conflict of interest? (4, Interesting)

SIGALRM (784769) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461379)

Built for less than $10,000, the project has caught the attention of experts in alternative-fuel research
I find it curious that the commercial fuel/automotive manufacturing sector can't (or maybe won't) make significant, transparent headway in the arena of alternative fuels and vehicles. No conflict of interest, is there? Couldn't be that they already have made advancements, but have kept their R&D under wraps.</sarcasm>

Recycling fuel is anathema to the petroleum industry--BP commercials ("it's a start") aside.

Re:Conflict of interest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461455)

for less than $10,000

How did you predict the Price [myway.com] per barrel of oil in 2010?

Re:Conflict of interest? (5, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461480)

Well, one caveat of private research, you only hear about their successes, never their failures. For instance, for a university, a truck that goes a few miles is quite an accomplishment, but could you imagine the PR disaster if Ford unveiling something like this?
Not saying you are wrong, I agree that private sector research and development has lagged for a long time(well, ever since the term ROI became a buzzword really, everyone is focused on short term) but I don't think it's fair to say they are doing nothing, they just don't publicize as much as universities do.

Re:Conflict of interest? (0)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461548)

How much of the time and supplies to do this where donated? A normal company can not get the most expensive parts for an entire production line just given to them, they have to pay.

Hell, if you use enron style account you can make ANYTHING look good.

Re:Conflict of interest? (3, Insightful)

flabbergast (620919) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461592)

What about FutureTruck? [futuretruck.org] Or the GM HyWire? [howstuffworks.com] How is it a conflict of interest for auto manufacturers to build fuel cell/diesel/hybrid vehicles?
Yes, their project was built for I think this is a step forward but to sit there and claim that there's some kind of conspiracy is laughable. To produce a viable alternative to the combustion engine takes time. It took us over 100 years to get engines that last 100K miles, while at the same time get 30 miles to the gallon, and go 0-60 in around 7 seconds (2004 Honda Accord V6) while at the same time have enough space to seat 5, and put all their stuff in the trunk. And that's what people expect; go around 300 miles before fillups, be able to carry all their stuff and not worry about their engine breaking down on them. That's why we're seeing hybrid technology first so we can build on top of proven technology.

Basic economy might counter your idea (3, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461627)

Blocking alternative fuel depends entirely on the block working. If somehow such a blockade is broken by some third party then the fuel companies will have spend a lot of money on giving someone else a free market.

It is like price fixing, keeping the prices high by making agreements between all the parties only works if all the parties keep to it. This is hard as in it will also make it extremely lucrative to then go under the fixed price and get all the business.

So the fuel companies are researching very hard because to them it is better to be in the future the hydrogen industry at the cost of some profit to their current petroleum industry then risk a future where they will be the petroleam industry when the market has gone hydrogen. Further more there will still be a market for oil, just what do you think plastics come from?

Such a system as this would still have to be built by someone. BP/Shell doesn't care how they make money. Who does care? Goverments, no fuel tax on hydrogen yet. Same with bio-diesel. Or how about the arab nations. Without the dependency of oil exactly who would give a shit anymore?

Full of hot air..er.. hydogen? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461384)

/got nuthin. Tryin for first post...

Brilliant idiots... (2, Informative)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461406)

Solar power woohoo... lets put it on a vehicle that weighs as much as a small house!


Re:Brilliant idiots... (1)

SDMX (668380) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461502)

So what if the weight is exceedingly high? This is just the first step. It's the proof that the potential for power is there. God knows how much the US love miniturization. If it's successful (and more importantly more profitable and less costly to the people who produce them) We should see steady improvements to the field in terms of weight reduction and increased power. This is merely the Model T of H Power.

Re:Brilliant idiots... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461539)

What the bloody hell are you talking about? A Chevy S-10 is NOT a terribly heavy truck.

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

What would you prefer for this application, O wise engineer?

Text of project description page (5, Informative)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461410)

From http://centralphysics.com/discuss.htm [centralphysics.com] before it was slashdotted...


Since the Mid 1990's Central High School in Phoenix has been involved in Alternative Fuel Vehicles. Originally the club was called "The Electric Vehicle Club" and we built and raced an electric car. Over the last 10 years our interests have broadened to many areas of environmental technologies and thus we are now the E-tech Club.

During the 2000-2001 school year, Senior Laci Blackford, president of our club (then the electric vehicle club) proposed that we design and build a hydrogen vehicle. Laci began research and some electrolysis design that year. Over the next 3 years several students were involved, but it was club president Soroush Farzin who, with Sponsor Mr. Waxman, coordinated the progress and turned Laci's idea into reality!

This project, to make a cleaner transportation vehicle, was motivated by the threats to our health and environment due to automobile-related pollutants. The hypothesis was that a vehicle can be powered by water and sunlight. The ultimate goal of this four-year project was to design and build a vehicle powered by hydrogen, which is generated on the vehicle from water and sunlight. The basic components of this include electrolysis cells, solar panels, a hydrogen purifying system and a storage system, all of which are mounted on a vehicle with an internal combustion engine that has been modified to run on hydrogen.

In fall 2001, we began by building a 5-watt solar-hydrogen unit and researching many safety issues associated with this technology. During the 2002-2003 school year, a 4-cell solar-hydrogen producing unit with over 320 watts of power and a purifying system were built.

In school year 2003-2004 an entirely new electrolysis unit was assembled, various components such as float valves were designed, built and tested. A storage system was also designed and tested. Ultimately, a 1998 Chevy S-10 pickup truck was purchase and modified to run on hydrogen. The solar-hydrogen system was mounted on the truck and the first vehicle in the world to run on sunlight and water was working.


Solar-Hydrogen Transportation Vehicle was motivated by threats to our health and environment. It was planned to build a self-sufficient vehicle that was powered by a renewable source of energy, hydrogen. This three-year project proved that a vehicle can be engineered so that it is capable of creating its own fuel by using water and sunlight, which are literally free.

This project proves that it is possible for a vehicle to produce its own fuel from sunlight and water. A Solar-Hydrogen Producing Unit has been made, which is capable of producing, purifying, pressurizing and storing hydrogen. Also, a vehicle has been converted to run on hydrogen, which is capable of doing whatever a regular vehicle can do. This project gathered known technologies and put them together to make a new field of technology.

The members of this project understand that this vehicle is not the ultimate solution to conventional gasoline-powered cars, but if it is shown that a car can run on water and sunlight, improvements may eventually lead to a practical alternative to fossil fuel powered vehicles.

The first air plane flew a few feet before it landed. Today, airplanes fly between continents. This is the example the club has kept in mind throughout the whole project.

Note: Soroush has moved onto studying mechanical engineering at Arizona State University and is interested in high performance engines. Laci is in her final year of her undergraduate program in mechanical engineering at Cooper Union College in New York City. She has continued her research in hydrogen production as well as storage in metal hydrides.

Re:Text of project description page (1)

DrinkDr.Pepper (620053) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461575)

How's the rabbit? I drove it in 97

Re:Text of project description page (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461663)

due to a problem with the rabbit, they decided to build a badger...

not a new concept. (1)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461418)

This concept isn't new by anymeans. The challenge to projects like this lay in the efficiency of solar cells. One would almost think that wind generators, with a combination of dynamic breaking (sticking a generator on the axles to slow the viehicle) woudl generate more hydrogen and do so more efficiently.

Re:not a new concept. (1)

Morgahastu (522162) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461492)

Although the resistance needed for wind generators would provide just as much energy as is lost due to poorer aerodynamics of the vehicle.

Re:not a new concept. (1)

Aheinz1 (532062) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461522)

Correct me if I'm wrong (I very well may be), but wouldn't wind generators drain more power through increased drag than they could create?

Re:not a new concept. (1)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461600)

Yes this is true, however it woudlnt' be to difficult to create a system to feather the props in a inefficient enviroment. However wind from: natrual wind gust, passing viehicles, and slowing the viehicle.

Re:not a new concept. (1)

zardinuk (764644) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461573)

Yeah I've been looking at electric sailboats, the motor attached to the propellers generate electricity when the boat is sailing under wind power. This isn't as viable for cars as it is for boats, but this sort of innovation is going in the right direction. High efficiency fuel cells and polymer solar cells are just over the horizon. "Solar blue" could be the next popular car color, when all the panels on the car generate electricity. I know my car could generate some steam power after sitting in the sun for 30 minutes.

Showing my ignorance (2, Interesting)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461426)

One of the questions I've seen regarding hydrogen is "OK, less pollution - but how are we going to get the hydrogen without using up even more energy?"

I keep wondering why solar can't provide some of this. Build a series of solar panels, collect water (say from a local river), break down the water into H2+O, let the latter out into the air and keep the former for fuel.

Is solar not strong enough/inconsistent enough for such an endeavor? Sure, you'd need a large area with a local water supply (again, a river might be nice), and probably a backup generator for when there wasn't enough sunlight, but overall you'd probably have a very efficient and low-pollution system.

Though perhaps there are engineering issues I'm not aware of. Any energy geeks out there want to help me out?

Re:Showing my ignorance (1)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461567)

The sun produces vast amounts of energy.... and then our stupid atmosphere goes and blocks it or it dissipates before it can be collected.

The energy that makes it down to earth isn't really all that much when all is said and done. On top of that, consider that the conversion process loses even more energy. Sun power, while a nice way of adding to your total available power and thus upping the overall efficiency, can't really be used as a single source of fuel for a high consumption application like a motor vehicle.

Re:Showing my ignorance (2, Informative)

gatzke (2977) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461607)

Solar / Wind / nuclear are effectively clean energy production, no CO2 emmissions and good almost indefinitely.

You really need to look at overall efficiency. If you use solar to make electricity, then use that electricity for hydrolosys making H2, then use that in a fuel cell, is that more or less efficient than just charging a battery. From what I hear, you have less loss, more energy density, and lower cost using batteries right now.

Supposedly, making H2 from H20 and electricty is around 50% efficient. The fuel cell adds another loss, so you get maybe 25% of your electricy you managed to collect to the motor.

There is no clear cut solution, but there are many options and many things one must consider when looking into these problems.

Re:Showing my ignorance (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461633)

slightly off your topic, but i was curious. Has any one done any economical and social research in to what would happen if water were the primary component of energy production? Water it pretty abundant on this planet, but not all places have it. If massive quantities of water are used for generating hydrogen, the places that don't have water will need to import water. Is water too inexpensive to be worthwhile to ship?

Sort of like cement... i remember hearing that parts of Russia (i think) didn't have any cement production plants. Cement being too costly to ship since it was heavy stuff and being so cheap relative to the cost of shipping, wasn't worth shipping. so most of the buildings that normally would use cement were dilapidating quite quickly.

But back on to water. lets say people start shipping water as they do gasoline. Will that cause water prices to rise to an unreasonable point? You don't really want to be tapping into a drinking reservoir for fuel, in my opinion. You would want to use that salty stuff that's not directly drinkable.

Anyway, i'm rambling now... So how much water (salt water included) is there on earth? Enough that problems with supply and demand is a very minor concern if water becomes key in fuel generation?

Re:Showing my ignorance (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461655)

Thin of it this way - we ship petroleum around in ships that float on top of the ocean. I think there'a lot more water than we could possibly put in use as a fuel (also, don't forget that as soon as you burn it/run it through a fuel cell the hydrogen recombines with oxygen and forms water again)

Re:Showing my ignorance as well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461656)

I believe the problem with this setup is storing the H2. Hydrogen molecules are so small that they leak out of normal containers. I don't know if they will actually diffuse through a steel tank, but the fittings to get the stuff in and out will be problematic.

Re:Showing my ignorance (1)

zardinuk (764644) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461712)

The problem is not the car using up more energy in generating hydrogen, its the car using up more MONEY. Once petrolium is so expensive that we look to other alternatives, everything will change. I think OPEC is doing a good job speeding us along.

The thing with hydrogen is if we could figure out how to split H2O and put it back together efficiently, it operates much like a battery. I personally dont know much about it, but it makes sense to me that water would be the best source of energy storage. Water is so useful for just about anything. A spaceship could even make use of heavy water for propulsion. It's better than the toxic substances we use for battery storage right now.

As for where the energy will come from, I think wind, geothermal, hydro, and all those natural resources aught to be more than adequate. I also think there could be some biological alternatives on the horizon, and not growing corn for fuel oil, but something more like shallow pools of sea water that grow a micro-organism that converts the sea water to hydrogen (and other by-products). It would be cheaper than manufacturing solar cells because the solar cells break down where a biological solution would replenish itself.

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461432)

The truck is hydrogen-powered and creates its own fuel from solar energy and water

National Security Risk in Sector 14

"Come along with us sir"
"What have I done?!?!?"
"You're charged with subverting US foreign policy, energy policy and corrupting minors. President Cheney is most displeased."

Re:Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461498)

President Cheney is most displeased.

Dick Cheney has stated many times in public (on TV the other night during the VP debates even) that he has no desire nor ambition to aspire to any higher level of office.

I guess he could change his mind, but it's a matter of public record (many times) that can be used against him :)

Of course, Bill Clinton said something similar, I think, before/when he was elected as governor of Arkansas and it didn't keep him from changing his mind.

Why convert electricity to H (4, Insightful)

drgonzo59 (747139) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461434)

Doesn't it make sense to just run a small electric motor with, wich would make the vehicle weigh much less. I guess this would work only if they plan this to be an add-on modules to the already existing hydrogen cars.

Re:Why convert electricity to H (2, Insightful)

AnonymousNoMore (721510) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461541)

There is no way that the current fleet of vehicles will be discarded in favor of electric cars. Conversion of the conventional fleet to hydrogen power will allow a transition to alternate fuels.

No performance comparison to batteries (5, Informative)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461560)

And it makes you wonder. When you've got a very limited amount of power input, you want to get it to your load (the axle) as efficiently as possible. Is electrolysis and an internal-combustion engine even remotely competitive with batteries for that purpose?

From what I've seen, the answer is no (electrolyzer @ ~70%, engine @ 25%, overall efficiency ~18%; batteries ~70%). It appears that you could get 4x as much range out of a solar-battery system, even more than you can get out of an electrolysis/fuel cell cycle.

Mod parent up read below (4, Informative)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461564)

Going directly from electricity to mechanical energy is much more effcient that using electricity to liberate hydrogen, then using the chemical energy from the hydrogen to creat mechanical energy. in the latter process a significant amount of energy is lost to heat and a very mechanically in-effcient system (52% See link below.) also solar panels are only about 22% effecient as is. So all in all this makes a cool science experiment for the kids but it isn't proactical by any means.

http:/ /www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/ Power/2-how-efficient-are-solar-panels.html

Re:Why convert electricity to H (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461570)

The answer is pretty obvious, you need some way to store that power. This sort of thing would be most useful for a farm truck that went to market once a week. Over the week it can be sitting still, maybe making a few trips around the farm to drop off hay bales or something, and then at the end of the week it can be driven into town to the farmer's market. Hydrogen is the most efficient method of storing that power simply because batteries are heavy and wear out. Plus, you can retrofit almost any existing gasoline engine to run hydrogen by installing an injection system that will support it, and raising the vehicle's compression, possibly through a supercharger.

Re:Why convert electricity to H (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461576)

Doesn't it make sense to just run a small electric motor with, wich would make the vehicle weigh much less.

It wouldn't be a "small" motor...

And the reason to convert electricity to hydrogen is to store power...you charge when your're not driving. Also, this is a flexible fuel vehicle that can run on hydrogen or gasoline.

Re:Why convert electricity to H (2, Interesting)

somethinghollow (530478) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461577)

It would also make more sense to fabricate a lighter vehicle rather than use an existing (heavy) platform. The lighter the vehicle, the less energy it would take to move it. I was thinking, perhaps, a carbon fiber and aluminum body. But, then the 10 grand figure would increase (but it would probably be worth it as far as bragging rights are concerned).

Geeks (-1, Offtopic)

MrFile (194025) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461435)

Geeks just want to have fun...

Please MOD parent down (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461518)

Vision of geeks dancing filled my head. Not something I would wish on anyone.

Waste of energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461461)

This looks like a waste of energy converting
it back and forth.

Hydrogen to Methane Converter? (5, Interesting)

justanyone (308934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461495)

It seems to me the thing we need is a hydrogen to methane (natural gas) converter.

The widely acknowledged problem with hydrogen is the storage density stinks. The tank is too big and too pressurized for safety, size, and weight concerns.

This vehicle, and many other applications, would be well suited to having a hydrogen to methane converter. Many existing fleets use natural gas in their ONLY SLIGHTLY MODIFIED internal combustion engines.

Methane is CH4, a fairly simple molecule; could we come up with a carbon source to use here? Ethane is C2H6, etc.

Likewise, there are Nitrogen compounds to use. Can someone in chemical engineering comment on the possiblities here of creating more energy-dense storage using some kind of catalyst and raw H or H2 hydrogen?

Re:Hydrogen to Methane Converter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461596)

Or hydrides!
What about sodium hydride or sodium borohydride?

Re:Hydrogen to Methane Converter? (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461630)

Hydrogen to methane converter? A cow should do the trick. And with the high bovine concentration in Texas, the oil companies should be able to switch gears pretty quickly.

Re:Hydrogen to Methane Converter? (1)

fdicostanzo (14394) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461652)

or could the carbon be recycled from the emissions before being recombined with the hydrogen in a closed loop?

Re:Hydrogen to Methane Converter? (3, Informative)

kognate (322256) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461653)

This has been studied at length. the Mars direct people even built a machine to do it.

The paper, called:

Mars In-Situ Resource Utilization Based on the Reverse Water Gas Shift: Experiments and Mission Applications

can be found at: http://www.nw.net/mars/

And you're right, the density does suck. Another problem with this truck is wrapped up in the same reason trees don't run down antelopes. The sun is a great power source, but it's just not enough for some applications.

Re:Hydrogen to Methane Converter? (2, Insightful)

gollum123 (810489) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461692)

The problem with methane is that it will still produse CO2 which is a green house gas, and in any new form of fuel we will want to get rid of any green house gas emissions. This is the biggest reason to switch to H2 as it only produces water on burning. The storage density of H2 is bad if u store it as a gas or liquid. Its only when you start storing h2 adsorbed on some materials that the density will be practical enough for applications. Lots of work is going on in this area of adsorbing h2.

nice, but where can you fill it up? (3, Insightful)

lawngnome (573912) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461506)

While I agree this is a nice step in the right direction - until we can get cars that 100% fuel themselves (not likely to happen) or can fill up with hydrogen/whatever at the local corner - I fail to see how these will get mass market appeal.

why not just connect to the power grid? (3, Interesting)

DunbarTheInept (764) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461526)

As to the idea of having a solar-powered 'gas station' for the hydrogen recharging, why bother doing the solar collecting at the gas station? Wouldn't it be a lot more practical to just hook up to the electrical power grid, and then let the power company run a large farm of solar panels. That's pretty much the main reason electricity is such a useful form of energy - you can put the machinery that produces it quite far from the consumer that uses it, and thereby consolodate the energy production into a few places. And if you're concerned about the environment, keep in mind that checking for pollution at a small number of large facilities works better than checking for the sum of all pollution made by each individual's own usage.

Not hydrogen powered (5, Insightful)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461536)

This is not a hydrogen-powered truck - it's a solar-powered truck. The hydrogen is just a way of internally storing and transmitting the energy.

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

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

Re:Not hydrogen powered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461610)

To add onto your pedantry, vehicles using fossil fuels are also solar powered.

Re:Not hydrogen powered (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461675)

When someone says a truck is X-powered, I assume that X is the form of the energy as it enters the truck.

Pedantic maybe, but it does keep things clear.

Re:Not Not hydrogen powered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461673)

The vehicle is hydrogen-powered. The hydrogen is what is burned during the combustion process to make the vehicle drive down the road. The solar panels are used to get the hydrogen out of the water. You could just as easily remove the solar portion of this system and fill the tank from another source that used coal to generate electricity that was then used to crack the hydrogen from the water.

If you want to take it to that length though, lets apply it to what we have now. That makes our cars not gasoline-powered, but dinosaur-powered. After all, the gasoline is just a way of internally storing and transmitting the energy of the dinosaurs. :-)

Cool (3, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461566)

And at night, they can use a lamp connected to the battery to power the solar panels on top of the car.

Sure it would look strange, a car with a lamp mounted on the roof to shine down towards the roof surface, but think of the possibilities, we may never have to stop for gas ever again! :>

Not sustainable? (2, Informative)

Control Group (105494) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461581)

Someone correct my figures if I'm off, but according to my scratch calculations, this isn't theoretically sustainable without major advances in engine efficiency. Given 3.3 kWh/m^2 (which is average solar radiation in Seattle, according to here [noaa.gov]), and assuming your average car is about 5m x 2m (rough numbers, recall), it looks like you've got 49.5 kWh to play with.

Then, given 125,ooo BTU/gallon of gasoline, and around 3400 BTU/kWh (from here [jwiwood.com]), you're looking at 37 kWh/gallon of gasoline. No current gasoline-engine car I know of burns less than 1.3 gallons per hour under any normal driving conditions.

Now, obviously, Seattle is the worst-case location in the continental US, but even in the best location (AZ, at 5.7 kWh/m^2), you've got to have a car which burns less than 2.3 gallons per hour. The more fuel-efficient of modern cars hit this pretty well, but I don't think the average is near that.

Or am I making some gross, embarassing error in my figuring?

who remembers (2, Informative)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461593)

that movie about 10 years ago named "The Water Engine" where some guy in the 30's invented an engine that ran on water and some shyster lawyers screwed him around and stole his invention then he ended up dead.


The electrolysis equipment is the interesting part (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461601)

At least, to me. Why have this stuff installed on the vehicle at all? All you're accomplishing is adding weight to the vehicle and limiting the maximum size of your solar array. Doesn't it make more sense to install the solar panels on the roof of your dwelling and put the electrolysis equipment in the back yard?

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

Re:The electrolysis equipment is the interesting p (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461688)

get in contact with the guy in the article... he's obviously done a little work in this area :)

Why detroit avoids H2 (3, Insightful)

SirLanse (625210) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461604)

Detroit sees large H2 gas stations as a hazard. They see cars with H2 tanks as a hazard. This avoids the gas stations. How about plugging this in at the house to run the electrolyzer? Or set up a solar panel at the house and fill the tank at night? Keep the regular fuel option for long trips, but use H2 around town. Very much like the hybrids use electric.

Re:Why detroit avoids H2 (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461645)

Detroit auto industry sees competition to gasoline engines a hazard. Film at eleven.

Won't somebody please think of the terrorists?!!! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461702)

Yeah, because we all know that stockpiling large amounts of gasoline is so much safer! Just imagine the reaction if the terrerists start stealing tanker trucks and blowing up kindergartens. NOTHING !

instead of a land-based vehicle (2, Interesting)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461611)

I'd put this system on a blimp, to power the rotors.

Given the right design, a blimp has a very large surface to put solar panels on, and it can fly above the clouds for optimal sun exposure.

Now, cue the Hindenberg jokes...

Re:instead of a land-based vehicle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461718)

complete with a condenser to avoid the need to refuel. i mean, with the surface area of a blimp covered in solar panels, you should have generous amounts of electricity to work with. i mean, it's not like there's any shortage of water vapor in the atmosphere in most places.

Hate to be a spoiler but...... (-1, Offtopic)

crumbz (41803) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461615)

From this week's New Yorker:

http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?041011fa_ fa ct

Very limited use (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461617)

In practice you don't want to carry an electrolysis system around with you, it produces very little hydrogen. I think if there was a need, huge electrolysis systems could be built centrally and hydrogen then could be distributed by gas pipes.

Horsepower? (1)

cexshun (770970) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461626)

But what kind of horsepower is the truck putting out? You can make a car run 100% pollution free using water if you want. If it takes me more then 8 seconds to get to 60mph, I don't want it. I'll stay dependant on my fossil fuels, thank you.

Although, this is using a modified IC engine. So is this putting out HP similar to the stock engine?

see what the sun does to us in .az.us? (1)

Triumph The Insult C (586706) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461636)

one day, some of our (i live in az) fellow citizens are bitching about people snooping their wireless access points, the next day we're out inventing a hydrogen vehicle

This is a solar powered car with a H2 battery (1)

caldaan (583572) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461637)

The energy it takes to seperate water is the same energy released when water is combined. Except a combustion engine is a lot less efficient as it doesn't create pure mechanical energy, but heat and light as well. While this is cool, and maybe the H2 tank is capable of storing more energy than a battery. Eventually it would be more efficient to use a batter combined with an electric motor.

My car is already solar powered. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461665)

My car uses stored solar energy. But instead of using the solar energy that falls on it now, it uses solar energy that shined millions of year ago, and captured on efficient solar panels called "leaves" on "plants". Those "plants" then died and released their stored energy into the ground.

My car simply takes that stored energy from the ground and uses that very densely stored energy in its gas tank.

Stored solar energy at its finest!

Great, but the problem now is storing energy. (3, Interesting)

Eminence (225397) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461669)

This project shows clearly, that right now the main problem is storing the energy. After all, making hydrogen with electricity from solar panels to then turn an internal combustion engine with it has to be inefficient as compared to running directly on electricity. However, you can't squeeze that amount of energy into an accumulator which would be the size of a typical (even hydrogen) fuel tank. So as long as we won't be able to make such accumulators running purely on solar energy would be hard to achieve for a normal-sized family vehicle.

But hey, there are easier ways to make cars less polluting and everyone less dependent on oil! Take alcohol for example, you can produce it cheaply, even in your own backyard from some potatoes or grain, it is way easier and safer to handle than hydrogen and typical car engine can be easily modified to run on it. Same applies to vegetable oils and diesel engine (which was originally designed for vegetable oil).

A semi-Sealed System? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461674)

So, say you have something the size of a ford explorer, with a good bit of the space reserved for a semi-Sealed system.

Add water, the solar power splits it to H and O... when the engine runs, the water is recycled back into a storage tank.

You could use the same water over and over again, only adding a little bit of water to compensate for evaporation loss...

Not having to ever stop at a gas station again, and only feeding it water would be great!

Hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461715)

Hopefully they've got some electric generators hooked up to the wheels. Since they're going to be turning, you might as well use them to get a little juice for the electrolysis and not be solely dependent on the solar cells.

Big Deal (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10461722)

Al Gore invented his own solar powered hydrogen car on a lunch hour,
when he was really busy inventing the internet.

Hydrogen is a waste of time... (1, Troll)

Banner (17158) | more than 9 years ago | (#10461725)

Hydrogen will never be able to hold the power that petrochemicals (gas, diesel) are able to hold. And creating hydrogen costs energy and everytime you change the state of your energy (electricty to hydrogen, hydrogen to electricity, etc), you lose a lot (thermodynamics).

What we need are more efficent ways of burning our petrochemicals to get the most efficient energy out of them, as well as releasing the lowest amounts of pollutants while doing so. Or come up with an alternative source that has even more energy in it.

All of these hydrogen cars are like taking a step back to steam engines. It didn't work then, it isn't going to work now. We need steps forward, not backwards. If you are going to replace the internal combustion engine, you have to take a magnitude step forward, especially as we're not going to be running out of oil in anybody here's lifetime.

If yuo want the masses to adopt it, it has to be better. If you want people to manugacture it, the masses have to adopt it. These are like the battery cars, cute, looks good on the surface, but when you get down to brass tacks, a '64 buick still beats it.
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