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Hydrogen Fuel Cells Hit the Road

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the tough-finding-a-fueling-station dept.

Science 530

caffeined writes "Well, it looks like Honda is doing a real test of their fuel-cell car. A family in California is renting the car for $500/mo. Honda is charging them so that they take it seriously - an executive explained that if it were free they might not get the kind of feedback they want. If someone is paying for something and they're not happy - then you're going to hear about it. This is apparently the first fuel-cell car on the road anywhere in the world, according to Honda."

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Nice (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933742)


They need to try this in more than warm, sunny southern California. My sister has a Prius and loves it, though the battery sometimes doesn't respond well to being parked outside overnight in sub-zero. You also have to wonder what cumulative effect road salt ions will play. Seems the ions in the sea air in California like my 12v battery a lot, I do wonder how hybrids are doing with their higher voltage.

Still, it's promising. I wished they gave us a little tip off on how the trial is going rather than all the peripheral issues, but I suppose Honda wants to keep as much of that confidential as possible.

Ford had them in Vancouver first. (4, Informative)

CSIP (31272) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933792)

There have been a few fuel cell cars on the road in Vancouver, BC [theautochannel.com] for a few months already.

BC Transit (3, Informative)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933886)

There have been fuel-cell busses running in Vancouver for a few years, too.

Must have something to do with Ballard...

Re:Nice (3, Informative)

Gravedigger3 (888675) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933802)

California isn't just a small strip of sunny beach on the west coast. I live in the valley and it is raining outside right now. It gets well below freezing in the winter and I often have to scrape the ice off of my windshield before work. It can get even worse if you head up into the Sierra Nevadas.

Re:Nice (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933836)

California isn't just a small strip of sunny beach on the west coast.

Unfortunately that's what our tourist brochures imply. Otherwise our real estate market might not be quite so insane.

Re:Nice (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934077)

It gets well below freezing in the winter and I often have to scrape the ice off of my windshield before work.

Hah! Boo hoo! Below freezing and (well) below zero are two very different things. In the winter I am able to scrape the ice and snow off my windsheild only after I've let it run for a good 20 minutes to "soften" things up. And I'm no where near the coldest areas of North America!

  - Wisconsin Loves You

Re:Nice (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933808)

They need to try this in more than warm, sunny southern California. My sister has a Prius and loves it, though the battery sometimes doesn't respond well to being parked outside overnight in sub-zero.

That reminds me of a possibly apocryphal story I heard about some of the older (as in 1960s-era) Volkswagen cars. Apparently they were designed for Germany's climate, and in the considerably warmer American Southwest, some parts would expand at different rates and just not fit together.

Re:Nice (4, Informative)

The_Rook (136658) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934066)

more to the point, the air cooled volkswagon beetle engine was designed for cooler european climates. when people began driving them across the hot dry deserts of north america, the flammable bits on the engines (rubber, grime, etc.) would catch fire.

Re:Nice (2, Funny)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933831)

No problem with road salt here, it's too cold. But I wonder how the thing's batteries will stand up to -40.

Re:Nice (5, Funny)

Slicebo (221580) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933887)

Excellent point. At lower temperatures that hydrogen gas might get all liquid and slushy and get stuck in the pipes.

Sigh.

Re:Nice (4, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933951)

No kidding. I always hate it when the tempertures outside get below -200 C [harvard.edu] . Having to swim through the atmosphere [www.ucc.ie] makes me terribly cold by the time I get to work.

Re:Nice (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934119)

If it gets really cold out you'd have to be concerned about your hydrogen condensing relatively quickly into a set of speakers, and you don't want to cram those through your car engine.

Low temp operation (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933960)

I think they've already dealt with that. [autoweek.com]

Re:Nice (2, Insightful)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934025)

Shhhhhh! you're giving away the dirty little secret!

These things don't work worth a [beep] in Minnesota, or Winnipeg, or anywhere else cold.

Fortunately with oil and natural gas prices, everyone living where there is snow will soon have to declare bankrupcy and move south. Problem solved :)

They picked this up from the software industry (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933762)

Forcing users to pay to beta test.

Re:They picked this up from the software industry (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934007)

I know it must work. I get paid for working and I don't take it seriously. My employer has to pay for me to work (which I don't) and they seem to take it very seriously.

Don't hold your breath (3, Interesting)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933763)

According to the article, most manufacturers are still up in the air about this technology. Only Ford is bullish, and believe they will be in the open market by 2010. If they can avoid bankruptcy.

It would certainly be nice, but I do think 2010 is a bit soon.

Re:Don't hold your breath (1)

the darn (624240) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933821)

Got your US automakers confused there: TFA says GM, not Ford.

Re:Don't hold your breath (1)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933884)

Doh! Ok, post-lunch sleepiness has got me in a public forum. You are right, it does say GM.

Re:Don't hold your breath (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933847)

Only Ford is bullish, and believe they will be in the open market by 2010. If they can avoid bankruptcy.

That's GM, not Ford. Ford has been very quiet on the whole thing, but is still working on the technology.

Re:Don't hold your breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933848)

I think 2010 is about 30 years too late.

Re:Don't hold your breath (2, Interesting)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933985)

That it may be, but that doesn't mean they'll have it by 2010. I'd be surprised to see them in the dealer lots by 2015. 2020 might even be wishful thinking.

There's too much money to be made in Oil, and no matter what anyone says, the profit potential for Hydrogen - or any alternative fuel type for that matter - is just too big an unknown for any company focused on the bottom line to be bothered. The only exceptions are essentially glorified skunkworks projects or "We're doing that too" soundbyte generators.

GM is basically fighting bankruptcy, but they claim to be shooting for 2010? That's a soundbyte. Everyone who cares about the environment is supposed to hear this and declare undying devotion to their noble goals, and of course, support GM by buying only GM until these wonderful new Panaceas start rolling off the lots.

Don't get me wrong, I'd seriously LOVE to be proven wrong, but I don't see the broader picture centering on alternative fuel sources. That's just distraction from drilling the Arctic and the war in Iraq. It's a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, and GM is only trying to use it to survive the next decade.

Re:Don't hold your breath (2, Funny)

mblase (200735) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933967)

According to the article, most manufacturers are still up in the air about this technology.

That's only because air is mostly made up of nitrogen, so hydrogen is naturally lighter. HA!

Okay, look, someone had to say it.

Speaking of air... (2, Interesting)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934073)

How come no one's trying to develop an air car? That is, you store the energy in compressed air. You could charge it with any kind of electricity, and no pollution would be emitted from the car while driving. Google "air car". The efficiency (ratio of output mechanical energy to stored energy) would be much higher, and because you just plug it in to recharge, the energy is much cheaper. All technology is already available except you may need a stronger tank for bigger loads.

Re:Don't hold your breath (0, Offtopic)

ifwm (687373) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934103)

Ah mods!

How can something be

"(Score:2, Informative)"

when THE INFORMATION IS WRONG!

There should be some way to revoke that mod's points permanently.

Awesome! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933764)

No all we need is a pipeline to the sun to extract that oh so abundant hydrogen.
Maybe we can use a nanotube space elevator to help with that.

Granted (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934034)

Seeing as how we have solar panels, wind power, and hydro power as pipelines to the sun. Shoots, we even have tidal power( which is actually lunar), and nuclear (which is big bang power).

As to the hydrogen itself, we are loaded with it.

People will pay for anything... (-1, Troll)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933768)

Charge them $500 a month to have the car blow up upon impact and kill the whole family. Sheesh.

I guess I can kinda see the rationale behind charging them, obviously you'd want some honest opinions, but perhaps a better way would've been to start a reality show based on it. You know, find the most wrong with this car and you can win $1,000,000!

*sigh* I hate tv tho.

Re:People will pay for anything... (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933806)

Charge them $500 a month to have the car blow up upon impact and kill the whole family. Sheesh.

You're right, we should stick to powering our cars with a nice, non-volatile, non-explosive substance like gasoline.

Re:People will pay for anything... (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934089)

You're right, we should stick to powering our cars with a nice, non-volatile, non-explosive substance like gasoline.

Gasoline has plenty of energy, but it's pretty stable stuff. There are plenty of misconceptions brought about by overzealous safety police (like all the "no smoking within 50 ft" rules), stupid movies and outright lies... remember when NBC put the explosives on the GM trucks to show how their side tanks would explode?

Gasoline burns pretty well but short of dropping a lit cigarette in it, it's pretty safe. And you can put a match out in diesel fuel.

Look at it this way: if you're going to rely on *any* internal power source, comparable to gasoline, it's going to have about as much energy as gasoline.

Re:People will pay for anything... (2, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933889)

Charge them $500 a month to have the car blow up upon impact and kill the whole family.

Now there's a line of hyperbole if I've ever heard it. I imagine that they've done crash tests on this car to determine the exact dangers of this happening. At the very least, I've seen the early crash tests done to decide if hydrogen was feasible or not. The result of the tests was that *if* the hydrogen were to ignite, its direction (up) would be safe as long as the passengers weren't sitting on it. It actually ended up being *safer* than gasoline, as the gasoline cars continued burning long past the initial ignition.

Re:People will pay for anything... (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934040)

It was a joke. Obviously they're at the point where the car is safe enough to be TEST drove by living humans. So I should hope they're past the point where the car blows up upon impact. But I found it ironic that someone might pay to be a guinea pig and find out in a real-world situation.

Not everything can be tested in a laboratory or computer model...

Re:People will pay for anything... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934138)

It was a joke.

Ah. If there's anything I've learned about posting online, it's that you've gotta be obvious with those tipoffs, or it doesn't quite come through the way you mean it. :-)

But I found it ironic that someone might pay to be a guinea pig and find out in a real-world situation.

I think it's kind of a neat idea myself. How many times do car manufacturers release beta quality vehicles for drivers to shake out for them? (e.g. Oldsmobile is GM's beta program.) This way Honda will get the feedback it needs sooner, and without actually deploying a product. Plus they get free publicity for the unusal nature of the experiment. :-)

Re:People will pay for anything... (5, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933958)

Charge them $500 a month to have the car blow up upon impact and kill the whole family.

I think you have your car manufacturers mixed up.

This is Honda, not Ford [fordpinto.com]

Re:People will pay for anything... (1)

Gadgetfreak (97865) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934020)

I don't know how unsafe the car is, but I do question the legality of it. State gov'ts, particularly California, have stringent requirements for car safety. How does this pass the testing and registration requirements in order for it to be driven on the street? I know a non-production vehicle doesn't need to conform to the same standards, but it still can't pose a hazard to others. I'm not saying it's a rolling bomb, but does the state or the general public have any reassurance that this thing can survive a crash? The guy driving it seems to place his faith solely in the company itself without asking for any proof. I'd be quite ticked if my state allowed standard safety rules to be circumvented for the sake of a company test trial, particularly when it could affect people who aren't in the car.

Re:People will pay for anything... (1)

jerde (23294) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934063)

You do know that hydrogen is SAFER than gasoline in terms of ruptured tanks and explosions and fires, right?

Let's see... better to have the fuel stick around in puddles under your crashed vehicle, or disperse quickly into the atmosphere leaving no danger at all behind? Hmm.

  - Peter

Re:People will pay for anything... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934083)

Er,

For hydrogen to explode, it needs oxygen.

If the tank ruptures, the gas as light as it is would expand throughout the air very very quickly.

This isn't like lighting a balloon filled with hydrogen with a candle and watching the brief poof of flame.

This is like having a candle five feet away from a balloon filled with hydrogen and popping the balloon. That is, if there is a fire involved in the collission.

How often do collisions result in fire? I did a little bit of research into this, but the best I could find was that "crashes with fires are relatively rare" (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/regrev/evalua te/807675.html [dot.gov] ).

To explore this a little further:

What causes a fire in an automotive accident? Faulty gas tanks and fuel lines. This results in leakage. The vapors (which are MUCH heavier than hydrogen) then get sparked by something. This ignites the vapors, leading back to the fuel tank which then catches fire. I've witnessed car fires before (a few months ago, a car in the parking lot of my apartment complex caught fire). The fire burned for 10 minutes before fire response arrived. In that time, the fire spread from one car to the two cars on either side. It took fire response about five minutes to put the fires out. During this 15 minute time period, the materials that were burning included the interior of the car, under the hood, and the tires. The only violent explosions that occurred were the tires exploding.

I'm theorizing the reason the gas tanks didn't ignite is that gasoline requires a very oxygen rich environment. Gasoline requires a 1.4% - 7.6% concentration in air for it to be explosive. Any less than this and it will merely ignite; any more than this and there isn't enough oxygen for it to explode. It will simply ignite. The pre-existing fire probably used up most of the oxygen near the fuel lines. There was probably a phenomenon similar to what you see with an oil well - a jet of flame from the fuel line. Hollywood car explosions just don't happen.

Now, on to hydrogen.

Hydrogen, being much lighter than air (as opposed to natural gas or gasoline vapors), dissipates very quickly in air. At concentrations of less than 10%, it would require the same ammount of energy to ignite as would natural gas. The main point here, is that hydrogen dissipates so quickly that the concentration would very quickly reach less than 4% (the lower limit of explosivity). The likelyhood of explosions is much less likely than with even gasoline because of this.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells do not use any sparking or arcing componants. Similarly, the engine is a simple electronic engine. If something shorted, it could spark - but there is no combustion inherent in a fuel cell car. This limits the chances of even igniting the hydrogen in the case of a leak.

Fuel cells are also equipped with automatic shutoffs in case a leak is detected. This can't help if the storage tank itself is ruptured, but that would be difficult (Normal air tanks for scuba divers are very difficult to rupture, and tanks used to transport flamable liquid are even more difficult to rupture).

The myth of the exploding hydrogen car can be linked to two things: the hindenberg and the hydrogen bomb.

The hindenberg burned, rather than exploded. The color of the flame was wrong for hydrogen to be the propellant. It's very likely that it was the flamable fabric covering the zeppelin that ignited, not a leaking hydrogen tank.

A hydrogen bomb requires special isotopes of H2, and very high temperatures. Neither of which would be found in a car fire or a hydrogen fuel cell car.

For more on hydrogen fuel cell safety: http://sanewsletters.com/FCIR/fcirfctpart1.pdf [sanewsletters.com]

In the meantime, stop propogating myth and FUD.

Tired of that old chestnut (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934121)

Hydrogen is no worse than gasoline - you have to store potential energy somehow, you know. Everyone thinks hydrogen is a lousy fuel because of the Hindenburg explosion. And hydrogen wasn't the only reason the Hindenburg exploded. It was designed poorly in such a way that it accumulated static charge, and they painted the surface with a chemical substance that is almost the same thing as thermite. See for yourself [wikipedia.org] .

Theifs.... (5, Funny)

GoodOmens (904827) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933775)

I wonder who will be the first to car jack this million dollar test car and take it to Mexico.

Re:Theifs.... (5, Funny)

mblase (200735) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933997)

I wonder who will be the first to car jack this million dollar test car and take it to Mexico.

Unless they can find another hydrogen refueling station somewhere on the way across the border, probably no one.

Re:Theifs.... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934030)

My money is on Rick Wagoner or William Ford Jr.

Effects of Hydrogen? (4, Funny)

jgbishop (861610) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933779)

What happens if a hydrogen-powered car is in an accident? Can the fuel cell 'rupture' and explode, ala The Hindenburg? If it can, then ...

Oh the humanity!

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933815)

I imagine the hydrogen tank is pretty much the same as the tanks used on LPG-converted vehicles.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (4, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933882)

If the fuel tank were to rupture and explode, it would actually be less dangerous than your current gas tank rupturing and exploding. Plus, the tanks are designed not only to resist puncturing, but to keep hydrogen gas from entering the passenger compartment in the event of a rupture. Numerous real-world tests have been conducted that show these hydrogen cars will perform at least as well as gasoline cars in a high-speed collision.

The Hindenburg went up so fast because the canvas was treated with substances that also happen to be used in rocket fuel. Even so, the passenger compartment itself was unharmed and the passengers survived.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934014)

"Even so, the passenger compartment itself was unharmed and the passengers survived."

Interesting... I'm sure the families of the 13 passengers, 22 crew and 1 member of the ground crew believed to be dead all this time will be relieved to hear that news.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934062)

True, but the passengers that actually rode the compartment all the way down to the ground survived unharmed. The ones that died were the ones that leapt to the ground. Therefore, it wasn't so much the hydrogen that caused their deaths, but rather their own panic coupled with gravity.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

k31bang (672440) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934135)

Plus, the tanks are designed not only to resist puncturing, but to keep hydrogen gas from entering the passenger compartment in the event of a rupture.

Just a small question. How well do the tanks resist puncturing via bullet? You never know when that A-hole road rager is going to go John Woo on you.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (5, Informative)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933885)

Nothing will explode a la Hindenburg unless it's painted with rocket fuel a la Hindenburg. Pure hydrogen doesn't explode very well (just like gasoline) because you have to get enough oxygen to it fast enough. Hindenburg had the benefit of being painted with a nice solid rocket oxidizer that releases oxygen when it gets hot.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

beisbol (173766) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933896)

I watched some discovery channel so some time ago, and for a puncture at least, the hyrdogen powered car may be safer. The difference is that when a gasoline tank ruptures, the gas spills out onto the ground and remains under the car and soaked on the car itself, so when it ignites, very bad. But when the hydro tank was puncutured, a flame shot straight up into the air because it's lighter than air. This didn't include the possibility, however, of a huge rupture in the tank that ignites all of the stored hyrdogen, however, which it seems would be very, very bad.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934055)

This didn't include the possibility, however, of a huge rupture in the tank that ignites all of the stored hyrdogen, however, which it seems would be very, very bad.

If there was a huge rupture of the tank the hydrogen would simply escape as one giant ball of gas rather than a continuous stream of gas if there was a leak.

However, this does not mean that the damage would be worse than a conventional fuel tank since the hydrogen would burn all at once rather than in a gasoline situation where the fuel would burn over a long period.

As a test, you can do the trick where you take your hand and lay it on top of your thigh and cup your hand so it forms a small cavity between your hand and your thigh. Go get a butane lighter and hold down the tab which releases the butane and place that end under your hand. Let the lighter there, spewing butane into the cavity, for several seconds and then, quickly, move your hand out of the way and simultaneously strike the lighter to ignite the gas which has collected.

If you do the trick correctly you should see, for a brief moment, a nice ball of fire as the gas burns. However, it doesn't last long because while it is being burned it is also expanding and dissipates to the point where it can't be ignited.

The same thing would happen in your scenario. The gas would expand quickly thus limiting the amount of damage that might occur.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933935)

First of all, the hydrogen needs the oxygen in order to burn. They are stored at opposite ends of the vehicle (according to one of the diagrams). Also ... what about a backup nitrogen tank? Much like when an airbag is deployed upon an accident, they could mix nitrogen into both the oxygen and hydrogen tank, thus reducing the chance of an intense explosion.

Why oh why do posters... (1)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933976)

...on Slashdot still believe in that fairy tale of the dangers of Hydrogen?

    Hasn't there been something like a dozen or stories in the past 5 years about the problems that faced the Hindenburg, the burning of Hydrogen, the Underwriter's Laboratories testing of both a Gasoline and Hydrogen fueled automobile, just to name a few.

    Get with it people, this is afterall a news site that claims "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters."

    This is the kind of crap that we "Nerds" are supposed to know.

Re:Why oh why do posters... (1)

LilGuy (150110) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934116)

Well we'll just see how smart you are when your car blows up in your FACE! IN YOUR FACE!!! All because you were too smart to discuss the possible dangers.

Waaaay too much coffee today.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (1)

Retric (704075) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933996)

The Hindenburg did not explode so no. Now could the tank rupture and burn well yes, but so can a gas tank. However due to how gas tanks are constructed and where they are located it's not an use compared to say being in the car as it hit's a brick wall at 75MPH or being in the car as someone is shooting at the tank. As to worrying about a ruptured hydrogen tank if you stop and think about it hydrogen is light so unlike a gas tank you not going to end up with a pool of the stuff if there is a hole in the tank, it's going to go up and dissipate vary quickly. (Think of a vary large balloon and how fast that would leave the area.)

PS: A 30/70 mix of air and hydrogen could explode, but so would a similar mix of gas and air, however the point is you build the thing so it's never going to have a 30/70 mix of hydrogen and air. (Hydrogen is most explosive at a 2hydrogen to 1 oxygen ratio, but air is only 21% oxygen so it's closer to 30% hydrogen / 70 air mix.) You can't get a 100% hydrogen tank to explode unless it's at high pressure or you start mixing in a lot of air.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934088)

You can't get a 100% hydrogen tank to explode unless it's at high pressure
The presure in hydrogen tanks is usually around 300-500 Bars. I think that's pretty high, bu all is relative ofcourse. Dispite this huge pressure, hydrogen tanks are still safer than ordinary fuel tanks. Manufacturers are scared as hell 'the public' might get the idea these things are unsafe, so they make extra sure these tanks are at least as safe as ordinary tanks.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (2, Interesting)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934031)

Well the fun thing is that car companies are suppose to provide safety information to fire dept about these new cars. All the companies have made pledges to train and provide information to fire dept across the country of how to properly handle the new hybrid cars. (info is available on their websites, but they also are offering training classes) Its not so much the crash and burn that is the risk, but the crash and you have someone trapped in side. Cutting appart a car with such high voltage running through it is dangerous to the victim and the rescuer. Being on a fire dept, myself I am still waiting to get the training the car companies have promised.

Re:Effects of Hydrogen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934109)

Actually the Hindenburg disaster was caused by a static charge igniting the powdered aluminium coating on the balloon.

Sign me up! (0, Offtopic)

Safe Sex Goddess (910415) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933791)

I've been trying to find an alternative fuel car that matches my lifestyle.

I've had several people, including my father and brothers, who are supposed to be trying to find me an older $5,000 diesel convertible so that I can have it modified to run on biodiesel.

I don't think they are taking me seriously though, because it's been two years and they've still not found me a car to match my specifications!

Re:Sign me up! (5, Interesting)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933832)

You should not have to modify a reasonably modern diesel engine to run biodiesel. Volkswagon's TDI engine can run straight biodiesel (or a blend of bio and petro, which is MUCH more commonly available) straight from the factory. If they put that engine in a Cabrio from the mid to late 90s, it should burn biodiesel just fine with no mods. The hard part is finding the reasonably-priced VW TDI...

Re:Sign me up! (2, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933880)

I've found that the best engines for running on biodiesel are the Peugeot XUD engines. You get them in some Volvos, Renaults, Citroëns, Dacia and of course Peugeots. Ideally you want one with a Bosch fuel pump - the Lucas ones don't last nearly as long, for some reason. Failing that, find a diesel VW Golf or Passat.

Basically you are looking for any late 80s-to-mid-90s European diesel, preferably with the Bosch pump.

Although of course. (1)

ambrosen (176977) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933924)

There is a big sticker under the bonnet of my Citroën Xantia saying it's expressly forbidden to use it in the US or Canada, so they may be out of luck finding one.

Re:Although of course. (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933983)

There are XMs and CXes out there, although I know there are only around 20 XMs and perhaps 100 or so CXes.

Basically, though, the Americans can't get oleopneumatic Cits. Sucks to be them, doesn't it? What a joy they are to drive, especially after lardy unstable Yank tanks.

Re:Sign me up! (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933909)

matches my lifestyle

older $5,000 diesel convertible

Good luck. The type of people who bought diesels in the past didn't buy convertibles.

Re:Sign me up! (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933936)

A sibling of mine had a convertible diesel VW Rabbit. Not sure if that's the lifestyle the OP is looking for, though.

Re:Sign me up! (1)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933969)

Yeah, Biodiesel sure looks good on paper (I live in Santa Cruz, CA, a hot-bed of biodiesel activism)--you can burn recycled fast-food deep-fryer oil, the exhaust smells like french fries (less sulfur).

One problem: I got behind a biodiesel-burning Benz the other day. Thought to myself: Hmmm...smells like french fries. Then my eyes and nose started burning.

Less sulfur is good, but it's still diesel--still lots of carbon, CO2, etc. Some folks attribute increases in childhood asthma to all the diesel we burn.

So, biodiesel=good--a step in the right direction--but, we still need to structure our lives and society so that we drive less (way less) and rely less on burning feul (however sexy).

Re:Sign me up! (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934068)

You don't have to do any modification to run on diodeisel. Now if you want to run on straight used vegatable you need two tanks, one plain deisel (or biodeisel) to get the engine started and warmed up and regular vegtable oil for once the car is fully warmed up and something to switch between the two.

You Have to Convert to Use Biodiesel???? (1)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934141)

My experience with biodiesel has been limited to tractors and farm equipment, so take what I have to say with that mind. We never once modified the engines to use biodiesel. We just filled up the tank with a mixture of peanut oil, canola oil or what ever happened to be a cheap bulk purchase and ethanol. Turn the key and voila! You now have a biodiesel vehicle. Mind you, the ethanol was there mostly to make it easier to start, but you can run on pure vegetable oil with some modifications. That said we used an 80/20 mix of oil to ethanol and ran it. Perhaps your car would run on the same or similar formulation?

2 cents,

Queen B

don't know about the first (1)

Nerdy (314261) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933809)

I don't know about them being the first. Coming back from San Francisco to Sacramento a few weeks ago, I passed two Mercedes - looked european, very compact cars with fuel cell in big letters painted on the side.

Re:don't know about the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933865)

It might be the first driven by a family outside the company...but i live in dearborn michigan and there is a hydrogen fuel cell ford focus driving around town...but it's got company license plates...

Re:don't know about the first (1)

Kasracer (865931) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933874)

That's a few weeks ago. They said the family has been testing since July so they might be right about the first.

Re:don't know about the first (1)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934082)

its all word games, there are other fuel cell cars out there, some of the companies such as mercedes, GM have sent cars out to small sectors for trials. Its the first car being leased to the public. All about how to put the right spin on it.

Its a bit pricy (3, Funny)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933813)

From TFA
Spallino was at the wheel of his silver Honda FCX, a car worth about $1 million that looks like a cross between a compact - say, a Volkswagen Golf - and a cinder block.
For that sort of cash I'd like to get more that than a Volksie Golf, at least a Passat.

Photo links via Google... (4, Informative)

JLavezzo (161308) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933863)

Fishing for ... complaints? (5, Funny)

adrenaline_junky (243428) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933898)

If someone is paying for something and they're not happy - then you're going to hear about it.

So if you want honest feedback on your sexual prowess from your girlfriend then you should charge a fee, eh? Hmmm. I am intrigued by this concept and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Fishing for ... complaints? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934049)

From now on I'm gonna ask all girls I meet to pay me money for sex, and if they say "yeah right" I'll just tell them I read it on slashdot and they'll be all over me. Maybe all the years of slashdot reading is finally paying off

Re:Fishing for ... complaints? (5, Funny)

karnal (22275) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934127)

All you have to do is marry said girlfriend. Then you'll hear all about your "shortcomings." Not just in the sack, mind you.

Re:Fishing for ... complaints? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934134)

Could you remind me where that quote is from? I've been trying to remember for a while now.

OT: 3 column layout (1)

android79 (213151) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933933)

Off topic, but for those of you who RTFA, did you notice the three column layout? It's done with javascript so I'm assuming it's dynamic and they can apply it to any text making the posting of any article in three column format possible.

Certainly interesting to me as getting a columned layout with just HTML/CSS is impossible (AFAIK). Worth checking into I'd think.

Re:OT: 3 column layout (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934035)

some html site did a breakdown of it, as far as i remember, it calculates where to seperate columns by measuring the height of the text etc in javascript.

Go google.

Got Rice? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933948)

So when can I rice it up with all my performance stickers?!?!

That honda feeling (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933957)

Have you got it?

Great news! (1, Funny)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933966)

I will be one of the first to buy a hydrogen powered vehicle, its a great idea whose time has come!

No more wars, pollution and death for OIL!

Re:Great news! (1)

Jsprat23 (148634) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934015)

No more wars, pollution and death for OIL!

Never mind that at the moment our best source of hydrogen is from hydrocarbons i.e. oil.

Re:Great news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934128)

Actually the best source of hydrogen is natural gas. "Best" in this case meaning most cost effective. Natural gas mixed with steam at around 1000C gives you hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide.

Re:Great news! (1)

munehiro (63206) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934140)

apart from the consideration made by the sibling post, do you really think that all of these are not war-inducing problems?

1) leaving all the OPEC countries with no request for their main product will reduce the chances of a war, or rather increase the general poverty in those countries creating more problems?

2) do you think that oil is only used for vehicles? most of it, yes. but what about plastic, drugs, reactants? all of these produce pollution, and in case of low quantities of oil, it will trigger war (are we really able to live without plastic today?)

3) most of the pollution comes from other sources. even breathing pollutes. removing trees pollutes.

4) drinkable water is the next oil, stay tuned.

Paying for feedback? (1)

Daedala (819156) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933970)

If someone is paying for something and they're not happy - then you're going to hear about it.

Yes, tell that to every Office Space worker who's watched management throw good money after bad. God forbid that we admit we're unhappy with the results of all that spending....

Fuel Cell Hybrid more practical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13933971)

This is fine, but just as a gasoline/electric battery hybrid is more practical than pure electric as a transition technology, so too is a gasoline/fuel cell hybrid more practical right now than pure fuel cell.

As I'm sure many slashdotters will note, getting that hydrogen is expensive and often very energy inefficient.

A gas/fuel cell (and some ultracapacitor/battery too) hybrid would have all the benefits of current hybrids, and it could have a sealed hydrogen tank refilled by electrolyzing water with any extra energy available from running the engine (above charging batteries/ultracaps), from solar cells on the roof, while plugged in at home, or whatever.

I'm almost sure that's how this will come down when cars with fuel cells first make it to the retail market, except those using it just for auxilliary power, like some military vehicles do.

Bummer of a name... (1)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933978)

Their marketing department need to rethink the name of the car, Hindenburg, just does not seem right. :)

I wonder if the family name is (1)

Skiron (735617) | more than 7 years ago | (#13933994)

'Jetson'.

Alternatives to fuel cells? (1)

Qwertie (797303) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934004)

FTA: "We're either talking several decades or never," said Joseph Romm, an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration, referring to the likelihood of fuel cells' supplanting internal combustion engines in cars. Though Romm pushed for financing of hydrogen research in the mid-1990s, he has since become skeptical of its prospects, to the point that last year he published a book titled "The Hype About Hydrogen."

But what alternatives are there to fuel cells, when the oil runs out? Artificial petroleum, maybe?

The perfect guinea pigs? (1)

TheUnknownCoder (895032) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934011)

So how did Honda pick the Spallinos?
The normality of the Spallino family appealed to the company, which wanted to see how the vehicle held up under the stresses of family driving.

"I use it for everyday life," said Sandy Spallino, "just little one-mile jaunts here and there."

Very, very stressfull driving indeed.

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934044)

This is apparently the first fuel-cell car on the road anywhere in the world, according to Honda.

That's BS, they been testing/driving fuel-cell car's for a few year's now.

RIP Michael Piller (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934047)

You will be missed [dvdtimes.co.uk]

Electric car, yeah right... (5, Insightful)

LemonFire (514342) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934048)

Since 61% of all electricity in California is produced using fossil fuel how is this really helping us right now?
Only 28% of the electricity is created using nuclear or hydro power sources.
So if more and more people start driving electric cars in California we'll have to burn even more fossils and quite a bit of it is the good old polluter named coal.

Not that I have anything against a better car runs on renewable energy, but I think it would be better to start with creating more electricity that doesn't come from fossils.

-- Sir! I'm only telling you once, step down from the soap box. This is your last warning...

Source for Hydrogen (3, Insightful)

nuggz (69912) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934053)

Hydrogen comes from electricity.
Incremental electric demand comes from oil & natural gas.

Using hydrogen cars will just shift the fossil fuel burning to the power plant rather than the car.

So I'm wondering, other than sounding like cool space age technology, where is the benefit?

Re:Source for Hydrogen (4, Insightful)

haggar (72771) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934117)

We hear this argument on Slashdot every time this is brought up, and every time it's equally wrong: electricity is produced by many means, many of them renewable or non-polluting, like nuclear energy. Furthermore, natural gas creates less CO2 than gasoline or diesel. Also, and very importantly, producing electrical energy in any powerplant, is much more efficient than transforming the thermal energy into motion, in cars.
Finally, it is relatively easy to shift the source of electrical energy from carbon to nuclear and perhaps solar and wind. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do that if cars stay the same, i.e. gasoline-based.

Moving from gasoline to fuel cell is an enabler, it allows for a shift from polluting to non-polluting technology. If you don't have that enabler, you will never be able to do the shift.

Someone Call 911! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934094)

Someone call 911, George Bush is having chest pains!!!

Fueling costs (1)

vmxeo (173325) | more than 7 years ago | (#13934095)

Out of curiousity, how much does hydrogen fuel go a gallon? How many MPH does one of these hydrogen cars get? Given the current price as gas (though it's dropping), any cheaper fuel source is looking pretty attractive. Honda, if you're looking to test one of these in NYC, let me know... :)

Hydrogen will only last 10 years, it is a dead end (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#13934129)

According to the Financial Times on Jul6th this year Platinum is an essential catalyst for Hydrogen Fuel Cells and there is only enough Platinum left on and in Earth for a 10 year Hydrogen car economy.
Ft article :
http://news.ft.com/cms/s/97b0b9ce-edbb-11d9-9ff5-0 0000e2511c8.html [ft.com]

Sure current Fuel cells require a lot and advancements in the technology may reduce the amount needed but this will just spin it out a bit - it will only be decades at the most.
So we will have to change everything again if Hydrogen is adopted.
Why not Biodiesel? A Carbon Neutral technology that requires little change to the current Infrastructure and will work with current Diesel engines.
Hydrogen for cars is clearly a dead duck, why then is it being foisted upon us ?
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