Fuel Cells/Hydrogen 030815
(April 2004) The Transportation Working Group of the US Fuel Cell Council is collaborating with national and international group initiatives in defining a fuel specification for hydrogen to be used in transportation applications. This Group plans to project fuel cell design operating targets/parameters for transportation applications, define tests required to understand the fundamental impact of hydrogen on fuel cell performance and durability, determine “allowable” levels of impurities based on projection from fundamental test results, define validation tests to confirm that projections are correct and publish the results. More information can be obtained at the website: www.usfcc.com
(April 2004) The University of Minnesota (U of M) researchers produce hydrogen for fuel cells from ethanol. Their first reactor capable of producing hydrogen from ethanol efficiently holds economic potential. When coupled with a hydrogen fuel cell, the unit, small enough to hold in one’s hand, could generate one kiloWatt of power.
Lanny Schmidt, Regent’s Professor of Chemical Engineering who led the effort, said, “We can potentially capture 50 percent of the energy stored in sugar (in corn), whereas converting the sugar to ethanol and burning the ethanol in a car would harvest only 20 percent of the energy in sugar. Ethanol in car engines is burned with 20 percent efficiency, but if you used ethanol to make hydrogen for a fuel cell, you would get 60 percent efficiency.”
The invention rests on two innovations: a catalyst based on the metals rhodium and ceria and an automotive fuel injector that vaporizes and mixes the ethanol-water fuel. The vaporized fuel mixture is injected into a tube that contains a porous plug made from rhodium and ceria. The fuel mixture passes through the plug and emerges as a mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and minor products,. The reaction takes only milliseconds and eliminates the flames and soot that commonly accompany ethanol combustion. Thus far, Schmidt and his researchers have harvested four hydrogen molecules per ethanol molecule.
Research for this project is being supported by the U of M’s Initiative on Renewable Energy and the Environment, the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.
(April 2004) Official: ‘Hydrogen Highway’ in sight
California’s Environmental Protection Secretary, Terry Tamminen, told state lawmakers on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 that Governor Schwarzenegger was pledged to build hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles along major highways by 2010. The purpose of the stations is to provide hydrogen for fuel cell powered vehicles which will replace IC engines. According to Tamminen, the hydrogen fueling stations will not cost the state much money.
California Energy Commissioner, Jim Boyd, said that the cost is too high. Toyota’s Bill Reinert said that any promises of cheaper, more efficient and longer-lasting fuel cells to power autos is premature.
S. David Freeman, a top energy aid for former Governor Davis, said that hydrogen must come from biomass, solar or other renewable energy sources , “otherwise we’re just putting coal in the tank.”
The Desert Sun
February 26, 2004, p. A 11
(March 2004) The National Academies’ National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council report on study of the future hydrogen economy. “Our study suggests that while hydrogen is a potential long-term energy approach for the nation, the government should keep a balanced portfolio of research and development efforts to enhance U.S. energy efficiency and develop alternative energy sources,” said committee chair Michael Ramage, retired executive vice president at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, Moorestown, N.J. Some highlights from their press release are:
• Today, 10 percent of natural gas is imported and the percentage is increasing. Thus, while natural gas is the most cost-effective source of hydrogen for the long run, its long-term use as a source of hydrogen would not increase U.S. energy independence.
• Although positive about DOE leadership, the DOE has tried to establish activities in too many areas.
• The DOE should increase research in more exploratory work in such areas as distributed hydrogen production systems, hydrogen storage and solar energy for hydrogen production.
• The DOE’s program success will be greatly increased if the DOE partners with a broader range of academic and industrial organizations.
• The DOE program should accelerate development and early evaluation of carbon capture and storage technologies and further investigate production methods that do not result in emissions, such as wind, the sun and nuclear heat processes.
For more information, see webisite, http://national-academies.org .
(March 2004) Business Communications publishes information on steady growth in hydrogen generation for the fuel cell market. The Company has published “RE-107 Hydrogen Generation for FuelCells.” The report predicts that the market will reach nearly $1.5 billion as it grows at an average annual growth rate of 15.8% through 2008. For more information see the website - http://www.bccresearch .com.energy/E107.html
(August 2003) Hydrogen is not the answer for powering future vehicles, according to experts at the University of California , Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Alex Farrell of UC Berkeley and David Keith of Carnegie Mellon University state that other strategies would be better to pursue than hydrogen-powered cars. Yet, in the U.S. federal 2004 budget, funding for research in hydrogen technologies jumps 121% to $88 million. If the Freedom CAR initiative is added, the total amount for hydrogen-based initiatives is $272.4 million. In fact, President Bush’s proposal over the next five years includes $1.5 billion for enhancing hydrogen technologies specifically for automobiles.. If, as Alex Farrell and David Keith say, there are better ways to reduce pollution and create cleaner vehicles, why is the pursuit of hydrogen so politically attractive? Alex Farrell reasons that its (hydrogen’s) message doesn’t challenge drivers to change their habits, and it doesn’t challenge the auto industry to change its behavior, providing, instead, “a subsidy for research that will lead to better cars whether they are hydrogen-powered or gasoline-powered.” (A full text of their university study is found in Science magazine, 07/18/03.)
Other experts and authors also have doubts about the vast emphasis on developing hydrogen. In Oliver Sylvester-Bradly’s article, “Is Hydrogen Sustainable?”, he maintains that “it will always take more energy to produce the hydrogen than it contains.” He believes that time and funding invested in hydrogen “would be far better spent on increasing efficiencies of renewable energy plant, particularly PV (photovoltaics) without which, there will never be a sustainable hydrogen economy.” From the TMG/The Management Group, John Wilson and Griffin Burgh refute the current hydrogen emphasis and title their paper, “The Hydrogen Emperor Has No Clothes.” The most important conclusion of their study, as stated by the authors, is that “although hydrogen may be technically feasible as a fuel in multiple uses, it is not, in most circumstances, economically feasible.” They reason that total costs of producing, compressing, liquefying, transporting and delivering hydrogen to the end user will far outweigh the energy recovered from it.” (The complete text of both articles, published on 07/23/03, is found on http://evworld.com.)
(August 2003) Researchers at the University of Wisconsin report on an extraction of hydrogen from organic waste. James Dumesic and his fellow researchers tested more than 300 materials to find a combination that could catalyze the reaction of hydrocarbons from biomass to form hydrogen. The catalyst called Raney-nickel, 90% nickel and 10% aluminum, was moderately effective in producing hydrogen, but when tin was added, the resulting catalyst was comparable to one with a platinum base and performed well at lower temperatures. Glenn Schrader, a National Science Foundation chemical engineer who supervises grants for hydrogen research projects, was positive about the work at the University of Wisconsin. He said, “ We really need to develop fuel cells that use metals cheaper than platinum and this work provides a very promising lead.”
The Wisconsin team is now collaborating with scientists at Virent Energy Systems in Wisconsin as part of a National Science Foundation Small Busines Technology Transfer grant to develop catalysts for generating fuels from biomass.
(Sept,02) General Motors (GM) Corp. and QUANTUM Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, Inc. have received certification from a top German safety institute, the European Integrated Hydrogen Project, for a 700 bar (10,000 psi) hydrogen storage system. With this level of hydrogen storage, fuel cell vehicles could achieve a driving range of 300 miles. In late July, Impco Technologies, Inc. spun off QUANTUM; GM then acquired 19.9 percent equity in the new corporation.