Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science Technology

Honda unveils Fuel Cell powered car 33

Posted by Hemos
from the run-forever dept.
fprintf writes "According to an article at cars.com Honda has unveiled a fuel cell powered car to the world press. The article is not very in depth about the technology, but exudes the possibilities. There are comments about the engineers working on the safety of hydrogen storage. Most interestingly, they say that 2003 or 2004 are the target dates for commercial availability. Cool!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Honda unveils Fuel Cell powered car

Comments Filter:
  • by MaxGrant (159031) on Tuesday October 03, 2000 @01:35PM (#738378) Homepage Journal
    First, you'll get the "shut down the oil industry and our economy goes to pot" argument. Which in the US is particularly funny because we don't grow our own oil. I know this for a fact because during 1990 I photocopied a stack of oil leases twenty-three stories high that were being sold off and shut down, so that we could continue to funnel all our resources into getting it from Kuwait. Whoops!

    After that petroleum industry advocates will likely give a long, complex argument to the effect that, while it's agreed that it's a finite resource, they want you to share their Pollyanna optimism that we will always be able to find just that little last bit of petroleum to feed our habit. Often I've seen it expressed like this: "we aren't running out of oil, we're just waiting for the next good way to extract it from the earth." While that may be currently true, it's also true that we use oil for other things than burning (plastics come to mind) and we maybe could make more effective use of the stuff than torching it at twenty or so miles per gallon. Also I hasten to point out that when and if the end of the oil economy does come it will be much uglier if we don't prepare for it than if we do. Can you just imagine the entire city of New York without electricity or transportation?

  • Okay, I can believe that there could be a combination of Al and Fe2O3 in the hindenburg. But as those that have played with thermite knows that the activation energy is quite high, even for highly powdered stuff. I would have a hard time believing that the aluminum in paint and the rust from the structural elements would concievably react. I have an even harder time believing that the hindenburg was designed to leak hydrogen. Those people didn't want to explode, but they also didn't want to crash.
  • Do a search in google for "hindenburg addison bain" and read for yourself. Addison Bain is the name of the NASA engineer who did the research.

    Re the leaking hydrogen, the skin of the bags containing the hydrogen was not completely impermeable, especially to hydrogen being the smallest molecule, and there was always going to be leakage, which needed to be dispersed from inside the main skin of the ship. In addition, hydrogen would also vented to maintain trim.

  • ...and I think I'll stay with my 1970 MGB. Twin SU carbs that were conceived in the 1940's, a nice loud exhaust, and the wind in my hair.

    That Honda looks like an anal probe on a Civic that went horribly wrong.
  • One of the professors at our university did a talk on these new fuel cell technologies last term. Supposidly one method of circumventing an explosion in an impact would be to store the hydrogen in a porous material that would limit the rate at which it was released. In a crash the tank (made out of this porous material) could be smashed into pieces however the gas would be trapped within the porous material and would slowly leak out over time (preventing the explosion). I guess they are still looking into finding a material with the right qualities for this application.

    Automobiles utilising this technology would definately help us in the battle against pollution, however the problem of creating cheap vehicles using this technology would definately be a problem. Supposidly they will begin in the 50k price range, and that will definately be a factor in how quickly they come into mainstream use.

    The way gas prices have been this summer however...

  • I must admit that this is nice, but the engineering and scientific problems will probably take a while longer than the engineers predict. (When was the last time a non-computing technology prediction actually verified?)
    Even with the problem with hydrogen's explosiveness, I think that this is the way to go. The one big question I have, assuming that this technology comes to fruition is where would the hydrogen to power our cars come from? Are there some good current sources that we could tap, like some current industries? I'm aware of the splitting of the water molecule to get H2, but from what I remember, it's difficult to get any reliable amounts out without a significant energy input.
    Also, dealing specifically with the explosiveness of hydrogen, could it be more harmful than current hydrocarbons (HCs)? Again, I'm not a chemist (in fact, I rather dislike it...), but isn't the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen significantly faster than that between HCs and oxygen? Granted, this might increase the initial explosion, but there wouldn't be all the additional problems with the slow burn of HCs. But again, I may be entirely wrong.
    One last issue is the water vapor output. While we currently worry about CO2 as a greenhouse gas, H2O can be just as bad. However, given the lifetime of H2O in the atmosphere is on the order of days and CO2 is on the order of months and years, this might not be too much of problem. But from a meteorological point of view, it would be interesting to see what a urban center emitting extra quantities of water vapor would do to local weather/climate changes. (Not like I would trust current climate models to tell me my weight even if I gave it to them as an input...)
  • Remember, it wasn't so much the hydrogen in the blimp as the thermite covering on the balloon...
  • According to the article, the car is a joint venture between Honda, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and 'other automakers'. One of its biggest drawbacks is its limited range (110 miles before it must be refueled.)

    Well, DiamlerChrysler introduced this car [daimlerchrysler.com] in early 1999, and it supposedly has a range of 280 miles.

    Don't believe the hype.
  • I remember from chemistry classes that hydrogen can be compressed into "solid" blocks of metal as well. Since the hydrogen atoms are so small, you could pack the gas into a mass of say aluminum, and it would fit in among the aluminum atoms. The compression/extraction process still has some issues to be worked out, but it is a non-volatile method for storing the hydrogen.
  • There is some speculation that it would be better to use methanol in fuel-cell vehicles -- it's supposedly easier and safer to make, store, and transport. Retro-fitting gasoline stations to sell methanol would supposedly be easier as well. I think most companies working on fuel-cell vehicles are concentrating on using methanol. (Including DaimlerChrysler.)

    Ob: I am not a chemist.

  • I commend Honda for this but I am still extremely disappointed in general society.

    I thought that if anything would incite alternative fuel/practices discussion, the recent petrol shortages in western nations would have done so. I watch CNN daily and I heard not 1 single reference to the necessity for increased R&D or anthing related! It was all "We need a way to not only pump our poor planet dry, but also provide this non-renewable resource for such a low price that people waste as much as they possibly can."

    I'm not a "dirt eating tree unf'er" or something, but I do have a fucking brain. Our society is completely reliant upon petrol and I think it goes to show how dense and narrow minded the majority of people are when alternative fuels and increased R&D are not even discussed. And don't post a reply saying that, while that's important, we need to solve the current issue of fuel shortages. Of course I know that, but it appears that there is zero focus on the mid to long term solutions, the truly important issues!

    Hello, my name is x and I hate people.

    Regards
  • This really isn't anything new, I belive that Toyota has had their version of this in Europe for a period of time, and is soon releasing it in America.


    öööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööööö
  • Methanol is allready a liquid at normal temperatures, and as such I believe it is used in an adapted combustion engine. Fuel-Cell vehicles operate without using combustion (hence the reduced emissions). The problem with methanol is that you would still produce CO2 (same thing as using natural gas - another popular substitute for gasoline.

    One of the options that I have noticed with these energy saving - concept cars is that most of them have a backup electrical system. Probably the most ingenuitive thing was the braking system. Supposidly the braking was done such that while you breaked you stored energy in the battery by an electromagnetic setup - kind of like a brake alternator! Unfortunately I can't remember the specifics though...

  • I'd love to buy one of these, but my main problem is that I'm not exactly able (currently) to drive to the neighborhood Amoco and fill up on hydrogen.

    Assuming that's fixed by the time of their proposed commercial rollout in 2004 or so, I'd be more than happy to drive a car that will remind me of the Hindenberg every time I get in.

    Yeah, yeah, I know it's not the same, but still. Doesn't hydrogen make you a little nervous?

  • The safety of hydrogen fuel cells is better than you'd think. If a fuel cell split open due to a crash, the chance of a "huge fireball" wouldn't be any more than from a regular car. The thing that is dangerous is that highly concentrated acid is needed in a fuel cell in order to make the electron exchange function correctly. Also, one place that we might get hydrogen from is algae. Last year, scientists found that by moving algae from an aerobic to an anaerobic environment, changing some other stuff, and back, the algae would give off very large amounts of hydrogen. If everyone had a little algae pond outside their house, we could use it to fuel our cars :). Fuel cells are the best bet for cars, though. With oil prices increasing in the future, HFCs will be the cheapest and cleanest alternative to everything else.

    Colin Winters
  • Why did this comment get modded up, when it basically echoes the parent?
  • Errr... maybe they are discussed, but they are not "news", because they are so far from realizable technology?

    If there was a currently workable solution in reach that could solve the fuel problems, you can bet every money grubbing international would be all over it like flies on... errr... anyway, they would be all over it.

    So far, the best we have is the honda hybrid, which is a good idea, but hardly a breakthrough. It is not THAT much better then the '86 Honda CRX I used to own, and amounts to basically a $20,000 two seater economy car, which is pretty painfull. The battery technology continues to be expensive and problematic.

    Continously variable transmissions and regenerative braking can help somewhat (probably 20% to 30% improvements), but it will take a technological breakthrough to get a real revolution, and that will likely come from esoteric science (or perhaps space or military programs), not the pop media.

    So in other words, you won't hear about the solution in the media until the problem is more or less solved. And sorry to break it to you Mr. Gore, but the the laws of thermodynamics DO have a controlling legal authority, and are not up for repeal.

    Counting on "new technology" as some sort of miracle savior for future problems is roughly akin to putting you head in the sand. Work towards them, hope for them, but dont plan that they will magically appear at the perfect instant...

    (kinda on a rant today... gotta get rid of all that Karma somehow)...
    Bill
  • I'm aware of the splitting of the water molecule to get H2, but from what I remember, it's difficult to get any reliable amounts out without a significant energy input.

    Yup. Best possible amount of energy out of a hydrogen/oxygen reaction is the same as the amount of energy required to seperate the hydrogen from water in the first place. You would get better energy efficiency from gas and most hydrocarbons, but these are a lot more expensive than water.

    Also, dealing specifically with the explosiveness of hydrogen, could it be more harmful than current hydrocarbons

    Hard to say. According to this article [cnn.com] you can use hydrocarbons as your fuel source if they prove to be safer. (I'm not sure how dangerous it is compared with natural gas which is quite popular in some areas as a commercial vehicle fuel)
  • The S2000 is a nice looking car with some impressive #s... of course, that won't be running on a fuel cell anytime soon...
  • You guys are aware that the GASOLINE in all of our cars is also highly flamable. This doesn't seem to cause too many problems.
  • by xtal (49134) on Monday October 02, 2000 @11:39AM (#738398) Homepage

    Even with the problem with hydrogen's explosiveness

    Most people forget you drive around in a moltov cocktail every day; Your gas tank is just as likely to get smashed, and could possibly be even MORE dangerous because gasoline will pour and stick around on the pavement for some time, and this is nasty if it's on you and it's burning. Hydrogen, on the other hand, will dissapate quite quickly if there's a tank rupture, and the tank itself will not explode (due to hydrogen exploding). I've tried to make propane cylinders explode in the past, and it's not as easy as you might think. If you shoot one, it will most likely just rupture and vent, even in the presence of fire (in my experience!). This danger is WAY overplayed in the media, especially concidering that car gas tanks are low-tech compared to the fuel cells used in race cars. (Fancy gas tanks, not real fuel cells :).

    where would the hydrogen to power our cars come from?

    There's lots of hydrogen available in hyrdocarbons. Reformers take a hydrocarbon source (be it gasoline, or much similer methanol) and turn it into hydrogen + co2 for use in the cell. There's LOTS of ways to make hydrocarbons, and lots more to process them. Cost is another matter, but it won't be much more than I'm going to be paying for gas in a couple years. One good source is methanol, which can be produced from cracking oil, or distilling.

    One last issue is the water vapor output. While we currently worry about CO2 as a greenhouse gas, H2O can be just as bad.

    Can be, but it ain't. Water vapour falls out of the sky quite nicely at cold temperatures - and will just appear in the form of snow or rain, and I can guarantee you the amount of water vapour produced by all the cars in California will pale in comparison to a good, hard rainfall. This is a non-issue. Water is EVERYWHERE on the planet. Relative to the natural evaporation off the oceans, you're not even statistically relevant. The waste products from producing the hydrogen will be more problematic (of which CO2 is the most likely canadate, since you can't just electrolyze water - it needs to be water free of impurities, for example, if you try it with Sea water, you'll get chlorine gas. Not nice.

    Just some thoughts. Fuel cell technology is the future imho. If you want a sports car though, you'll be running gasoline or alcohol for as long as I can see, however. Good news is alcohol doesn't cost much more per liter than gasoline up here in Canada! Hehehe.

    Just some thoughts.

  • The fuel cell technology for these vehicles comes from Ballard Power Systems, in Burnaby (suburb of Vancouver), Canada. They can be used in buses, trucks and submarines!!!, for stationary generators, and more. Try these links for more info.

    Mass transit.
    http://www.ballard.com/bus_demo.asp

    Some other cars.
    http://www.ballard.com/trans_app.asp

    Mass transit.
    http://www.ballard.com/bus_demo.asp

  • Remember, it wasn't so much the hydrogen in the blimp as the thermite covering on the balloon...

    WTF are you yalking about. Thermite is, essentially alumninum and rust. Where did you get thermite from? I don't remember but it may have been made of aluminum or possibly magnesium, but where the hell would the rust come from, and, even more importantly, how the hell would the aluminum and the rust get powdered so it could combust?
    --

  • Who mentioned napalm? (other than yourself) Moltov cocktails do not contain napalm.
  • The skin of the hindenburg was coated in a paint consisting primarily of powdered aluminium. Recent research has shown that a buildup of static electricity in the ship created an arc which set fire to the skin, which then burnt uncontrollably. In fact, the builders of the hindenburg knew this pretty much straight after the hindenburg disaster, when they went back and tested the fabric in the skin for just this type of thing. They kept the findings secret for fairly obvious reasons.

    It was not the hydrogen exploding which destroyed the hindenburg.

    In fact the hindenburg was designed to dissipate leaking hydrogen very rapidly to the outside atmosphere, to avoid the build up of free hydrogen within the skin.
  • Supposidly the braking was done such that while you breaked you stored energy in the battery by an electromagnetic setup - kind of like a brake alternator!

    It's called regenerative braking. It basically takes advantage of the fact that any motor is also essentially a generator. Most of these applications use three-phase brushless AC motors. Depending on the timing of the MOSFETs in the motor controller, the system can convert electrical energy to mechanical or the other way around.

  • Even with the problem with hydrogen's explosiveness

    Most people forget you drive around in a moltov cocktail every day; Your gas tank is just as likely to get smashed, and could possibly be even MORE dangerous because gasoline will pour and stick around on the pavement for some time, and this is nasty if it's on you and it's burning. Yeah, and if you're carrying Orange Juice home from the grocery store and it mixes with the gasoline, you'd have napalm!

    [That's a Fight Club reference, not an actual recipe. Everybody knows it takes Jell-O and gasoline to make napalm :-]

  • Why bother wasting your money on Honda's expensive automotive technology. You can get a new VW Golf or Jetta with an awesome turbo-diesel engine and loaded for well under $20K. They are EPA rated at 42/49 MPG, and have 90HP / 156 lb-ft. torque from the factory. "Chips" are available to soup these up to 115HP / 190 lb-ft. @ 2000 RPM - leave smoldering black tire marks for days. The kits even claim better than 50 MPG! Range on a tank of fuel: 700 miles. My older VW diesel has 200K miles and counting - original engine, original clutch. 'nuff said. Yeah, ok, so I'm a VW freak ;) Honda sucks.
  • Metallic hydrogen doesn't occur at any type of condition that would make it very convienient for storage. The high pressure means that there would still be the problem of a rapid expansion if the tank were to rupture. Using some type of porous zeolite to contain the hydrogen is a much more viable option.
  • Your options for storing hydrogen are basically four:

    1. as a gas under high pressure. This requires a rather sttong, and so heavy tank, and the pressure translates into quite a lot of energy when its released, so there is potential for the tank to explode, or rocket out of the wreck of the car. Also, if all the hydrogen vented suddenly, mixed with some air and then got a spark, you could have a fairly serious flash-over.

    2. as a liquid at very low temperatures (possibly combined with moderate pressure). Now your tank needs to be a vacuum flask and your car will slowly vent hydrogen when it's not being driven. If the hydrogen spills it will freeze anything it hits (you for instance) and boil off very rapidly (very low specific heat) leading to an explosion hazard nearly as bad as 1.

    3. adsorbed onto a surface,usually under moderate pressure. Metals dusts are one of the best choices of surface, but there might be others. This is attractive if the hydrogen/metal weight ratio can be controlled, and if a reasonably large proportion of the gas can be recovered without too big a variation in the pressure.

    4. In chemical combination with something. You can, I think, make methane (and water) from carbon dioxide, hydrogen and possibly some energy. Burning the methane (in a fuel cell or a flame) yields carbon dioxide and water. The net effect is hydrogen + oxygen -> water, with the carbon being recycled. In this model, your power station makes methane (and oxygen) from water, atmospheric CO2 and energy, and your car burns the methane with atmospheric oxygen. If this could be made efficient enough it's quite nice. Similar cycles could probably be concocted using methanol as the "hydrogen carrier".

    To me 1 & 2 are really not attractive for cars, although enough engineering might make them workable. 3 & 4 are much more appealing if they can be made efficient.
  • >No one is seriously contemplating storing Hydrogen in an automobile, remember the Hindenburg? Most car companies are opting for a technology similar if not the same as Ballard Power's solution

    No, the Hindenburg exploded because of an unfortunate application of Aluminum metal on the outside and Iron Oxide on the inside of the skin of the zepplin. These are the components of Thermite. A static charge built up and when it was released it caused the ballon to start on fire and its eventual crash landing. The hydrogen was only a small part of the problem. The Hindenburg disaster would have happened even if helium had been used.
  • If everyone had a little algae pond outside their house
    My problem with that is we'd all have a little mosquito farm in our backyards too . . . I hate mosquitoes.

  • Most people forget you drive around in a moltov cocktail every day; Your gas tank is just as likely to get smashed, and could possibly be even MORE dangerous because gasoline will pour and stick around on the pavement for some time, and this is nasty if it's on you and it's burning. Hydrogen, on the other hand, will dissapate quite quickly if there's a tank rupture, and the tank itself will not explode (due to hydrogen exploding). I've tried to make propane cylinders explode in the past, and it's not as easy as you might think. If you shoot one, it will most likely just rupture and vent, even in the presence of fire (in my experience!). This danger is WAY overplayed in the media, especially concidering that car gas tanks are low-tech compared to the fuel cells used in race cars. (Fancy gas tanks, not real fuel cells :).

    Remember that gasoline is stored at atmospheric pressure, and not at the high pressures required to have liquid hydrogen. A rupture in a tank will cause a rapid expansion of the gas to many times the volume of the car. The gas may dissipate fairly quickly, but if it ignites there could be a huge fireball.

Be sociable. Speak to the person next to you in the unemployment line tomorrow.

Working...