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Hydrogen Car for You

January 2, 2014

What better way to start the New Year than with a new hydrogen car. From Toyota to Mercedes, they’re getting into the act. As we just discussed, hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel; and it counts as “green” if it comes from a clean source.

Right now the trouble is, most hydrogen comes from burning stuff that emits CO2. But instead we could use solar to split water, releasing H2 and O2. Meanwhile, hydrogen is safer than most people think. Hindenburg to the contrary, the amount of H2 gas in a car’s tank would dissipate too fast to cause the kind of of fire from burning gasoline. Some pros and cons here: Quick refueling, 400 mile range, clean quiet engine. Cons: Storage (that’s where formate comes in) and the uncertain costs of obtaining H2 large scale. But that’s where purple bacteria come in! Bacteria that drink sunlight and put out hydrogen.

In The Highest Frontier, entire satellites grow rotating drums full of purple H2 producers. And the kids propose sending rockets to Jupiter to tap hydrogen fuel. Fanboy reviewers ridiculed this notion, but they need to get with the times and use some imagination to venture beyond bedroom Earth.

  1. January 2, 2014 10:21 pm

    I still think bacterial fermentation to methanol is a better solution than formic acid. The amount of hydrogen per unit volume is 2x higher, extending the vehicle range. If you burn it, rather than use it in a fuel cell, the lower O2 content results in higher energy output. Both methanol and formic acid are not nice compounds to have in a vehicle, but I think we are further ahead with methanol, and ethanol is even better as we can either mix it with gasoline or use a purer form if the engines are modified.

    Although it wasn’t as successful as hoped, engineering bugs to produce hydrocarbons for feed stocks such as cellulose might be the best shorter term solution, primarily because of the energy density of these compounds.

    Ultimately, I would prefer vehicles to be electric, if only because of the lack of emissions. Whether these are battery or fuel cells will depend on the technology. Hybrids like the now defunct Fisker Automotive might be a good solution too, where the ICE provided power to the batteries, rather than have the batteries assist the ICE for power.

  2. January 2, 2014 10:31 pm

    Solar-powered electric is on the way too:
    Not sure how far they’ll push the range.

  3. Hillary Rettig permalink
    January 3, 2014 7:47 am

    Great piece! I sent it to my nephew the car nut.


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