Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hydrogen Highway

Much has been said lately about the development of a so called 'hydrogen economy', namely the development of the 'hydrogen highway' in california and florida. While placing hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles along the highway might be useful for long-range excursions, I think there is a more useful system for use in urban centers.

Basically, my idea follows a two part plan. First, individuals who are on the 'bleeding edge' and modify their own hydrogen-powered vehicle or purchase the first run of (Very expensive and low-production numbers) Hydrogen vehicles will also buy a home hydrogen generation station. Second, all individuals who operate hydrogen vehicles will then join the equivalent of a 'hydrogen club', where any member can go to the home or work fueling station of another member, and buy hydrogen from him (at cost of production or club standardized rates)

Now, as for feasibility. As you probably well know, it's possible to adapt an internal combustion vehicle to hydrogen internal combustion (HIC), which burns hydrogen gas like gasoline (petrol if you happen to live outside the U.S.) While HIC isn't as efficient as hydrogen fuel-cell power, it's more feasible with modern day technology and I believe it will serve as a stepping stone between moder IC and fuel-cell cars. With this in mind, I don't think it impossible to see a small community of 'hydrogen hotrodders' within the next couple of years.

I am not a chemist, so I don't know how feasible a home hydrogen refueling station would be, in terms of safety/cost/output. They will probably be rather expensive, at least at first, and require governmental controls as hydrogen is highly flammable.

There are two feasible approaches to creating hydrogen in the home. Firstly, there's the good old fashioned Hoffman Voltameter, which uses electricity to seperate water into hydrogen and oxygen. More recently work has been done on High Temperature Electrolysis (HTE), which uses heat to seperate water. At this point, the Voltameter seems more practical for home use, as the HTE would probably use electricity to heat water anyway (unless you want to use natural gas to do it, which seems rather ironic).

Now, this is just conjecture, but it could be feasible to generate large amounts of hydrogen using HTE and a small nuclear reactor (Obviously not for home use), although I don't think any research has been done in this field.


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