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New "Science" project?o


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Nemo sent me this link. I read this article about solar powered vehicles and thought this idea was pretty cool. Please tell me what you think...

 

<a target=_blank class=ftalternatingbarlinklarge href="http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/1001hydrocar01.html

">http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/1001hydrocar01.html

</a>

 

 

A few excerpts from the article follow:

"The truck is hydrogen-powered and creates its own fuel from solar energy and water, a technical feat that rivals the advanced technology being researched by major auto companies and universities. The four-cylinder engine is tuned to run on hydrogen, which is produced by a hand-built electrolysis system mounted in the bed."

 

"When the vehicle's tanks are filled with compressed hydrogen from an outside source, it has the range of a conventional vehicle, though that defeats the purpose of showing that hydrogen can be created from clean, sustainable sources, then used to fuel vehicles.

 

The truck also can be shifted to conventional power using a dashboard switch, which changes the fuel system over to a gasoline tank and fuel-injection."

 

 

 

Anyhow, this sounds like an amazing project, and I may look into something like this on a smaller scale for my kids 'big' project next year. Suggestions?

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The ability to create enough hydrogen to run the car "a few miles a day" is impressive, if true. I rather expect that quote to be a tad optimistic for a system which has such an inherently low efficiency.

 

It IS possible to create a solar powered car. It has been done many times with solar/electric systems. They can use batteries for storage. They are still very under-powered, and overpriced. Their efficiency is bound to be far higher than a solar->electric->hydrogen system that runs a more or less standard gasoline engine. Both systems run on solar cells, but solar/electric wastes little power after that point. It can even increase its range with regenerative breaking. A gasoline engine is far less efficient. If you want high efficiency from hydrogen then you need a fuel cell/electric motor system. Hydrogen fuel cells show a lot of promise, but they don't seem to be a commercial reality just yet.

 

I am more than a little surprised to hear that this car has the same range running compressed hydrogen as with conventional gasoline. Storing hydrogen has always been a problem. It is the lightest of gasses, so storing significant quantities requires one of the following strategies:

 

1) A large balloon, or other inflatable, mounted on top of the car. This will reduce the cars stability at high speed or in strong winds.

2) VERY high compression. You may imagine the result when a highly compressed tank ruptures during an accident.

3) Liquefaction at VERY low temperature. You need a lot of power to continually keep it cool. By no means a practical solution.

4) Some materials can absorb and release hydrogen. To the best of my knowledge they are not cheap, and don't absorb more than a small fraction of there weight in hydrogen. Probably the best option.

 

Frankly storage problems are always going to limit the range of such a car. Hydrogen power is a valid competitor to electric power, but has many similarities. It is never going to deliver the raw power of gasoline High efficiency utilisation is necessary, just like for battery power. In my mind this is a good thing. We must learn to use less energy generally if our planet is to continue to support us.

 

Finaly a word of caution. Many of these new batteries, fuel cells, and hydrogen storage materials rely on rare metals. There just isn't enough of these metals available for conversion of our transport industry. We should not abandon hope, but success will depend on the development of key commercially viable components such as fuel cells.

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