Battery Switch Technology


Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Breed of Hybrid Cars

About Hybrid Cars

The New Breed of Hybrid Cars - Hybrid SUV

Sponsored Results for About Hybrid Cars

While hybrid cars have been around now for some time, now you can find a hybrid SUV as well, which is thrilling to many people. Some people need a bit more than a small car but they love the great benefits and features of the hybrid technology, which is why various companies are now making a hybrid SUV. These hybrid sports utility vehicles are special large vehicles that use both the power of a gas engine and an electric motor as well. This gives great power but helps to keep the vehicle fuel efficient as well. There are both mild hybrids and strong hybrids available. The mild hybrids mainly depend on gas engines and have only a small motor that is electric, while the strong hybrids have electric motors that have a larger role in powering the vehicle.

Various Models Made

There are a variety of hybrid SUV models that are being made today. Both Lexus and Toyota offer their own hybrid SUV models. You'll also find that Honda offers a hybrid SUV, but it is considered to be a very mild hybrid. While there still are not a whole variety of different hybrid SUV models being made today, in the future it is expected that more manufacturers will begin producing a variety of different SUV hybrids.

Features and Functions

There are a variety of features and functions that will come along with a hybrid SUV. Usually you will find that when you are driving at lower speeds, the electric motor will provide most of the momentum for the vehicle and the extra power is used to help recharge the batteries in the vehicle. Also, these vehicles have continuously variable transmissions in them as well, which mean that the gears shift smoothly and provide smooth power no matter which mode you are in.

A Solution to High Gas Prices

One of the best things about owning a hybrid SUV is that they can help to offer a solution for high gas prices. For those who need to drive SUVs, gas prices really have made an impact. With gas close to three dollars a gallon and SUVs getting very low gas mileage, it can definitely cramp your budget. Having a hybrid SUV can help you save on gas prices without you have to go with a car that is much smaller than what you really need. So, for those who are feeling the crunch of high gas prices, a hybrid SUV is a great option.

Great for Heavy Duty Needs

Another reason that many people are thrilled with the idea of a hybrid SUV is because it is great for heavy duty needs. It has the power needed to haul and tow, and this is especially aided b the special continuously variable transmission that offers you all the power you need at any gear level. So, for those who need something heavy duty and fuel efficient, once again the hybrid SUV is an excellent choice. 

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) are designed for people who want power and luxurious interior design for their cars. That is why most SUVs come with large engine capacity and a wide range of add on accessories. However, many SUV owners are in a dilemma right now because of the high gasoline prices at the local pump ...

The market for the best hybrid sports utility vehicles (SUVs) has been experiencing a steady expansion over the last few years. The reasons are not at all complex to comprehend. The best hybrid SUVS have all the good attributes of the traditional SUVs plus some additional advantages. Like all good SUV's. Telling the difference between a gas hog and a more fuel efficient vehicle when, your driving a gas only vehicle is usually pretty easy to do. You can tell which ones are better, your not only the environment but also which ones are easier on your pocket book. The ones that people usually lean towards as being the best at these.

Toyota Prius Hybrid

For 2010, Toyota has brought out an all-new version of its Prius hybrid. Like the old Prius, the new Prius is designed to deliver maximum MPG with family-car practicality. But within those parameters, Toyota has made a lot of changes: Sleeker styling, redesigned cabin, and an improved hybrid drive train that gives the driver greater control over the Prius' behavior. The old Prius did the job as well as can be expected -- so has Toyota made any meaningful improvements? Read on. $23,510 base price, $31,430 as tested, EPA fuel economy estimates 51 MPG city/48 MPG highway. 

  First Glance: I love you just the way you are

When I heard that Toyota was redesigning the Prius for 2010, my first thought was "Why?" Few cars carry out their intended mission better than the Prius. I bet Toyota could build it as-is for ten years and sales would still remain strong. But that's not the way things go in the auto business, and so change it they have: The Prius is all-new for 2010, for better or for worse. And while there is definitely some better, there is also a fair bit of worse.

Let's start with the styling. There's really not a whole lot the stylists can do with the Prius; the old model was designed to cheat the wind rather than please the eye, which pretty much dictates the shape. (That's why Honda came up with a similar profile for their own four-door dedicated hybrid, the Insight.) As a result, the new Prius looks a lot like the old Prius, at least at first glance. Look closer and you'll see a more Toyotaes-que face up front, a more pronounced wedge profile from the side, and a racy little spoiler out back. I was indifferent to the new shape at first, but the more new Priuses I see on the road -- here in Los Angeles, the Prius is as common as tall mocha lattes and silicon boobs -- the more I like the new shape. It makes the old Prius look frumpy by comparison. Overall, I'd say the new shape goes in the For Better category.

In the Driver's Seat: What were they thinking?

The Prius' cabin definitely has some For Better changes: A roomier back seat and a bigger trunk. Unfortunately, that's about all of the For Better, and there's a whole lot of For Worse.
Example numero uno is the center councel that divides the front seats. This is one design choice that has me scratching my head. Buying a Prius is all about being a good citizen of the planet -- so why design an interior that isolates the driver in his or her own little pod? The center console provides a more conventional location for the shift lever, though why anyone would possibly care is beyond me. It's an automatic, for cryin' out loud! Aside from that, the console just gets in the way. There's a storage area underneath which pretty much useless; anything you put there is going to a) block the seat heater controls -- which, by the way, are so inconveniently located that I can't believe Toyota came up with them -- and b) fall out on turns.

Example numero dos is the new instrument layout. The old Prius had a simple center-mounted digital gauge cluster. If you wanted more geeky information, like how power was flowing through the hybrid system or what sort of fuel economy you were achieving in five-minute increments, it was available on the same LCD screen that served the climate, stereo and navigation systems. The 2010 Prius still has the LCD screen, but Toyota designed a new geek-o-meter into the dashboard next to the speedometer. Problem is, they used a cheap Red and Blue LDC display, which looks cheesy and decidedly low-tech.

On the Road: Better where it counts

In terms of the mechanicals, it's all For Better. Toyota designed the new Prius to provide more power and get better fuel economy. The engine size is up from 1.5 to 1.8 liters, and there are now three driver-select power train modes: Normal, Sport and Eco. In Normal mode, the Prius drive, well, normally -- just like an old-shape Prius. Sport mode -- an odd choice of names, since there's nothing sporty about the Prius -- changes the accelerator pedal response so you get more power with less movement of the pedal. It doesn't actually make the car faster, but it does provide quicker access to what power the Prius does have.

Eco mode tunes the accelerator response to help you get maximum MPG by accelerating from a stop more gingerly and responding slowly to sudden movements of the accelerator pedal, basically automating a method used by experienced hype-rmilers to get maximum MPG. Like the old Prius, the new Prius can run on pure battery power and low speeds, and there's now an EV button that forces electric-only mode, which is useful for moving the car from one parking spot to another, but not much else.

I spent most of my time in Eco mode, figuring that most Prius owners would do the same. It worked: I averaged 48.9 MPG, a significant improvement over the 45 or so I averaged in all the second-generation Priuses I tested. I also noticed that the new Prius grips the curves better than the old Prius, although it's fun-to-drive factor is still almost nil.

Journey's End: Should be a slam dunk, but...

  The 2010 Prius has a couple of other cool gizmos, like a button on the key fob that lets you run the A/C remotely and a solar-powered ventilator fan that is supposed to keep the interior cool when the car is off (a neat idea, but it was no match for the hot Southern California sun).
But at the end of the day, the Prius is all about fuel economy, and the fact is that the 2010 Toyota Prius not only gets better gas mileage than the old Prius (as well as every other new car on the market), but it makes it easier to hit those stellar numbers. So it should be a slam dunk for the Prius... except it isn't.

Try as I might, I just can't get over the interior, with that intrusive center console and hideous dash display. I prefer the simplicity of the old Prius, even if that means getting 4 fewer miles per gallon (which, at 12,000 miles per year, only saves about 22 gallons).

Bottom line: For better or for worse, the Prius is still the best hybrid on the market. I just wish Toyota hadn't changed it quite so much.

Hybrid Electric & Fuel Cell Vehicles

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Both technologies come together in hybrid electric vehicles, also known as HEVs or hybrids. Present-day hybrids are equipped with ICEs and electric motors. A hybrid's ICE engine, as in any ICE-powered car, produces power through continuous, controlled explosions that push down pistons connected to a rotating crankshaft. That rotating force (torque) is ultimately transmitted to the vehicle's wheels.

A hybrid's electric motor is energized by a battery, which produces power through a chemical reaction. The battery is continuously recharged by a generator that—like the alternator of a conventional car—is driven by the ICE.

Hybrids can have a parallel design, a series design, or a combination of both:

  • In a parallel design, the energy conversion unit and electric propulsion system are connected directly to the vehicle's wheels. The primary engine is used for highway driving; the electric motor provides added power during hill climbs, acceleration, and other periods of high demand.
  • Series design, the primary engine is connected to a generator that produces electricity. The electricity charges the batteries, which drive an electric motor that powers the wheels. HEVs can also be built to use the series configuration at low speeds and the parallel configuration for highway driving and acceleration.

  • In conventional vehicles, energy from deceleration is wasted as it dissipates. In some hybrid vehicles, regenerative braking systems capture that energy, store it, and convert it to electricity to help propel the vehicle—ultimately increasing overall efficiency. Some hybrids also use ultracapacitors to extend the life of a hybrid vehicle's on-board battery system because they are better suited to capturing high power from regenerative braking and releasing it for initial acceleration.

    Hybrid passenger cars arrived in the United States in model year 2000, following their introduction in Japan a few years earlier. First came the two-seat Honda Insight, followed by the Toyota Prius in model year 2001. Honda then introduced a hybrid version of its Civic sedan, and Toyota offered a second-generation Prius. Ford plans to introduce its first hybrid, a version of the Escape sport utility vehicle, in model year 2005. Several other major automakers now either offer HEVs or plan to do so in the near future. Hybrid systems have also proved effective in buses and heavy trucks. For example, Oshkosh Truck Corporation has demonstrated a diesel-electric system that may significantly improve the fuel economy and driving range of military vehicles. As a bonus, hybrids can be devised to generate alternating current electricity for other applications such as plug-in power tools. General Motors, through its Allison Transmission Division, produces a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain for transit buses.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How Hybrid Electrics Work

Hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors and can be configured to obtain different objectives, such as improved fuel economy, increased power, or additional auxiliary power for electronic devices and power tools.


Hybrid-electric vehicles combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors to provide improved fuel economy.
The engine provides most of the vehicle's power, and the electric motor provides additional power when needed, such as for accelerating and passing. This allows a smaller, more-efficient engine to be used.
The electric power for the motor is generated from regenerative braking and from the gasoline engine, so hybrids don't have to be "plugged in" to an electrical outlet to recharge.

Some of the advanced technologies typically used by hybrids include:

Regenerative Braking.The electric motor applies resistance to the drivetrain causing the wheels to slow down. In return, the energy from the wheels turns the motor, which functions as a generator, converting energy normally wasted during coasting and braking into electricity, which is stored in a battery until needed by the electric motor.

Electric Motor Drive/Assist. The electric motor provides additional power to assist the engine in accelerating, passing, or hill climbing. This allows a smaller, more efficient engine to be used. In some vehicles, the motor alone provides power for low-speed driving conditions where internal combustion engines are least efficient.

Automatic Start/Shutoff. Automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed. This prevents wasted energy from idling.

Hybrid Electric Car Technology

2010 Toyota Prius Hybrid Electric Car Technology Exposed

Yountville, Calif. The eagerly awaited details of the 2010 Toyota Pruis are slowly emerging. We already provided an overview of the car after it was revealed at the Detroit Auto Show. Last week, we were in Napa Valley, where Toyota released technical details what will make this vehicle hum (but not too loudly). –Larry Webster
The Engine

Mechanically, the biggest changes for the most popular hybrid electric on the market are in the engine room. The 1.5-liter gas engine is out in favor of a 1.8-liter unit. This larger engine still operates with the late-intake-valve-closing Atkinson cycle, and it produces more lower-end torque. This engine also operates at lower speeds, a fuel-saving move that offsets the larger displacement. There is an electrically operated water pump, which allowed engineers to remove the drive belt and the accompanying parasitic loss from the motor. As before, the crankshaft is offset in relation to the cylinders to reduce friction.

Engine coolant circulates to a heat exchanger that encircles the exhaust just downstream of the catalytic converter. This feature heats the engine up sooner, so it can be warmed up and turned off promptly. Also, it provides quick cabin heat. An aggressive exhaust-gas recirculation system employs cooled exhaust gas that's pumped into the cylinders. The inert gas replaces the intake charge, reducing exhaust-gas temperature and pumping losses.

The Transmission

The Hybrid Synergy drive system uses the same planetary Continuously Variable Transmission as before, but with a new twist. The main electric motor drive, called MG2, was downsized and produces less torque (153 lb-ft versus 295). But a reduction gear-set that connects it to the gearbox allows the MG2 to spin to 13,500 rpm, 7100 higher than before. Consequently, it makes 80 peak horsepower, 13 greater than before. The smaller, lighter MG2 and other refinements in the drive system yielded a 66-pound weight saving.

The Battery

A nickel-metal-hydride battery pack returns. It's been shrunk slightly, but a more effective cooling system allowed a peak output rise from 25 kilowatts to 27 (battery voltage remains at 201.6 volts). The inverter converter has been improved—it's slightly smaller—and provides up to 600 volts of AC current, a 100-volt jump. Toyota has also added a feature many Prius buyers have been waiting for—an electric-only button. Pressing this button on the dash prevents the gas engine from starting until the battery is depleted. Electric-only mileage, however, is slight—on average, a mile. For longer battery-powered runs, we'll have to wait for the rumored plug-in version; it should appear within two years.

Horsepower and Fuel Economy

The total maximum output of the engine and electric motor is 134 hp, 20 higher than before. That should drop the 0-to-60-mph sprint by about a second to 9.5 seconds. Despite the increased pace, the fuel economy has been improved, jumping from 48/45 city/highway to 50/49.

That fuel economy increase is all the more incredible considering that the new car weighs about 110 pounds more, a consequence of meeting tougher crash regulations. For sure, the car's aerodynamics play a role in increasing the on-road efficiency. Airflow around the Prius is carefully managed with flat underside panels, bumper-mounted air deflectors, and that gently sloping rear hatch. The drag coefficient has been reduced to only 0.25.

High-Tech Extras

Toyota left some of the most high-tech stuff outside of the mechanicals. Buyers can opt for the Lane Keep Assist system that detects when the car goes out of a lane and automatically nudges the steering wheel to stay on course. A pre-collision system works in conjunction with radar cruise control to avoid an impending collision by applying the brakes. An optional roof-mounted solar panel powers the fan and keeps a parked Prius cool, reducing the draw on the air conditioning. The new Prius can even Parallel Park itself with the Intelligent Parking Assist. There are also items we're not used to seeing in hybrids, such as leather, power and heated seats, voice-activated navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.

Prices have not yet been released, but expect the base Prius to start around $24,500. Fully loaded, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Prius clear 30 grand.

Electric Revolution

Electric Car Revolution Will Soon Take to the Streets

For years, the promise and hype surrounding electric cars failed to materialize. But as this year's Detroit auto show demonstrated, major car companies and well-funded startups — fueled by federal clean-energy funding and rapid improvement in lithium-ion batteries — are now producing electric vehicles that will soon be in showrooms.

Media gather around the new Tesla Model S all-electric sedan car, at the car's unveiling in Hawthorne, California on 26 March 2009. Musk said the state-of-the-art, five-seat sedan will be the world's first mass-produced, highway-capable electric car. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Electric cars are a green movement that is finally moving. Shunted to the side as the public indulged its love affair with gas-guzzling SUVs and four-wheel-drive trucks, history has finally caught up with the plug-in vehicle.

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the domestic auto industry's biggest annual showcase, and the new models have traditionally been brought out in a son et lumière of dancing girls, deafening music, and dry ice smoke. The few green cars that made it this far were usually for display only — very few actually made it to showrooms.

But not this year. It's become a race to market for green cars, and soon you'll be able to buy many of the electric vehicles that were on display last week in Detroit. The auto show featured one hybrid and battery electric car introduction after another. Although the only truly road-worthy, plug-in electric vehicle you can buy today is the $109,000 Tesla Roadster, by the end of 2010 it will be joined by such contenders as the Nissan Leaf, Coda sedan, and the Think City.

Indeed, the entire auto industry — from giants such as Ford, GM, and Renault-Nissan to startups such as Fisker Automotive — has joined the movement to build and market affordable electric vehicles.

There's a reason the automakers in Detroit are finally plugging in as something more than a greenwashing exercise. Spurring them forward is a historic confluence of events. Chief among them are Obama administration green initiatives, including Department of Energy (DOE) loans and grants, as well as economic stimulus funds that provide $30 billion for green energy programs, tax credits for companies that invest in advanced batteries, and $2.4 billion in strategic grants to speed the adoption of new batteries. (Much of that money is going to Michigan, which despite record unemployment is emerging as something of a green jobs center.)

Other factors behind the push to manufacture electric vehicles are a federal mandate to improve fuel efficiency to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, concerns about global warming and peak oil, and sheer technological progress building better batteries.

Even without federal largesse, some companies are moving aggressively into the electric vehicle market. A prime example: Coda Automotive, a southern California start-up, has raised an impressive $74 million in three rounds of private funding. CEO and President Kevin Czinger is a former Goldman Sachs executive, as is co-chairman Steven Heller. Among the company's investors are Henry M. Paulson, who was Goldman Sachs' chairman and Treasury Secretary under the second President Bush. Clearly, these former investment bankers see electric cars as a good bet.

A key factor in making today's electric vehicles possible is the rapid development of the energy-dense lithium-ion battery. William Clay Ford Jr., the executive chairman of the company that bears his name, told me in Detroit, "Five years ago, battery development had hit a wall, and we were pushing hydrogen hard. But now so much money and brainpower has been thrown at electrification that we're starting to see significant improvements in batteries in a way we hadn't anticipated. Now we have the confidence that the customer can have a good experience with batteries."

Drawing a huge crowd, Tesla Motors Chairman and CEO Elon Musk showed off his company's 1,000th electric Roadster at the auto show. "For a little company, it's a huge milestone," he told me. "A year ago, we had built only 150 cars. We had two stores then, and now it's a dozen."

For a major automaker, 1,000 cars would not be much to show for a year, but electric vehicles are still in their infancy. And since the electric car's first swan song in the 1920s — when the widespread availability of petroleum ushered in the era of the gasoline-powered car — very few start-up companies have reached the milestone of making green vehicles, especially battery-powered ones.

Here's a look at some of the prime contenders bringing battery cars and plug-in hybrids to market:

* Renault-Nissan Alliance. This is the one automaker with a truly global plug-in strategy and the means to carry it out. Under the Nissan banner, the company will deploy the Leaf battery sedan, with 100-mile, all-electric range. Nissan isn't just dumping its sleek entry into the market — it's also building a home charger with new partner AeroVironment and partnering with local, state and federal governments — both in the U.S. and abroad — on public charging stations. In partnership with Better Place, the company will deploy a second Renault electric vehicle as part of its plan to wire up Israel with charging stations for electric cars. Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn predicts that electric vehicles could constitute 10 percent of world car sales by 2020.

* Ford Motor Company. Ford's green strategy includes a plug-in version of the new Focus for 2011 and a "next-generation" hybrid — based on its global compact-car platform, or C-platform — in 2012. The company announced in Detroit that it would invest $450 million in Michigan as part of its electrification strategy. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm told me at the auto show that until recently the state "wasn't sure it had a viable auto industry." Today, she said, the state is enjoying $1 billion in new auto-related investment, much of it jump-started by a combination of federal funding and state tax credits.

* General Motors. GM's big news is the Chevrolet Volt, which has definitely helped the company's image. The Volt, which uses a small gas engine to generate electricity for its electric motor, is a lot of fun to drive if the version I drove recently in Michigan is any indication. Until now, GM has stumbled in its hybrid strategy, and it really needs this car — which will go on sale at the end of the year for a hefty $40,000 — to be a hit. But success may be more a matter of perception than actual sales. "In terms of numbers, the Volt will be pretty small for the first couple of years," says product chief Bob Lutz. A Cadillac version of the Volt is also a possibility.

* Tesla Motors. This California start-up launched at the top of the market with its $109,000 Roadster, which combines sexy looks with supercar performance (zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds). The company is on something of a roll, having sold 10 percent of itself to Daimler for $50 million, and landed $465 million in DOE funding for its forthcoming Model S sedan — a Maserati-like, more practical version of the Roadster. Tesla's Musk says that the company's strategy has always been to use its sale of performance cars to finance its third vehicle, a mass-market electric vehicle. The company is currently looking at California locations for a Model S factory.

* Fisker Automotive. Perhaps Tesla's closest competitor when it comes to glamour electric vehicles, Fisker – whose CEO is Danish-born automotive designer Henrik Fisker — is preparing to debut a high-performance plug-in hybrid (zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, with 67 mpg fuel efficiency) known as the Karma at the end of the year. Al Gore is on the waiting list. Fisker also has a lower-cost car in the wings, called Project Nina. Fisker won $528 million from the DOE to build the Nina in a former GM factory in Delaware.

* Coda Automotive. This start-up will deliver, in late 2010, a small battery-powered sedan with batteries from its own joint venture in China. The car is based on the Saibao, a Chinese car, but Coda has put a host of western companies to work honing an electric drivetrain for it. "A large part of our mission is to accelerate adoption of all-electric vehicles," Coda CEO Kevin Czinger told me. "We have put together a core group of auto and battery engineers, and are leveraging specialty automotive firms that we think can get us to the right price point." Coda will launch with an Internet marketing strategy in California only, but it will have the capacity to produce 20,000 cars a year.

* Think Global. Think is a survivor, with perhaps the longest and most colorful history among green automakers. It is a Norwegian company that attracted Ford Motor Company investment in the late 1990s with its plastic-bodied City commuter car. Ford sold the company in 2003 and it went through bankruptcy proceedings in late 2008. It has since emerged under the partial ownership of U.S. battery company Ener1, which snagged $118 million in DOE funding to expand its battery production in Indiana. Think electric vehicles will also be built there starting in 2011, in hard-hit Elkhart — once proudly known as the "RV Capital of the World" — and now suffering the effects of the recession. The two-seat Think City (with approximately 100-mile range on lithium-ion batteries) will sell for less than $20,000 in the U.S., but that price does not include the leased battery pack and includes the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles.

The list of players in the electric vehicle race goes on. Toyota is building plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, and showed off a small cousin of the Prius in Detroit. Chrysler has an ambitious electric vehicle rollout that's been stalled by the company's bankruptcy and merger with Fiat. Honda continues to deploy clever hybrid cars, including the upcoming two-seat CR-Z it showed in Detroit. BMW has electrified the Mini for a test program, and has similar intentions for the Concept ActiveE, a plug-in version of the Series 1 BMW coupe. And Audi has shown sudden interest in this segment, debuting the second of its electric e-tron vehicles.

By this time next year, electric cars will no longer be just on auto show stands, but will have arrived in showrooms at last.

Air Power

Air-Powered Car Coming to U.S. in 2009 to 2010 at Sub-$18,000, Could Hit 1000-MileRange

The CityCAT, already being developed in India , will be available for U.S. production in three different four-door styles. But it's the radical dual-energy engine, with a possible 1000-mile range at 96 mph, that could move the Air Car beyond Auto X Prize dreams and into American garages.

Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) confirmed to on Thursday that it expects to produce the world's first air-powered car for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010. As the U.S. licensee for Luxembourg-based MDI, which developed the Air Car as a compression-based alternative to the internal combustion engine, ZPM has attained rights to build the first of several modular plants, which are likely to begin manufacturing in the Northeast and grow for regional production around the country, at a clip of up to 10,000 Air Cars per year.

And while ZPM is also licensed to build MDI's two-seater One CAT economy model (the one headed for India) and three-seat Mini CAT (like a Smart For Two without the gas), the New Paltz, N.Y., startup is aiming bigger: Company officials want to make the first air-powered car to hit U.S. roads a $17,800, 75-hp equivalent, six-seat modified version of MDI's City CAT (pictured above) that, thanks to an even more radical engine, is said to travel as far as 1000 miles at up to 96 mph with each tiny fill-up.

We'll believe that when we drive it, but MDI's new dual-energy engine—currently being installed in models at MDI facilities overseas—is still pretty damn cool in concept. After using compressed air fed from the same Airbus-built tanks in earlier models to run its pistons, the next-gen Air Car has a supplemental energy source to kick in north of 35 mph, ZPM says. A custom heating chamber heats the air in a process officials refused to elaborate upon, though they insisted it would increase volume and thus the car's range and speed.

"I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we'll know soon more precisely from our engineers," ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, "but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or bio-fuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles."

Those figures would make the Air Car, along with Aptera's Typ-1 and Tesla's Roadster, a favorite among early entrants for the Automotive X Prize, for which MDI and ZPM have already signed up. But with the family-size, four-door City CAT undergoing standard safety tests in Europe, then side-impact tests once it arrives in the States, could it be the first 100-mpg, nonelectric car you can actually buy?

World's First Air-Powered Car: Zero Emissions by Next Summer 
India's largest automaker is set to start producing the world's first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine's pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.

Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car's carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car's built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours.

Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesn't mean the major automakers can write it off as a bizarre Indian experiment — MDI has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.

Hydrogen Safety Part IV

The Hindenburg

The fire that destroyed the Hindenburg in 1937 gave hydrogen a

misleading reputation. Hydrogen was used to keep the airship

buoyant and was initially blamed for the disaster. An investigation

by Addison Bain in the 1990s provided evidence that the airship's

fabric envelope was coated with reactive chemicals, similar to

solid rocket fuel, and was easily ignitable by an electrical

discharge. The Zeppelin Company, builder of the Hindenburg,

has since confirmed that the flammable, doped outer cover is to

be blamed for the fire.

Hydrogen Codes and Standards

Codes and standards help dictate safe building and installation

practices. Today, hydrogen components must follow strict guidelines

and undergo third party testing for safety and structural integrity.


Industry has developed new safety designs and equipment because

hydrogen's properties and behavior are different than the fuels we

use now. Hydrogen will make us re-think operating practices already

in place for gaseous and liquid fuels. Education of those differences

is the key enabler to making hydrogen a consumer-handled fuel

that we use safely and responsibly.

Hydrogen Safety Part III


An explosion cannot occur in a tank or any contained location that contains only hydrogen. An oxidizer, such as oxygen must be present in a concentration of at least 10% pure oxygen or 41% air. Hydrogen can be explosive at concentrations of 18.3-59% and although the range is wide, it is important to remember that gasoline can present a more dangerous potential than hydrogen since the potential for explosion occurs with gasoline at much lower concentrations, 1.1-3.3%. 

Furthermore, there is very little likelihood that hydrogen will explode in open air, due to its tendency to rise quickly. This is the opposite of what we find for heavier gases such as propane or gasoline fumes, which hover near the ground, creating a greater danger for explosion. 


With the exception of oxygen, any gas can cause asphyxiation. In most scenarios, hydrogen's buoyancy and diffusivity make hydrogen unlikely to be confined where asphyxiation might occur.


Hydrogen is non-toxic and non-poisonous. It will not contaminate groundwater (it's a gas under normal atmospheric conditions), nor will a release of hydrogen contribute to atmospheric pollution Hydrogen does not create "fumes."

Cryogenic burns

Any cryogenic liquid (hydrogen becomes a liquid below -423°F) can cause severe freeze burns if the liquid comes into contact with the skin. However, to keep hydrogen ultra-cold today, liquid hydrogen containers are double walled, vacuum-jacketed, super insulated containers that are designed to vent hydrogen safely in gaseous form if a breach of either the outer or inner wall is detected. The robust construction and redundant safety features dramatically reduce the likelihood for human contact.

Hydrogen Safety Part II

Hydrogen is odorless, colorless and tasteless, so most human senses won't help to detect a leak. For these and other reasons, industry often uses hydrogen sensors to help detect hydrogen leaks and has maintained a high safety record using them for decades. By comparison, natural gas is also odorless, colorless and tasteless, but industry adds a sulfur-containing odorant, called mercaptan, to make it detectable by people.

Currently, all known odorants contaminate fuel cells (a popular application for hydrogen) and create complications for food applications, like hydrogenating oils. However, given hydrogen's tendency to rise quickly, a leak would most likely rise above where any human nose might smell it, collecting briefly on the ceiling and then moving towards the corners. Today, researchers are investigating other methods that might be used for hydrogen detection like tracers and advanced sensors.

Hydrogen flames have low radiant heat.

Hydrogen combustion primarily produces heat and water. Due to the absence of carbon and the presence of heat absorbing water vapor created when hydrogen burns, a hydrogen fire has significantly less radiant heat compared to a hydrocarbon fire. Since the flame emits low levels of heat near the flame (the flame itself is just as hot), the risk of secondary fires is lower. This fact has a significant impact for the public and rescue workers.


Like any flammable fuel, hydrogen can combust. But hydrogen's buoyancy, diffusivity and small molecular size make it difficult to containand create a combustible situation. In order for a hydrogen fire to occur, an adequate concentration of hydrogen, the presence of an ignition source and the right amount of oxidizer (like oxygen) must be present at the same time. 

Hydrogen has a wide flammability range (4- 74% in air) and the energy required to ignite hydrogen (0.02mJ) can be very low. However, at low concentrations (below 10%) the energy required to ignite hydrogen is higher-- similar to the energy required to ignite natural gas and gasoline in their respective flammability ranges--making hydrogen realistically more difficult to ignite near the lower flammability limit. On the other hand, if conditions exist where the hydrogen concentration increases toward the stoichiometric(most easily ignited) mixture of 29% hydrogen (in air), the ignition energy drops to about one fifteenth of that required to ignite natural gas (or one tenth for gasoline).

Hydrogen Safety Part I

Hydrogen: Similar but Different

For over 40 years, industry has used hydrogen in vast quantities as an industrial chemical and fuel for space exploration. During that time, industry has developed an infrastructure to produce, store, transport and utilize hydrogen safely. Hydrogen is no more or less dangerous than other flammable fuels, including gasoline and natural gas. In fact, some of hydrogen's differences actually provide safety benefits compared to gasoline or other fuels.

However, all flammable fuels must be handled responsibly. Like gasoline and natural gas, hydrogen is flammable and can behave dangerously under specific conditions. Hydrogen can be handled safely when guidelines are observed and the user has an understanding of its behavior.

The following lists some of the most notable differences between gaseous hydrogen and other common fuels:

Hydrogen is lighter than air and diffuses rapidly.

Hydrogen has a rapid diffusivity (3.8 times faster than natural gas), which means that when released, it dilutes quickly into a non-flammable concentration. Hydrogen rises 2 times faster than helium and 6 times faster than natural gas at a speed of almost 45 mph (20m/s). Therefore, unless a roof, a poorly ventilated room or some other structure contains the rising gas, the laws of physics prevent hydrogen from lingering near a leak (or near

people using hydrogen-fueled equipment). As the lightest element in the universe, confining hydrogen is very difficult. Industry takes these properties into account when designing structures where hydrogen will be used. The designs help hydrogen escape up and away from the user in case of an unexpected release.

The Hydrogen Economy Part III

Hydrogen Utilization

The fuel cell is one of several conversion technologies that can be fueled by hydrogen. Basically, hydrogen fuel cells operate like electrolysis in reverse: Hydrogen gas and oxygen from the air combine in a catalyzed electrochemical reaction to produce an electric current, heat and water, pure enough to drink. Aside from being pollution-free, fuel cells are quiet, and can achieve efficiencies that are two- to three-times greater than internal combustion engines. The scalability of fuel cells makes them ideal for a wide variety of applications – including laptops (50- 100 Watts) and central power generation (1-200 MW).

Although fuel cells have the potential to serve all sectors of the economy, today they are relatively expensive to build compared to our internal combustion engines. They will need further development to increase durability and bring down cost so they can compete economically.

We can use hydrogen in internal combustion engines (ICEs) , similar to the engines we have in our cars today, with slight modifications. Hydrogen burns much cleaner and more efficiently than gasoline which makes hydrogen ICEs a realistic near-term transition technology. However, fuel cells, with higher efficiencies and zero emissions will likely be a more popular utilization technology in the longer term. Reciprocating engines and combustion turbines are also under development to combust hydrogen in place of traditional fuels to efficiently generate electricity and thermal power with zero emissions. Once mature, these technologies can also find use for onsite power applications in homes, offices and industrial facilities. 

Carbon Sequestration

The use of fossil resources (natural gas, coal, petroleum) to produce hydrogen emits some carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. Technologies to capture and sequester (store) CO2 are under development.

We will need these technologies before large-scale hydrogen production from fossil resources contributes to the transition to a sustainable hydrogen economy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Hydrogen Economy Part II

The Next Energy Transition

Right now we may be standing on the brink of the next big energy transition, or diversification. The international community recognizes hydrogen as a key component to a clean, sustainable energy system. This future hydrogen economy features hydrogen as an energy carrier in the stationary power, transportation, industrial, residential and commercial sectors.

As technology matures, hydrogen will be produced mainly using clean technologies like electrolysis from renewables and nuclear, or reformation of fossil feedstocks with carbon sequestration. It may be stored, transported by truck or pipeline, and used in a fuel cell, turbine or engine to generate an electric current with water as the principal by-product.

To reach that point, hydrogen will be introduced into small market segments as these technologies become market-ready. The chemical and refining industries have safely produced, stored and transported hydrogen for industrial purposes for decades. The technologies used by those industries to produce hydrogen are a logical starting point to catalyze more widespread use of hydrogen as an energy carrier,

The Hydrogen Economy Part I

Energy Transformations: A Look Back

The transition to a hydrogen economy - though it may sound implausible - isn't unprecedented. Up until the last half of the 19th century, the United States had an energy system based on animals for transportation and wood for heating and cooking. Today, energy in the form of transportation fuels and electricity has become so ubiquitous it is difficult to separate it from the function of modern society.

In the span of less than 150 years, the U.S. and much of the developed world, has successfully transitioned from wood to coal, to increasing contributions from natural gas, petroleum, hydro, nuclear energy and, most recently, renewables. 

The later transitions are more reflective of a diversification of energy resources than actual transitions. The entry of new energy resources has been driven in large part by environmental concerns, technological advances, demand and economic forces.

Until the end of the 20th century, the U.S. produced nearly all of the energy it needed. In the 1980's consumption of natural gas began to outpace domestic production so the U.S. turned to Canadian imports to make up the difference. Starting in 1994, the U.S. imported more petroleum than it produced, mostly to meet transportation demands. For electricity generation, abundant coal remains the dominant, domestic primary energy resource.

Access to energy has had unparalleled consequences socially, economically and environmentally. The industrial revolution and indeed the technological revolution would not have been possible without a reliable energy supply. But the principal energy resources of the fossil fuel economy are finite, and they produce emissions that are harmful to the environment when we use these resources to provide lighting, cooking, heating and mobility. These factors will likely be among the main drivers to bring about the next energy transition.

Toyota Electric

Bill Reinert, the head of Toyota's advanced powertrain research, stated that his company does not forsee the electric vehicle becoming the standard in the industry in the short-term future.

The man who spearheaded the successful Prius project believes that the market for electric vehicles in the United States is not large enough to justify a major developmental project for electric vehicles, or a transformation within the company towards electric production. He says that the current ranges - around 100 miles - promised by automakers such as Nissan and Ford are unrealistic and do not take into account highway driving, traffic conditions, or air conditioners and heaters draining the battery.

The impracticability of electric vehicles is, he believes, the key reason why Toyota is not actively pursuing them. According to Reinert, "A car that has a 100 mile range and needs to be recharged for eight hours after that, that's not flexible enough for the modern family."

A spokesman for Nissan disagreed, stating that Reinert and Toyota were making such claims because they were biased towards hybrids. The Toyota Prius is the leading hybrid in the market, but Reinert claims that hybrids demonstrate why electric vehicles are not currently feasible for mass production.

""We've had the Prius on sale for 10 years now," says Reinert, "and it asks nothing of the customer."

Even though the Prius is simple to operate and drive, hybrids only make up less than 2% of the American passenger vehicle market. Presumably, electric vehicles that require frequent recharging, battery swapping, and other routine maintenance concerns specific to electric vehicles would make these cars even less attractive.

Reinert did praise General Motors for giving the Chevrolet Volt a 4-cylinder engine that runs on gas in addition to its primary electric powertrain, stating that the company is heading "in the right direction" with the move.

Toyota is developing a fleet of plug-in electric FT-EV II short-range cars that are due out in 2012 for rental, presumably for urban driving, but are not for sale.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Toyota Hybrid Output

Toyota to double hybrid output in 2011: report

Taiga Uranaka


Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:57am EST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp aims to double its global output of gas-electric hybrid cars to 1 million units in 2011, as it fights to stay in the lead in the growing market for low-emission cars, the Nikkei business reported on Monday.

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, had said it aimed to sell 1 million models annually worldwide soon after 2010 and has been ramping up its push on hybrids, introducing the Sai sedan in Japan recently, the brand's second hybrid-only model.

Low emission hybrids have enjoyed strong sales thanks to generous subsidies and tax breaks. The Prius, Toyota's flagship hybrid, became Japan's best-selling car in 2009.

"For the foreseeable future, the focus of Toyota's (low-emission car) strategy will be on hybrids, not electric or fuel-cell cars," said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities, adding the production volume reported by the Nikkei was in line with his expectations.

"Except for Honda, Toyota is facing little competition in hybrids and is set to put distance between itself and other automakers."

Honda Motors produces a rival hybrid, the Insight, whose popularity has so far trailed behind that of the Prius.

Toyota plans to add about 10 new hybrid models in the next few years to its existing lineup and to increase the number of sites where it can assemble hybrid models, the Nikkei said without citing sources.

Toyota's global production of hybrid cars is likely to have been 500,000 units in 2009, accounting for about 8 percent of its overall production, the paper said.

Toyota has already expanded its hybrid production sites beyond Japan to include China, the United States, Thailand and Australia, typically receiving some form of state-backed incentives to build the fuel-efficient vehicles locally.

Shares of Toyota were down 1 percent at 4,160 yen as of 0200 GMT (9 p.m. on Sunday), compared with a 1.2 percent decline in the Topix index.

(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by David Dolan)

Liquid Electricity

What is Blue Fuel?

Dimethyl ether is the simplest ether, with a chemical formula of CH3-O-CH3 and a molecular formula C2-H6-O (which it shares with ethanol. A synthetic compound, the physical properties of dimethyl ether are similar to those of liquefied petroleum gases (i.e., propane and butane). Dimethyl ether burns with a visible blue flame and is non- peroxide forming in the pure state or in aerosol formulations.

Unlike methane, dimethyl ether does not require an odorant because it has a sweet ether-like odor. Gaseous in ambient conditions Blue Fuel™ becomes a liquid when cooled to -25C or pressurized to about six atmospheres. Until recent years it was primarily used as an ozone-friendly aerosol propellant, replacing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in hair sprays, for example, and in the production of ultra-pure glass because it burns without forming soot. Blue Fuel is hydrogen rich and contains no direct carbon bonds or sulfur.

Why Blue Fuel™?

Four compelling reasons:

1. Blue Fuel™ lowers the carbon content of the atmosphere. Blue Fuel™ can be produced in carbon-neutral fashion, so replacing fossil fuels with Blue Fuel™ can help us get back to the safe upper limit of 350 parts per million (ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide, improving our chances of preventing catastrophic global warming. Beyond 350 ppm we are pushing our luck. And pushing our luck is what we are doing because we are now close to 400 ppm and are on course for even more alarming concentrations.

2. Blue Fuel™ provides energy security. Despite the apparent abundance of oil in the global marketplace at present (early 2009), the world may soon start running short of it. If this happens and a substitute(s) for petroleum-based fuels are not in place, economic and political chaos could ensue. Though electric vehicles and natural gas-powered vehicles may play significant roles in the transportation sector, they have limitations that require the adoption of other solutions as well. With electric vehicles, for example, there are the issues of grid and vehicle size and range constraints.

And though natural gas has environmental benefits that diesel and gasoline do not, it is still a fossil fuel that will add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Blue Fuel™ is liquid electricity™, a fuel that will buy time as the grid is expanded; it is also a non-fossil fuel that can be burned in the most efficient internal combustion engines ever devised—the diesel. Further, Blue Fuel™ can be produced from multiple, abundant, readily available feedstocks — the foundation of energy security.

3. Blue Fuel™ improves the quality of the air we breathe. Blue Fuel™ delivers sootless combustion with no SOx, low CO2 and 90% less NOx emissions than standard automotive fuels. This translates to clean air—and better health. Better health, of course, not only enhances quality of life, it also has economic benefits. People made ill by air pollution are less or non-productive and require medical treatment. Countries around the world spend vast sums of money on hospital visits as a result of air pollution, a significant portion of which can be attributed to the combustion of fossil fuels.

4. Blue Fuel™ saves petroleum for future generations. Do we really have the right to burn almost all the oil that has taken millions of years to form on our planet—within less than 200 years? Should we not be leaving generous reserves for future generations to use for higher-level applications than power generation, transportation, and heating? Petroleum is an extremely valuable feedstock for the production of innumerable products fundamental to our daily lives, including, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, plastics, paints, synthetic rubber, lubricants...

Blue Fuel™ has attributes that are fundamental to its capacity to mitigate global warming, provide energy security, and improve air quality.

Toyota Lithium

Toyota in Lithium deal for Electric & Hybrid Cars

Jan 20, 2010 8:50 AM | By Reuters 

Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest carmaker, secured a new lithium supply deal to fuel its expansion of hybrid car production, a move that boosted shares in sister firm Toyota Tsusho Corp.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s hybrid car "Prius" Custom Concept Plus.
Photograph by: Itsuo Inouye
Credit: AP

  • Shares in Toyota Tsusho, owned 21,8% by Toyota, jumped about 10% after the sister firm announced a deal to jointly develop a new lithium project in Argentina with the project's owner and operator, Australian-listed Orocobre Ltd.

Lithium is used to make batteries and is expected to be in increasing demand as car-makers such as Toyota and Honda Motors ramp up production of fuel-electric hybrid vehicles.

"As environmentally friendly electric car demand continues to grow, Toyota Motor Corp will have the opportunity to become a cornerstone offtake customer," Orocobre said in a statement.

The Salar de Olaroz project is estimated to cost around $80- $100 million, with the final figure to be determined after a feasibility study, Orocobre spokesman Paul Ryan said, adding the study should be complete by end-September.

"In addition, Toyota Tsusho will also have the opportunity to negotiate a lithium chemicals off-take agreement with Orocobre as part of the joint venture," Orocobre Managing Director Richard Seville said in a press release.

Toyota aims to double its global output of gas-electric hybrid cars to 1 million units in 2011, as it fights to stay in the lead in the growing market for low-emission cars, the Nikkei business reported this month.

Subject to the finalisation of the terms, Toyota Tsusho will acquire a 25% equity interest in the joint venture while Orocobre will continue to own the remaining 75% of the project and will operate the venture.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nano Car

World's Smallest Hot Rod Made Using Nanotechnology

Tue Jan 19, 9:30 am ET

Researchers have built a new super-small "Nano-dragster" that improves on prior Nano-car designs and could speed up efforts to craft molecular machines.

"We made a new version of a Nano-car that looks like a dragster," said James Tour, a chemist at Rice University who was involved in the research. "It has smaller front wheels on a shorter axle and bigger back wheels on a longer axle."

The super small car is about 50,000 times thinner than a human hair and is pushed along by heat or an electric field.

Spherical molecules called bucky-balls made of 60 carbon atoms each serve as the big rear wheels. Due to chemical attractions, these wheels nicely grip the "drag-strip," which is made of a superfine layer of gold rather than pavement. For the front wheels, the scientists opted for a less sticky compound called p-carborane.

Tour's group built nano-cars before with bucky-balls as all four wheels, but these autos hug the road too tightly and require temperatures around 400 degrees Fahrenheit to get rolling. Nano-cars with all p-carbonane wheels, on the other hand, slip and slide as if on ice, said Tours, making them difficult to image and study.

By incorporating both wheel types, the nano-dragster can cruise at lower temperatures with greater agility and range of motion.

Microscopic auto-body shop

To make the new nano-dragster, Tour's team started with a previously built, off-the-shelf short axle and front wheel unit in their lab, which is sort of a nano-Monster Garage. They then chemically hooked this up to a pair of aligned hydrocarbon molecules called phenylene-ethynylene-the vehicle's chassis. The rear axle came next and finally the bucky-ball wheels went on.

Once the new nanocar gets rolling, it can reach speeds of up to nine nano-miles, or 0.014 (.0005 inches), per hour, which is relatively fast for their size, said Tour.

The tiny hot rods can also do tricks. "Because the front wheels don't stick to the surface as strongly, they're more prone to lift up, so [the nano-dragster] does seem to pop a wheelie at times," Tour told Top Ten REVIEWS.

By learning how to drive nano-vehicles, Tour hopes to pave the way for small but technologically useful structures, such as electronics, that could be built atom by atom.

Sugar Hydrogen

Sugar Power: Most Efficient Method To Produce Hydrogen

 Science Daily — Chemists are describing development of a "revolutionary" process for converting plant sugars into hydrogen, which could be used to cheaply and efficiently power vehicles equipped with hydrogen fuel cells without producing any pollutants.

The process involves combining plant sugars, water, and a cocktail of powerful enzymes to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide under mild reaction conditions. They reported on the system, described as the world's most efficient method for producing hydrogen, at the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The new system helps solve the three major technical barriers to the so-called "hydrogen economy," researchers said. Those roadblocks involve how to produce low-cost sustainable hydrogen, how to store hydrogen, and how to distribute it efficiently, the researchers say.

"This is revolutionary work," says lead researcher Y.-H. Percival Zhang, Ph.D., a biochemical engineer at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. "This has opened up a whole new direction in hydrogen research. With technology improvement, sugar-powered vehicles could come true eventually."

While recognized a clean, sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, hydrogen production is expensive and inefficient. Most traditional commercial production methods rely on fossil fuels, such as natural gas, while innovations like microbial fuel cells still yield low levels of hydrogen. Researchers worldwide thus are urgently looking for better way to produce the gas from renewable resources.

Zhang and colleagues believe they have found the most promising hydrogen-producing system to date from plant biomass. The researchers also believe they can produce hydrogen from cellulose, which has a similar chemical formula to starch but is far more difficult to break down.

In laboratory studies, the scientists collected 13 different, well-known enzymes and combined them with water and starches. Inside a specially designed reactor and under mild conditions (approximately 86 degrees Fahrenheit), the resulting broth reacted to produce only carbon dioxide and hydrogen with no leftover pollutants.

The method, called "in vitro synthetic biology," produced three times more hydrogen than the theoretical yield of anaerobic fermentation methods. However, the amount of hydrogen produced was still too low for commercial use and the speed of the reactions isn't optimal, Zhang notes.

The researchers are now working on making the system faster and more efficient. One approach includes looking for enzymes that work at higher temperatures, which would speed hydrogen production rates. The researchers also hope to produce hydrogen from cellulose, which has similar chemical formula to starch, by replacing several enzymes in the enzyme cocktail.

Zhang envisions that one day people will be able to go to their local grocery store and buy packets of solid starch or cellulose and pack it into the gas tank of their fuel-cell car. Then it's a pollution-free drive to their destination -- cheaper, cleaner, and more efficiently than even the most fuel-stingy gasoline-based car. And unlike cars that burn fossil fuel, the new system would not produce any odors, he says. Also, such a system will be safe because the hydrogen produced is consumed immediately, the researcher notes.

Alternatively, the new plant-based technology could even be used to develop an infrastructure of hydrogen-filling stations or even home-based filling stations, Zhang says. But consumers probably won't be able to take advantage of this automotive technology any time soon: He estimates that it may take as many as 8 to 10 years to optimize the efficiency of the system so that it is suitable for use in vehicles.

A scaled-down version of the same technology could conceivably be used to create more powerful, longer lasting sugar batteries for portable music players, laptops, and cell phones, Zhang says. That advance could take place in as few as 3 to 5 years, the researcher estimates.

The study, which is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science of Virginia Tech, is a collaborative project between Va. Tech, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Production Technologies of Hydrogen

Current LWR technology can make electricity to produce hydrogen through electrolysis at an overall efficiency of about 25%. However, proposed advanced HTGRs operate at higher temperatures, producing electricity and hydrogen much more efficiently (up to 50%). These advanced reactors potentially have many advantages over the current LWRs used in the U.S. today.

There are two main categories of hydrogen production technologies using HTGRs:
• Thermochemical water-splitting cycles 
• High-temperature electrolysis
Like conventional electrolysis, both technologies separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Both technologies also use high temperature heat for economical, emission-free hydrogen.

Thermochemical (TC) Water-splitting Cycles
Thermochemical production of hydrogen involves the separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen through chemical reactions at high temperatures (450-1000 °C). A TC water-splitting cycle involves a series of chemical reactions, some at higher temperatures than others. Engineers carefully choose chemicals to create a closed loop system that reacts with water to release oxygen and hydrogen gases.  All reactants and compounds are regenerated and and recycled. Studies conducted through the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative have identified more than 100 different TC water-splitting cycles. A few of the most promising cycles have been selected for further research and development based on the simplicity of the cycle, the efficiency of the process and the ability to separate a pure hydrogen product. The biggest challenge with TC processes today is corrosion of process reactors and system materials.

Of the identified processes, the sulfur family, including the sulfuriodine (S-I) cycle and the Hybrid Sulfur (HyS) cycle, has shown the most promise for hydrogen production The S-I cycle uses iodine (I2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) as chemical reactants to split water. First, water reacts with I2 and SO2 to form hydrogen iodide (HI) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4). The HI and H2SO4 are separated from each other. H2SO4 and HI are decomposed in separate thermal decomposition steps into SO2 and O2 , and I2 and hydrogen (H2) respectively. The SOand I2 are recycled and used again and again. The H2 and Ogases are available as products. The reaction that requires the greatest heat input is the thermal decomposition of H2SO4, typically at temperatures in the range of 800°C. Higher temperatures tend to favor greater efficiency.

The Hybrid Cycle uses the same high temperature decomposition of H2SO4 into SO2 and O2, but substitutes electrolysis of SO2 and H2O into H2SO4 and H2, for the HI reaction and decomposition step. This avoids the use of iodine and potentially simplifies the process.

High-temperature Electrolysis (HTE)

HTE, or steam electrolysis, involves the separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis at high temperatures (up to 1100°C). Conceptually, HTE is the same as conventional low-temperature (<100°C) electrolysis. However, HTE uses heat from the reactor to replace some of the premium electricity required in conventional low temperature electrolysis. How much extra heat is needed? To produce 1 kilogram of hydrogen at 100°C, the system needs about 350 megajoules of heat energy. At 850°C, only about 225 megajoules are needed—a potential savings of more than 35% at the higher temperature.

Nuclear energy can help provide the hydrogen needed for a Hydrogen Economy. Today's LWRs produce hydrogen by conventional low temperature electrolysis, while advanced reactors can potentially improve electricity production, economically producing emissions-free hydrogen. Together with fossil and renewable resources, nuclear energy and its companion technologies can produce hydrogen for our portable, stationary and transportation needs.