10 June 2008

Hydrogen Test Drive

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Hydrogen as an energy carrier in fuel cells could provide in the next future a solution to worldwide rise of fuel prices.

Worldwide gas prices continue to rise daily- as well as environmental and safety consciousness. Hydrogen as an energy carrier in fuel cells could now bring forward a solution to many of these problems. The European Project ZeroRegio is conducting international field tests to determine the conditions placed on infrastructure and day-to-day usage as well as the prerequisites for the viability of hydrogen vehicles on the worldwide market. Well-known companies such as Infraserv Höchst, DaimlerAG, Linde AG as well as Sapio and Eni in Italy are initiators and partners in this project and can already report positive results. Hydrogen will become the fuel of the future!

Inside the Industriepark Höchst by Frankfurt am Main, approximately 20.000 employees work on a site around 460 hectares in size. There, over 80 internationally operating companies research, develop, and produce chemical and pharmaceutical products. In the process, many by-products and waste are also produced, such as in the production of chlorine. Every year 30 million Nm³ (normal cubic meter) of hydrogen is accumulated which had previously been thermal used. ZeroRegio is aiming to change all this by using the hydrogen in fuel cell cars fit for everyday life! Cars with suitable engines are delivered by DaimlerAG in Germany and Fiat in Lombardy, Italy. Following several prototypes, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class F-Cell is DaimlerAG’s first hydrogen vehicle entirely fit for everyday life. Its electric motor is coupled with two fuel cells. After starting the car a controlled electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel-cells produces energy in the form of electricity and heat on the release of water. A full tank then allows the car to cover a distance of 170 kilometres emission-free. Fuel cell cars have a high degree of efficiency, they are quiet and work totally emission-free.

Apart from the everyday suitability of the cars, ZeroRegio has given a high priority to the development of the associated infrastructure. The basis of this infrastructure is formed by the Hoechst industrial park, where 30 million Nm³ of hydrogen is produced as an annual by-product. Only thermal used unitl now, it serves as a fuel for the 3-year fuel cell field test. Two innovative technologies make it possible to fuel the cells at a normal public fuelling station. It is made possible by a new ionic compressor from the company Linde AG which, for the first time, allows hydrogen gas to be compressed to nearly 1000 bar. In doing so, it does not make use of the usual metallic compression pistons, which are quickly worn out and consume much energy, but rather of a saline liquid which at certain temperatures allows for an extremely high level of compression. The second innovation: after having been highly compressed, a 1,7 kilometre long pipeline leads the hydrogen to a public fuelling station. The results up to this point clearly show that, under the right conditions, hydrogen can be implemented as fuel both energy efficiently and environmentally friendly. The three greatest advantages of its use are that hydrogen is converted into electricity totally emission-free by the fuel cell; that it can be produced as an energy carrier from any given source of energy, making it infinitely available; and that hydrogen in conjunction with fuel cells has a much higher efficiency coefficient when converting to kinetic energy than any other energy carrier. ZeroRegio has thus demonstrated that, with the appropriate infrastructure, it is quite possible and feasible to put fuel cell cars to use on an everyday basis. 
 

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