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Technology

BMW Shows Off World's Fastest Hydrogen Car 400

loid_void writes "According to Reuters and others BMW unveiled the world's fastest hydrogen-powered car at the Paris auto show on Wednesday, dubbed the H2R, capable of exceeding 300 kilometers (185 miles) per hour. The are also working with Shell on hydrogen dispensing stations. '"Our drive toward the future is called hydrogen," BMW management board member Burkhard Goeschel said before the tarp slowly slipped off the teardrop-shaped body of the sleek race car.' All I want to know, does it come with an iPod hookup?"
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BMW Shows Off World's Fastest Hydrogen Car

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  • boom (Score:5, Funny)

    by caldfyr ( 814077 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:41PM (#10351584)
    When you run head-on into something at 185 will the hydrogen fireball be a different color than a gasolene one?
  • next step... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Coneasfast ( 690509 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:42PM (#10351594)
    Hydrogen is obtained either from fossil fuels such as natural gas or by applying electrical power to water molecules. Ecologically, the problem of finding a regenerating source of primary energy remains.

    let's see now if you can develop the world's cheapest car ;)
    • Re:next step... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Depris ( 612363 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:01PM (#10351708)
      Somebody already invented a car that was cheap and lasted a lot longer than conventional parts. He died broke when all the car companies lobbied against him because of the economic consequences.

      Their was also a movie by Francis Ford Coppla about him with Jeff Bridges:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096316/
      • Re:next step... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Skater ( 41976 )

        You know the URL you supplied doesn't back up your statement, right?

        "The SEC took him and five associates to court because his cars didn't have all the technical features that he had promised investors in his prospectus they would. That stymied his ability to raise the money he needed to produce the 300,000 cars he had orders for. It was not a case of the "big three" motor companies acting to crush him - in fact Ford gave him steering wheels for the Lincoln Zephyr as a gesture of help."

        --RJ

    • Re:next step... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TheClassic ( 816274 )
      Hydrogen is obtained either from fossil fuels such as natural gas or by applying electrical power to water molecules. Ecologically, the problem of finding a regenerating source of primary energy remains. This is the single most ignored fact about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Too many people think they will solve our dependency on petroleum based fuel. They won't. On the other side of the picture, there may be advantages and economies of scale in terms of pollution in the manufacture of hydrogen. However, th
      • Re:next step... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ifwm ( 687373 )
        The only reason that we get hydrogen from non-renewable resources now is that you have to develop feasible fuel cells before we worry about infrastructure. What, we should find a way to refine vast amounts of hydrogen when there's no place to use it? Yeah, that's genius...

        By the way, I'll gladly jump on the bandwagon (and eat crow if it crashes) because this is the magic bullet. Electricity and pure water, made from the most abundant element in the universe. Hmm we'd sure look like asses for buying int
    • let's see now if you can develop the world's cheapest car ;)

      Let's not be cynical. This BMW vehicle is a significant accomplishment. It shows that a high-performance vehicle running solely on hydrogen can be built.

      Now, let's just entice Honda to apply Japanese manufacturing technologies to reduce the cost of the vehicle by a factor of 1000. Please remember that the Americans invented the videotape recorder (VR), and it started out at more than $10,000 per unit. Then, Japanese companies took it and

  • Isn't - (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:42PM (#10351596) Homepage
    Hydrogen pretty dangerous stuff? I mean, I know it's quite explosive....(From what I recall from freshman chem :) ) Does anyone remember the Hindenberg?

    Which brings my question - how do you stablize hydrogen so it's not so explosive?.....A car accident could spell disaster if not properly contained...Or am I wrong?

    -thewldisntenufff
    • by stryders ( 564863 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:47PM (#10351625)
      I wouldn't compare a giant bag full of hydrogen to a modern car engineered by a company well known for its safety engineering. Here's an older article that discusses their safety (scroll a bit) on CNN [cnn.com]
      • besides if the car was designed with an upward/ multiple failpoints in the tank (ie the tank cracks on the top in about a half dozen places) what we would have is gas venting away from the area (the H blew because it contained the gas) safer than petrol maybe??
    • Re:Isn't - (Score:5, Funny)

      by slacktide ( 796664 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:48PM (#10351626)
      Isn't gasoline pretty dangerous stuff? I mean, I know it's quite explosive....(From what I recall from freshman chem :) ) Does anyone remember the multiple gasoline explosions that occur every day??

      Which brings my question - how do you stablize gasoline so it's not so explosive?.....A car accident could spell disaster if not properly contained...Or am I wrong?
      • Re:Isn't - (Score:3, Interesting)

        by IAR80 ( 598046 )
        The main problem is that you need to have the hidrogen liquefied or otherwise your tank will give you a range of 20cm. Also the H2 molecule is very small and tends to escape through pores. Combine this with high presure and a smoker in a huge underground parking lot.
        • Re:Isn't - (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DavidTC ( 10147 ) <slas45dxsvadiv...vadiv@@@neverbox...com> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @10:31PM (#10352604) Homepage
          That's the gag. You have a gas leak while your car's sitting in the garage, you might have a mess and possibly a flameout.

          You have a hydrogen leak, and someone walks in and flips on the light switch...

          I hope, if they're going to do this, they're at least going to have the sense to perfume the hydrogen, like they do natural gas, so we can go 'Oh, crap, hydrogen leak' and run like hell.

          I don't really understand the logic of hydrogen cars. If we have hydrogen, we can effortlessly convert that to 100% clean electricity via burning. So why the hell don't we just do that at the power plant?

          I mean, I'd understand if we had some magical source of hydrogen, and we didn't want to lose power though the overhead of power transfer and batteries...but we don't. We have absolutely no way of getting hydrogen, outside of fossil fuels, that doesn't use up more electricity than we put into it. I've never heard of any way even proposed to get said hydrogen.

          The entire concept is completely illogical, it sounds like someone realized you can burn hydrogen and get water, slept through an enviromental film, and built a 'clean' car. Hey, I can build a car that takes a continual supply of D batteries, by that logic it's a clean car.

          And I have to point out the same applies to anything, thanks to thermodynamics. Everything on earth either exists at the lowest energy state, or at least will stay there if we make energy from it. We can't go around breaking up H20 and burning the H to get power, and anyone who's ever had any physics will easily explain why.

          The only exceptions are things that are ultimately powered by the ouside, such as solar, wind, water, and tidal power. (Although geothermal, while a closed cycle, is not incredibly likely to run down in any measurable time. And the same with fussion and fission.)

          • Re:Isn't - (Score:3, Interesting)

            by steveha ( 103154 )
            You have a hydrogen leak, and someone walks in and flips on the light switch...

            I hope that the vent system will have a little pilot light or sparker or something, and will burn up the wasted hydrogen. Maybe even run the waste hydrogen through a fuel cell and charge a storage battery?

            Except for your enclosed garage scenario, even unburned waste H2 should be safe, because it's lighter than air, so it will disperse quickly. If it settled to the ground in a pool, that would be bad. But even gases like pro
          • Re:Isn't - (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Ricdude ( 4163 )
            I hope, if they're going to do this, they're at least going to have the sense to perfume the hydrogen, like they do natural gas, so we can go 'Oh, crap, hydrogen leak' and run like hell.

            Fuel Cell Today - Hydrogen Explosion Investigation [fuelcelltoday.com]

            BURNABY, B.C. (CP) - Experts from United States have arrived to help investigate the explosion which resulted from a tanker truck leaking hydrogen at the Ballard Power facility. The leak sparked an explosion and small fire that sent the truck's driver to hospital with m

          • We are not going to transistion to hydrogen overnight, not even close .

            Most ppl will want their gas powered cars for a few decades to come
            if for any other reason than cost .

            In a decade or two, or three, more clean power will be developed
            like Bubble Fusion(proven) or Cold Fusion(unproven)

            Tidal Generators at the Bay of Fundy alone could make more power
            than all the dams on earth combined . Just need to make them
            underwater turbines so as not to destroy the sea floor like the large french one is doing in the
    • Re:Isn't - (Score:2, Informative)

      by Upaut ( 670171 )
      Hydrogen pretty dangerous stuff? I mean, I know it's quite explosive....(From what I recall from freshman chem :) ) Does anyone remember the Hindenberg? Actually, with the hydrogen being in stable fuelcells, instead of a mass collection, the chances of a hydrogen-oxegen explosion is very remote.
      That and with the Hindenberg the main problem was the explosive nature of the paint, not the hydrogen within. The Hindenburg would of been one of the cheapest, and safest, methods of flight, except for just a coupl
      • Re:Isn't - (Score:5, Informative)

        by csguy314 ( 559705 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:00PM (#10351700) Homepage
        Actually, with the hydrogen being in stable fuelcells,

        Ahhh, good old /., where people feel compelled to post before rtfa. The car doesn't use fuel cells for the engine. It's an hydrogen combustion engine.
        The article says that BMW is researching fuel cells as well, but it's concentrating on combustion engines "because the sum total of its features and characteristics offers the largest number of advantages and benefits all in one."
      • There has been GREAT debate about the cause of the Hindenburg disaster. Many people point not to the hydrogen but the makeup of the exterior (skin fabric)...

        Main Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindenburg_disaster [wikipedia.org]

        From Wikipedia:

        Proponents (http://www.dwv-info.de/pm/hindbg/hbe.htm) of the "flammable fabric" theory point out that the coatings on the fabric contained both iron oxide and aluminium impregnated cellulose acetate butyrate. Cellulose acetate butyrate is well known to be flammable
        • Re:Actually (Score:5, Informative)

          by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:26PM (#10351864)
          While the coating compenents were potentially reactive, they were separated by a layer of material that should have inhibited the reaction from starting.

          Alas, the Wikipedia article forgot one aspect: the mounting bolts for the canvas covering were made of steel, which allowed a static discharge to move through the canvas covering VERY quickly. Because the Hindenberg had flown near a thunderstorm just before the explosion, there was a buildup of static electricity on the entire airship and when it discharged the mounting bolts transmitted the static discharge, causing a large portion of the canvas covering to literally explode on the initial explosion.

          That's why on the short-lived airship Graf Zeppelin II (LZ 130), the Zeppelin engineers switched to bronze mounting bolts for the canvas covering, so the static discharge would not be transmitted through the mounting bolts.

          By the way, the Zeppelin company actually produced an internal report about the Hindenberg explosion and that report cited issues with the potential flammability of the canvas covering doping compound. Alas, that report was quickly surpressed by the Nazi government for various reasons.
      • To be more specific, the Hindenberg burned extremely rapidly because the doping compound on the outer canvas covering of the airship was a combination of nitrocellulose and aluminum powder--the EXACT ingredients of solid rocket motors! That's why you had that spectacular initial explosion as a large portion of the canvas covering literally exploded from the static discharge (people forget that just before the explosion the Hindenberg had flown through a thunderstorm).

        Today, a rigid airship designed with mo
    • Re:Isn't - (Score:5, Informative)

      by davejenkins ( 99111 ) <slashdot@davBALD ... com minus author> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:50PM (#10351635) Homepage
      Does anyone remember the Hindenberg?

      While the hydrogen contents of the Hindenberg certainly didn't help matters, that wasn't the main problem. The skin of the Zeppelin had been cured and doped with an aluminum oxide compound that is pretty much identical to solid rocket fuel (although this flammable quality wasn't known at the time).

      Go back and watch the film again-- the skin ignites and burns quickly-- rather than the whole structure exploding/popping like a ping in a balloon.
      • Re:Isn't - (Score:5, Insightful)

        by caseih ( 160668 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:04PM (#10351731)
        Yes it is true that the Hindenberg had rocket fuel -coated skin, which did burn rapidly and transmitted the fire throughout the structure. However, recent research has hypothesized that the skin played little role in actually starting the fire. The probable cause is actually leaking fuel from the engine fuel tanks, due to previous damage caused when they were experimenting with catching and releasing airplanes from the underside. This leaked fuel would have got into the lower areas, near the hydrogen gas. Once the fire started, it spread rapidly through the damaged areas and eventually ignited the hydrogen bags. Apparently if you examine the footage, you'll find the fire starting out on the bottom of the ship.

        Apparently the new Zepplin airship is due to be launched in the next few years. While it is helium-based (to satisfy the paranoid public), it is still three-times the size of the original Hindenberg. Should be a cool ship to see. If they could find a way to still use some hydrogen, though, they'd be able carry much more cargo, although the specs without hydrogen still allow it to carry 3 times the cargo of a 747.

        I wouldn't worry a bit about hydrogen in cars for day to day driving. However, paramedics and accident response teams will have to be aware of procedures for dealing with these things, just like with electric cars.
      • Re:Isn't - (Score:3, Informative)

        by k98sven ( 324383 )
        [..]doped with an aluminum oxide compound that is pretty much identical to solid rocket fuel (although this flammable quality wasn't known at the time).

        Actually, it was iron oxide and solid aluminum. These two substances can react in a very exothermic redox-reaction forming aluminum oxide. Such metal-metal oxide compounds are known as thermite.

        The flammable quality was most certainly known at the time. The Germans actually used Zeppelins to drop incendiary thermite bombs on British targets during WWI.
    • ...didn't get screwed-over because of the hydrogen, it got screwed-over because the paint used on it was highly flammable. Hydrogen is actually pretty safe, especially compared to petrol. Though hydrogen can have a stronger concussive blast when ignited, it goes 'foom' and that's it, the danger is gone. Petrol in liquid form doesn't burn, its fumes do, so it takes quite a lot time for a petrol fire to go out.
    • Re:Isn't - (Score:5, Informative)

      by at_18 ( 224304 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:52PM (#10351650) Journal
      Does anyone remember the Hindenberg?

      Hydrogen was not the cause for the Hindenberg disaster. Hydrogen burns without any visibile flame or smoeke. In the Hindenberg case, what burned was the external paint, which had a chemical composition quite similar to nitroglicerine (it wasn't known at the time).

      Even more sad, most the deaths from that disaster were people jumping down while the ship was still in the air. Most of those who remained in the airship survived.
    • Re:Isn't - (Score:3, Interesting)

      by (H)elix1 ( 231155 )
      Hydrogen pretty dangerous stuff? I mean, I know it's quite explosive...

      Any kid (with proper access to materials) can tell you H2 alone will give a fair bang, but properly mixed with pure O2 the results are much more impressive. I remember blowing the windows out of the garden shed - Mom did not believe me when we said we were making water.
    • I see some people are already addressing how flammable H2 is (or realtively isn't), so I'' just touch on the Hindenburg disaster. Just to emphasize that the flames didn't spread as fast as the video footage would suggest, the footage most people have seen begins to show flames a little more than 4 full minutes after the fire was reported. The final body count on the Hindenburg wasn't as bad as typical for a similarly loaded heavier than air craft crash. It just happened before we ever had a heavier than air
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:21PM (#10351838)
      A car accident could spell disaster if not properly contained...Or am I wrong?

      In the unlikely event that the car's structure was intruded enough to damage the tank, the leaking hydrogen would escape upwards and dissipate extremely rapidly. This makes it rather difficult to be ignited by, say, sparking from electrics or hot components in the engine compartment. There is no environmental impact and no cleanup- the hydrogen harmlessly dissipates up into the environment.

      In a car accident with gasoline, the gasoline pools on the ground and vapors are heavier than air. That makes them very easy to ignite. Gasoline(especially with MTBE) is cancerous and must be cleaned up, and it takes a while to do so because it's so easily ignited.

      Hydrogen also requires a much higher fuel/air ratio; ie there has to be a higher concentration.

      The main safety problem with hydrogen is that it is molecularly so small that hoses and seals are very hard to make for it. A balloon full of hydrogen would deflate even faster than one filled with Helium...

      The REAL problem with hydrogen as a transport fuel is (repeat after me, kids!)...

      HYDROGEN IS A NET LOSS FUEL. IT TAKES MUCH MORE ENERGY TO PRODUCE THAN YOU GET BURNING IT.

      Oh, and the fact that the main method of production cited by our really smart President is- surprise- natural gas! Well, guess what folks- you gotta use chemicals to get the H2 out of the complex hydrocarbon of LNG, and you gotta put those leftover Carbon (and other elements) into something. Expect to see hydrogen plants which dump lots of waste in the form of toxic catalysts and leftover byproducts. Or just toss it up a smokestack and make it the problem of whoever is 5,000 miles away.

      • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @09:52PM (#10352397) Homepage Journal
        The REAL problem with hydrogen as a transport fuel is (repeat after me, kids!)...


        HYDROGEN IS A NET LOSS FUEL. IT TAKES MUCH MORE ENERGY TO PRODUCE THAN YOU GET BURNING IT.
        Every fuel is a net loss fuel. It's just that the energy that's gone into making crude oil, and by extension, gasoline, has been spread over several thousand, million, or billion years, depending on who you talk to.
        Hydrogen can easily be generated with a solar panel, a couple of precious metal electrodes, and a big-assed water tank.
        Incidentally, this is probably the most energy-efficient chemical conversion that we currently know of, as, with the exception of a small amount of impurities in the water, every single electron pumped off your negative electrode goes into breaking up one water molecule. There's no extra heat generated, there's no light, explosion, nothing. Just pure hydrogen generation.
        And the other byproduct, oxygen, would be the least harmful factory byproduct of anything we currently make that could be dumped into the air, water, land, or food supply.
        • Of course, producing hydrogen with solar power is so inefficient, it is incredibly expensive.

          Run some numbers on solar cell efficiency. And then run some numbers on .

          And after that, you just have hydrogen gas. You also have to cool it and compress it to get LH2. This also takes considerable energy, and it is a hassle to transport, because it is need to be very cold. You wouldn't think a few degrees K would make such a difference. But transport/storage of LN2 or LOX is much less expensive than fo

          • As long as your solar panels are net positive energy sources, your hydrogen production will also be net positive. In many places you can produce it near your point of consumption and minimize your transport cost. It doesn't require extensively-sized equipment like cracking petroleum does - well, to do it in a cost-effective way anyhow. Minimizing transport is a good way to cut costs, in fact. One nice thing about hydrogen production is that you can use any source of electrical power for the disassociation

    • Yes, hydrogen still has serious problems that need to be solved. Aside from the safety challenges, there really aren't any hydrogen production methods in place that honestly reduce dependence on the same old problematic energy sources that hydrogen would allegedly supersede. that doesn't mean it can't be done, but no one is gearing up to make the stuff in a way that is both economically and environmentally beneficial,

      As for the "it was the cloth, not the gas" hypothesis regarding the Hindenburg acciden

  • by phamNewan ( 689644 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:42PM (#10351599) Journal
    German engineering and hydrogen.
  • Vroom (Score:5, Funny)

    by cynic10508 ( 785816 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:49PM (#10351629) Journal
    I'm going outside right now to change the VTEC sticker on my Civic to read "HTEC".
  • by avalys ( 221114 ) * on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:49PM (#10351632)
    Let's see how long it takes before some Slashdotter uses this opportunity to "accidentally" inform us that he drives a BMW.
  • Pollution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by samtihen ( 798412 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:52PM (#10351648) Homepage

    What I find moderately interesting about the hydrogen fuel idea is that, despite the fact that it emits only steam as a byproduct, it still takes a lot of energy to produce hydrogen. As a result, it pretty much will cause pollution regardless.

    Don't get me wrong, this still reduces our dependence on oil, and will be a huge help to city pollution, but I think we need to quickly figure out some way to make hydrogen cheaply and cleanly. Maybe nuclear powered hydrogen production plants? Just thinking...

    • the point is that hydrogen can be made by any power source whereas petrol can only be made from oil.

      also preventing inner-city pollution is a huge bonus.

      the best hope for the future is nuclear power now and solar/wind/wave etc. being used more and more in the future.
    • Re:Pollution (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Stevyn ( 691306 )
      If you use nuclear fission to generate the electricity, then the pollution can be controlled to an extent. I'd rather see the nuclear waste stored in a huge container under a mountain than dispersed into the atmosphere.

      People love to poke fun at fission and spread FUD around here. Face it, the world needs energy. Lots of it is required to sustain our civilizations. It took millions of years to generate the oil we'll use up in a few hundred years. I am all for expanding nuclear power because modern sta
      • Re:Pollution (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IAR80 ( 598046 )
        Actually hydro power is pretty efecient if you have the resources. Without developing a breeder reactor the uranium will run out as well.
        • Re:Pollution (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:58PM (#10352077)
          Actually hydro power is pretty efecient if you have the resources.

          It's also devastating to downstream ecologies. A major hydroelectric project like Three Gorges is an ecological disaster.

          Without developing a breeder reactor the uranium will run out as well.

          Okay, so develop a breeder reactor. Running in a breeder reactor, uranium would be economical at costs of $1,000 per pound (1983 dollars), and would contribute 0.03 cents per kilowatt-hour to the cost of electricity.

          Or, don't develop a breeder reactor. Uranium could be extracted from seawater for far less than that, around $200-400 per pound, and there's enough of it currently in the oceans to supply the planet's current electrical needs for millions of years. Hell, if we extract 16,000 tons of it per year, that's enough to supply twice the world's energy consumption, 25 times its electrical demand.

          • Re:Pollution (Score:3, Insightful)

            by maxpublic ( 450413 )
            It's also devastating to downstream ecologies.

            Yet not nearly so devastating per kilowatt produced as what you get from a coal plant. Furthermore, the damage done by a hydro plant is locally confined; that done by a coal plant is not. And finally, no hydro plant in the world will ruin your lungs or give you cancer.

            Given the choice, I'll go with "fuck the fish" for $200!

            Max
    • Totally wrong.

      All commerical hydrogen is produced from oil, NOT electrolysis.

  • by KanSer ( 558891 )
    Why couldn't we use Wind-power to extract Hydrogen from water? That seems like an infinite supply of hydrogen right there...
    • Because it is currently more efficient (power out/power in) to use the power generated from wind for other purposes, rather than use it to split hydrogen from something, pressurize it, and convert it back into mechanical energy via combustion. Its more efficient to use it to recharge a battery, and use the battery to power the car than it is to convert to hydrogen, pressurize, etc.

      Any word on the range of this vehicle?
    • Cool! (Score:5, Funny)

      by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:34PM (#10351912)
      Yeah! We could put a windmill on top of the car so it is powered by the movement of the car!

      Wait a minute...

    • Unfortunately the cheapest method of extracting hydrogen is via processing oil. Electrolysis costs more than cracking petroleum.
  • Isn't building a thirsty hotrod that runs on hidrogen pointless. We still burn fosil fuels in order to produce electricity that will in turn produce hidrogen. And to that we add the problems of storagre and safty.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:55PM (#10351668) Homepage Journal
    They work on using Hydrogen Combustion and not a fuel cell, then they use an advanced fuel cell for the electronics. Amusing.
    • ...the power density of current fuel cells wouldn't allow the track performance achieved.

      Given ther is hydrogen on-board allows the use of a fuel cell for the electronics because it's a technology showcase - not a practical car.
  • by uujjj ( 752925 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @07:56PM (#10351675)
    A hydrogen car that uses an ICE misses the whole point. It doesn't improve efficiency much, given that it is still limited by the thermal efficiency of a heat engine. Moreover, although burning hydrogen doesn't produce carbon emmisions, producing hydrogen does. Finally, the higher combustion temperature increases the formation of NOx pollutants.

    The reason for all the effort to create a new hydrogen fueling infrastructure is to take advantage of fuel cells/electric motors. A car with a hydrogen burning ICE is just an ordinary car that you can't refill at a gas station.
    • Forget one of the major problems with cars? Oil is expensive and will run out one day, hydrogen won't. Even if making hydrogen creates harmful emmisions its still better than relying on a car that produces harmful emissions AND relies on a substance that will run out eventually. At least with hydrogen ICEs we won't be running out of fuel.
      • Oil is expensive and will run out one day, hydrogen won't

        Sure it will. It already has. The Earth's gravity isn't strong enough to retain hydrogen in the atmosphere.

        Hydrogen simply does not exist in a free state. So to get hydrogen, you need to manufacture it.

        This is done commercially via the reformation of hydrocarbons like natural gas. And, like you suggest, they'll run out.

        You can also manufacture hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. This takes electricity. You get your electricity from
        • Yes, everything you said is true.

          Now to the part you haven't bothered to learn about. Several types of algae exist in nature that produce hydrogen as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

          In addition, hydrogen can also be produced using biomass.

          Both are renewable, and don't rely on fossil fuels to make hydrogen.

        • So we just declare that Jupiter has weapons of mass destruction and invade and extract all its hydrogen.
        • "You can also manufacture hydrogen through the electrolysis of water. This takes electricity. You get your electricity from burning fossil fuels, which like you suggest, will run out." Except that clean energy will never solve the problem of finding oil. If we discover a true source of clean energy then we still havent solved the problem of finding an alternative to oil. Two scenarios. Let's say we are running on oil based ICEs. If we find a clean source of energy, we haven't fixed anything. Let's say w
    • And a fuel cell car is an ordinary electric car that you can't refill at a gas station or charge in your garage. I don't thing BMW spent almost a year and a lot of money just to miss the point.
      Anyway, since producing fuel cells, which use hydrogen, is what causes pollution I don't see any problems with the ICE approach.
    • I'm not so sure.

      The best way to wean people onto such renewables is to do it in a way that seamlessly replaces what they are used to. Look, electric cars have been in use for 110+years, in fact at one time an electric car set the landspeed record (Jenatzy's 'Le Jamais Contente') - so where are the electric cars? Right, limited range, severe performance:range tradeoffs etc. This doesn;t change just by using the magic word ' fuel cell'. They are heavy, have complex control regimen and are too fragile for mai
    • Years ago on NOVA it was said the the NOx problem could be reduced or eliminated by injecting water to cool the burn. Since injection of liquids is a known tech it should not be hard to do. The only problem is having the water in cylinders when the car is not running. This can be solved by stopping the water injection a few revolutions before the car is turned off.
  • Saw this on Yahoo some days ago. Cool tech of course, the acceleration seemed a bit on the lowside as I recall but the top end was supercar perf. Could make a Pinto look like a pop-rock though.

    Yahoo news --->[2 day holding pipe] ---> /. article.
  • by drix ( 4602 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:02PM (#10351717) Homepage
    All I want to know, does it come with an iPod hookup

    At that price, it better come with a freaking iPod.
  • How to keep it cool? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dog's_Breakfast ( 771023 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:04PM (#10351727)
    From the BMW web site:

    "...the specially insulated 140-liter tank for the liquid hydrogen provides a range of 400 kilometers....By cooling hydrogen to -253 degrees Celsius, hydrogen is shrunk to a thousandth of its original volume. 70 layers of aluminum and fiberglass sheets between the exterior and interior vehicle walls insure that the liquid hydrogen remains at extremely low temperatures."

    What I don't understand is how they manage to keep it at such a low temperature. If the tank warmed up to the normal temperature of the surrounding environment, the pressure inside the tank would be 1000 times greater than sea level. Wouldn't that pose a danger of explosion?
    • by IAR80 ( 598046 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:11PM (#10351781) Homepage
      DO NOT park your car in the sun.
    • So about 250 miles on 35 gallons of hydrogen. But its only at about 7 atm pressure by my calcs.

      I would be concerned if my safety involved keeping a 35 gallon tank (about 2/3 of a 55 gallon oil drum) at -253 C. That's 20 above absolute zero? That's gotta be a damn good cooling system.
    • by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:25PM (#10351854)
      The 70 layers of fiberglass probably do a good job. The temperature will decrease linearly from one Al pane to the next as you go in. Of course this would imply a temperature gradient, so heat is flowing in, but very slowly (because of the fiberglass) and as the hydrogen warms up I would imagine they have a pressure regulator to let the system burp out a bit of gas once in a while. That robs the liquid of a lot of heat from the PdV term alone. My guess is that if you wait long enough all of the liquid will evaporate to the gas phase and escape via the regulator, and the interior temperature will increase once the hydrogen is gone.

      "Hydrogen power" is still a ripoff. What we need are nuclear cars. That would solve the carbon emissions problem, and everyone would be nervous and drive more carefully so it would save lives too.
  • Here's something that's been bothering me for some time.

    We keep hearing about all these ultra high-tech hydrogen cars of the future. And, I've heard persistent rumors of, for example, some guy in Tucson who's converted a regular old (and I do mean old) pickup truck to run off hydrogen gas.

    So...why can't I buy a fuel tank and carburetor alternative for my '68 VW Camper? It would seem to be a natural. Keep the exact same car, the exact same engine, and just deliver aerated hydrogen to the intake manifold

    • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @10:35PM (#10352625) Homepage Journal
      Compression ratio.

      A normal 8:1 compression small block Chevy V8 from the mid-80's will generate 25-50% less power on hydrogen than on gasoline. The reasons for that 8:1 compression are emissions, preignition due to octane rating, and a few other things.

      Hydrogen doesn't have the preignition problems of gasoline, though, so you could run an 18:1 compression ration in the same SBC, provided the crank and main bearings can take it. This should give you close to the same power output as 8:1 on dead prehistoric things, but wouldn't be able to be run on gasoline, anymore. Nothing short of jet fuel, anyway....

      The problem becomes, no after-market manufacturer makes piston/head combinations for SBC's to go over about 13:1 compression. So, without a turbo, supercharger, or ram-air, you can't get the "required" amount of power.
      If you're ok with a slower car, with near-zero emissions, go for it. Otherwise, you're going to need to get engine components custom-made, which is prohibitively expensive for most hobbyists. (I know...I've already looked into doing this for a 3.8 Buick-powered 1984 Pontiac Grand Prix.)

      The other alternative would be to start with a diesel engine, which will already have an appropriate compression ratio. You'll need to do some interesting machine work on the head, though, as the diesel has no spark plug holes. I don't know if a diesel fuel injector could be replaced with a standard spark plug, or whether the threads/diameter wouldn't match, though, so this could turn out to be only a minor problem. Also, diesel engines are more expensive than gasoline, due to their heavier construction. This wouldn't bother some people, but I don't have a diesel engine sitting around to experiment with.
      The next thing would be to somehow connect a spark ignition system to a diesel engine block, which was never designed to use such an animal.

      etc.etc.etc.etc.

      Suffice it to say, there are problems with this approach. Not insurmountable, by any means, but not something average Joe Schmuck is going to do in his back yard.
  • by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:18PM (#10351816) Journal
    Wow that's prettycool. An internal combustion engine that runs off hydrogen.

    I think I would be an early adopter for this if:

    1. I could make my own hydrogen at home by having a hydrogen-making machine hooked up to my water mains and a bunch of solar cells on my house (or wind nearby or whatever).
    2. An affordable car that either uses this type of engine or an electric motor powered by a fuel cell.
    3. a local mechanic that can fix these

    I don't think I'd even need shell to be on board if I could make the stuff at home.

    Now I wonder what the engine sounds like! It probably growls at wide open throttle in third gear : )

  • For all our talk about how hydrogen is the future of cars, I've not yet seen one American car--not even a concept car--running on hydrogen. The Germans really build spectacular cars.

    The Japanese, too; the New Ford Escape Hybrid runs on Toyota's first-generation hybrid motor.

  • by ikekrull ( 59661 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:28PM (#10351877) Homepage
    Mazda's rotary engine is well suited to the combustion of hydrogen, not least because it completely separates the intake, combustion and exhaust stages - with a piston engine there is a lot of potential for catastophic backfire, and high performance without any valve overlap (which would somewhat prevent this) is difficult to acheive.

    The renesis (side-ported intake and exhaust - 'normal' rotaries have peripheral exhaust and often intake ports and intake/exhaust port overlap is employed to maximise performance at high revs, resulting in the characteristic 'brap-brap-brap' pulsing idle of a race or drag rotary engine and incredibly poor fuel economy at low revs) rotary engine doesnt suffer from this problem, allowing high-revs, aggressive induction and exhaust port profiles, along withthe light weight and excellent power-weight ratio rotaries inherently possess.

    The current hybrid engine in the RX-8 only produces about 120hp when operating on hydrogen which isn't exactly stunning, but bear in mind that the original RX-7 produced less than this, while the last model to roll off the production line produced in excess of 280.

    400+ HP is relatively easily acheiveable with proper porting, fueling and turbocharging of the 1.3 litre 13B engine on petrol, and with further development (or even tuning for hydrogen-only operation) it is not too far fetched to imagine the hydrogen-powered rotary performing on par or better than conventional fuels.

    More info can be found:

    http://rotarynews.com/?q=node/view/216

    and a hydrogen--powered RX-8 looks like:

    http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/frame.php?file=pi c. php&imagenum=1&carnum=1792

  • Nice looking cars (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InsaneCreator ( 209742 ) on Saturday September 25, 2004 @08:51PM (#10352037)
    Car companies keep showing us all theese incredible looking prototypes, but why won't they sell us a car that looks the same? By the time a new car makes it to the salons it looks almost exactly like all the other damn cars you can choose from, and attaching a baboon's but [schwab-kolb.com] to the rear end is considered to be a bold new design direction. yech.
  • by Phil Karn ( 14620 ) <karn.ka9q@net> on Saturday September 25, 2004 @09:30PM (#10352251) Homepage
    I'm a little surprised to be hearing anything about hydrogen cars these days. Hydrogen fueled cars were heavily hyped a few years ago when the automakers were strong-arming the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to drop its near-term mandate for electric vehicles in favor of a promise for a few magical hydrogen-fueled cars some years in the future. The scam worked: CARB rescinded the EV mandate, many working EVs were pulled from their satisfied owners, and that's why you hear so little about hydrogen these days.

    The simple facts are that hydrogen is not a source of energy, but rather an energy carrier, like electricity. And hydrogen is a rather poor energy carrier at that; it's far less efficient than the electric power grid, which already exists and goes almost everywhere. Hydrogen isn't even a good energy storage medium in a car, due to its extremely low density.

    The fact is that there's nothing a hydrogen fuel-cell car can do that isn't already done better, more efficiently and more cheaply by a battery EV. Just when new battery technologies like nickel metal hydride and lithium-ion were starting to prove their worth in EVs, CARB pulls the rug out from under them.

    Call me cynical, but that seems to fit the facts.

    • I'm a little surprised to be hearing anything about hydrogen cars these days. Hydrogen fueled cars were heavily hyped a few years ago when the automakers were strong-arming the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to drop its near-term mandate for electric vehicles in favor of a promise for a few magical hydrogen-fueled cars some years in the future. The scam worked: CARB rescinded the EV mandate, many working EVs were pulled from their satisfied owners, and that's why you hear so little about hydrogen the
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Sunday September 26, 2004 @12:18AM (#10353056) Journal
    I see people here bitching about the fact that it takes energy to rpoduce hydrogen, and that that energy usually comes from oil, or when the poster is "enlightened", nuclear energy. I'm surprised, really, although I shouldn't be, that yet again, no one bothered to read the article about BMW working with Shell to produce automatic filling stations with solar power.

    And solar power is where it's at. In these times of global warming and increasing desertification, there's really one source that provides energy constantly: The sun. I seriously doubt that the investements needed to get a solar powered economy up and running, with the power coming from all the huge deserts in the world, would be that huge.

    It would be a boon for most Saharan countries, the Arabs once again, as well as basically anywhere there is a lot of sun.

    All it requires is someone to get the ball rolling. And that's what I like about this BMW/Shell project. It's getting that ball rolling.
  • by Fortress ( 763470 ) on Sunday September 26, 2004 @01:17AM (#10353249) Homepage
    Really, picking on cars for emissions is by now a dead horse. The exhaust from a modern, emissions-controlled car is so clean that it is difficult to kill yourself by leaving the car running with the garage closed. There are bigger fish to fry, like tractor trailers, that emit far dirtier emissions than any modern car.

    It's not even like hydrogen-burning cars are entirely clean. Sure, you can drink the water from the exhaust, but any compression engine will produce oxides of nitrogen unless they also carry a tank of pure oxygen (which would clean up a gasoline engine in much the same manner). Fuel cells are much cleaner, but I don't think they're developed enough yet for the mainstream.

    The use of hydrogen makes cars more dangerous, too. To put it simply, a compressed fuel is a dangerous fuel. Any accident that breaches the H2 tank turns the vehicle into a fuel-air explosive. I don't think the public will stand for too many fireballs on the highway. Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, cars almost never explode and rarely catch fire in accidents.

    Worse still, a mass changeover to hydrogen as our vehicle fuel would cause huge economic upheaval. Hydrogen consumes huge amounts of power to produce, and it adds no energy to our system; it merely acts as a relatively convenient energy storage vessel. Petroleum, on the other hand, consumes very little energy to reach its refined state and contributes a large portion of our total energy use. If it were mandated today that hydrogen must replace gasoline for vehicles, energy prices across the board would probably triple.

    Hydrogen makes nice PR, but it will never power vehicles until oil has become so expensive due to scarcity that we've already migrated to other, renewable energy sources.
    • by Xenna ( 37238 ) on Sunday September 26, 2004 @06:16AM (#10353917)
      In Holland about 5% of all cars on the road (and the ones that get the most mileage) run on Liquid Petrol Gas (LPG). My car is one of them. LPG is used in the rest of Europe as well.

      I have never heard of an exploding gas tank, the tanks are apparently so solid that they crush everything around them but stay intact themselves.

      Forgetting to unplug the nozzle while filling up happens relatively often. There's a special weak spot in the tube that breaks in such cases. Also you have to keep a button on the gas pump depressed for the pump to operate. Release it and the gas flow stops. Driving away without unpluggng is harmless (except to your wallet). I've never heard of accidents with pumps.

      There have been some accidents with LPG delivery trucks that supply the gas stations. I believe there was big one near a camping ground in Spain quite a while ago.

      I can understand driving with a gas tank in your car may seem scary to people who aren't used to it, but we do so without worrying over here.

      Of course, I don't know how Hydrogen compares to LPG for these purposes. That might well be a whole different story.

      X.

The solution to a problem changes the nature of the problem. -- Peer

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