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  1. #1

    Descendants of Hybrid Technology

    It has been posed that fuel-cell technology is not a viable power source for automotive applications, and that transitioning from fossil fuels to biofuels is a more viable alternative.

    I'm not going to downplay the viablility of biofuels. I think its a great technology to explore, because any way of getting off of (very non-renewable) fossil fuels is a step in the right direction. I only have 1 question in this regard. If biofuels are so much like diesel fuel that they can be used interchangeably, and if biofuels are more environment friendly than petrol-based diesel, and if biofuels are easier to produce than diesel, why aren't we doing it already? What's the limiting factor?

    Fuel-cell technology has made no bones about what their limiting factors are. It has been said that the availability of platinum is a limiting factor, but I doubt it. Every catalytic converter on the road has platinum in them. Of course, there will eventually be a limit, but by that time, I'm sure that either we will have found a way to reclaim used platinum, or we will have found a good substitute.

    Availability of H2 fuel is obviously a limiting factor. Hydrogen is dangerous to store and dangerous to transport. Complicating things is that it's a gas at room temp, so in order to conveniently move it, it has to be compressed into liquid or frozen form. However, fuel cells can operate on hydrogen-rich liquids (like alcohols and ammonium), although not as efficiently.

    Which brings me to another point: There are no gas stations that sell alcohol or ammonium. True. I can't argue that. But its sold in bottles at every drug store and Wal-Mart in America. Not to say that you should go to the local Wal-Mart, buy 20 or 30 bottles of 70% rubbing alcohol and try to fuel a fuel-cell from it, but the bottom line is that THERE IS AN INFRASTRUCTURE capable of delivering fuel-cell-compatible fuel to the end-user. There may not be stations to pump alcohol into your tank, but these kinds of chemicals are handled every day by OTHER kinds of commercial establishments. It's not so far-fetched to imagine buying the fuel for your car at the checkout along with your Heath bar, a Maxim magazine, and a few groceries. If thats where they sell it, thats where you get it!

    The cost of fuel cells might be an issue, but remember, you're replacing some other type of engine with a fuel cell, so you can take the cost of that component out of the cost of adding fuel cell technology. Of course, automotive manufacturers will resist the change. Their costs to change their manufacturing practices will be astronomical. BUT, Toyota and Honda have ALREADY dramatically changed their manufacturing lines to accommodate hybrids. The precedent has been set; it can be done.

    So again, what are the limiting factors for biodiesel? Why isn't this the fuel of choice?

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  3. #2

    Descendants of Hybrid Technology

    while H2 is a nice pure easily obtained fuel, i wouldn't get in the habit of considering it any more dangerous then any other fuel. handling & transporting it is the same as any other - they all blow up when miss handled.

    we all did basic electrolosis in school chemistry classes - splitting water into H and O test tubes. i wonder when we'll simply use wind, water wheels, turbines using tide current or waves to get the electric & split ocean water into H and O for these next generation fuel cells.

    when the price of gas per year reaches a certain point a home installed system may even start to make sence. or little co-ops.

    some times i wonder what if a space alien was to come around and see our 2/3 oceans & constant sun? they'd likely say "what's your problem? water & sun. got all you need right there"

  4. #3

    Descendants of Hybrid Technology

    Dude, that is an insanely cool point of view. I mean, I think its WAY more involved than just using wind and water motion to generate electricity to split H2 and O apart (you have to purify the water first, and of course some heat is generated in the separation process, etc, etc), BUT I honestly never thought of it like that.

    What you have to keep in mind though, is that usually H2O is the result of a chemical reaction (burning), not the fuel. In order to reuse that hydrogen, you have to again separate it from the oxygen, expending more energy.

    I could go on and on about the laws of conservation of energy, but yeah, you're dead right. There's a big thermonuclear power plant called the sun right up in the sky, and it puts out plenty of energy. You'd think we'd have found a better way by now to generate electricity.

    Or even for that matter, water is in constant motion. Imagine using the motion of your fuel source to power the fuel extraction process.

    We must all be idiots. "Hey, guys, I got a great idea! Instead of using this big sun we have, and all this water we have, let's see if we can find a way to use up all the rare stuff we have first!"

    No wonder SETI can't find any intelligent life out there. They're all avoiding us! They don't want our stupid human ways rubbing off on them...hehehe!

  5. #4

    Descendants of Hybrid Technology

    Biofuel is not just biodiesel- it also includes ethanol for gasoline/spark ignition engines. Ethanol has already met with some success in countries like Brazil, and its being used increasingly in parts of the US blended with regular gasoline.

    The main things holding biodiesel back in the US is the cost- diesel is still much cheaper, and the lack of availability of diesel cars and small trucks in the US. In Europe, synthetic diesel (made from natural gas) and biodiesel are all cost competitive with regular diesel. In the US there is also a lack of knowledge of the fuel. Everybody has heard of "the bus running on french fry grease", but few people know what exactly biodiesel is, it is not just "french fry grease", it has to be processed some to reduce the viscosity and improve the burning.

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