The newest hybrid; Hydrogen and Petrol

Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engines Ford has an airport shuttle coming out next year, BMW is building a luxury sedan for sale in five years. Hydrogen fuel cells are now almost universally recognized as the eventual heir to the internal combustion engine. The hydrogen highway is said to be 20 years away. Baby steps in technology and microcosms of our sector utilizing fuel cell vehicles and generators are showing us what the future will look like today. The future is one-step closer with the hydrogen internal combustion engines.

Vance Zanardelli, Fords Chief Engineer for Hydrogen Engines, says that Ford has unveiled a supercharged hydrogen internal combustion engine that will be produced primarily as shuttles in airports.” According to Zanardelli, Ford says the technology offers near-zero-emissions benefit’s now and is much cheaper than hydrogen fuel cells, which are still years away from production. “The hydrogen internal combustion engine is a bridging strategy that will stimulate the hydrogen economy.” Eight have already been sold to the state of Florida to be operated at their Orlando International Airport.

According to Tom Purves, CEO BMWNA, BMW will be producing the bi-fuel BMW 745h within five years. The 745h is the first real-world vehicle with a realistic approach to creating the hydrogen highway. The hydrogen infrastructure, according to automobile manufacturers, is the biggest hold-up of mass producing hydrogen vehicles.

Consider this.

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Honda has just come out with a natural gas home refueling station. The device, named PHILL, resembles a phone station that is installed in your garage. It feeds off the natural gas from your home. You come in at night and hook your Honda Civic GX up to PHILL and don’t worry about stopping at the gas station unless you are taking a trip away from home; then you have to find a fueling station that carries natural gas. It would be easier if the vehicle were a bi-fuel, able to use petrol or natural gas. When you fill up with natural gas (CNG), it costs around 85 cents a gallon at home, and when away filling up with CNG costs around $2.00 a gallon. CNG is harder to find while petrol, not being cheaper, is easier to find and the convenience is worth that extra expenditure.

Hondas PHILL is for natural gas, but it is the first glimpse into the future of the new infrastructure, an infrastructure that doesn’t have to be built by oil companies. The only part of the equation we are missing now is a small appliance that could be a hydrogen converter for our home. What if there were a way to make a hydrogen home refueling station and a bi-fuel vehicle that ran on hydrogen and petrol. BMW and Ford are betting vehicle production on it, and Honda is betting their home refueling stations on it.

Honda has two hydrogen home refueling stations in research and development; the first is with electricity and the second is solar-powered. Places that don’t get much sun, like Detroit Michigan, would use electrolysis to create hydrogen while Florida and California areas could use the solar-powered versions. Honda says they are seven to

Ten years from bringing the hydrogen home refueling stations to market. The hydrogen home refueling system doesn’t have to be a bridge-gap, it can be part of the future infrastructure of tomorrow. The infrastructure of tomorrow could be a mosaic of solutions that allow consumers to make their fuel, instead of being beholden to monolithic corporations.The Ford E-450 shuttle bus is a Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2ICE) that is modified to run on hydrogen, rather than gasoline. Compared with todays gasoline engines, H2ICE delivers up to a 99.7 percent reduction in CO2 and includes many of the benefits of a hydrogen fuel cell, but at a fraction of the cost.

“The hydrogen-fueled shuttle bus is a product we could market to customers who need to move people in an efficient, environmentally friendly way,” said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford Motor Company vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “We think this is an interesting solution for airport transportation where emission levels are strictly regulated. The first H2ICE will be operated in Orlando, Fla in December 2005.”

The H2ICE E-450 seats up to 12 passengers and their luggage, including the driver. The vehicle is equipped with a 26-gallon equivalent, 5,000 pounds per square inch hydrogen fuel tank. The Ford H2ICE E-450 is a Ford E-450 chassis cab, with a shuttle bus body and a 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engine fueled with hydrogen. The range is expected to be up to 150-miles depending on conditions and vehicle load.

Zanardelli says, “There will be some nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions from the hydrogen combustion engine, but it will meet Californias Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standard (SULEV).”

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“We believe that H2ICE vehicles will play a key role in justifying infrastructure development and accelerating a transition to a hydrogen economy,” said Schmidt. On Feb. 18, 2005, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (l), Ford Motor Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Ford (r), and Secretary Colleen M. Castille of the Dept. of broke ground on Floridas first Hydrogen Fueling Station in Orlando.

“BMW has been developing hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine vehicle for nearly 25 years,” said BMW Group spokesperson, Bill Scully. “We have researched other hydrogen technologies extensively and have a commitment to the hydrogen combustion engine.”

At the 2005 Los Angeles auto show, BMW introduced the H2R, a hydrogen combustion engine race car that took ten months to produce. The 6-liter engine runs on hydrogen, it develops 286 horsepower, propelling the H2R from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. According to BMW, the car hit 187 mph last September at the Miramas racetrack in France and has nine-speed records under its belt. “The message we wanted to send is that you can have fun driving a BMW and still be environmentally conscious at the same time,” says Tom Purves, CEO of BMW of North America LLC.

Purves says it will offer a hydrogen-powered 7-series before the current series is redesigned around 2009-2010. Based on the 760i luxury sedan, the BMW 745h will have a conventional

V8 or V12 with special electronic controls and sensors that allow the car to run on compressed hydrogen or ordinary petrol. Purves added, “BMW has spent big on developing this bi-fuel concept, and feels it’s now ready for consumers. The same BMW engine can run on either hydrogen or petrol, so we’ve simply added a second fuel system and created a bi-fuel car. For day trips around town, you would burn hydrogen to minimize urban pollution, but out on the motorway, you could punch a button and run on gasoline.” If a trip on hydrogen goes beyond the 215-mile range, he adds, the car automatically switches over to gasoline, giving you up to 500 more miles.”The 6-liter engine in the H2R is the engine that would be available in the 760i and 760Li sedans.

It develops 232 hp using liquid hydrogen fuel, according to Scully. Modifications to the 760i engine involve adapting the fuel injection system to meet the requirements of liquid hydrogen fuel. Intake valves will need to be enlarged, valve seat rings modified, hydrogen-specific injection valves used and moved to the intake manifold instead of the combustion chamber. Engine management changes will have to be made to tune the engine to meet the hydrogens combustion characteristics. The key to all of this is controlling the airflow to find the optimum burn-control of hydrogen.

According to bmwworld.com, an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) runs the 745hs power-consuming features. The APU operates on a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell that is independent of the engine, thanks to a direct hydrogen feed from the trunk-mounted tank. The APU means power accessories like air conditioning are operated when the engine is shut off, saving a gallon of gas for every 235 miles of city driving.

The hydrogen combustion engine has more potential than petrol-only engines. The hydrogen-ice allows for the gentle transformation to the ultimate energy, hydrogen. Instead of creating another hybrid or vehicle that only gets more gas mileage BMW and Ford are introducing the world to what many people have said cannot be done or won’t be done for years to come.

BMWs goal is to offer a vehicle that offers all the functionality of a luxury car that the consumer has today except that it is refueled with either hydrogen or petrol.

The first bi-fuel BMWs will probably happen in three years in Europe, where hydrogen is more widely accepted. Expect the U.S. BMW hydrogen combustion engine to cost upwards of $100,000 and to be sold primarily in Southern California, where the hydrogen highway race is on. Southern California houses the most hydrogen refueling stations, and some of these stations will let you fill for free if you give them feedback data.

The benefit’s of fuel-cell vehicles are numerous; no emissions except water and heat, getting off the dependence of foreign oil – money that goes to some countries that harbor terrorists that want to kill us for the conspicuous consumption of the product they are selling us. Making vehicles that run on hydrogen is imperative. Finding a way to fuel those vehicles by ourselves is equally as important.

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About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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