There aren’t many stations where a hydrogen-powered car can fill up the tank outside of California. However, a new hydrogen-generating plant in Orange County has an idea that could make hydrogen more readily available: using waste to produce hydrogen fuel.
Plant makes fuel from what people flush
In the film “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” Mel Gibson’s character “Mad Max” encounters a city in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland that generates power and fuel for cars using methane gas derived from pig feces. Life will soon imitate art when a new power plant starts operation in Fullerton Valley, according to the Los Angeles Times. The plant uses methane from waste water and sewage to produce hydrogen gas. The hydrogen will be used in a hydrogen fuel station to refuel hydrogen fuel cell powered cars. The plant will also, according to MSNBC, generate electric power through the process. Sewage is chemically treated and pumped into a series of “digesters” and gives off biogas, or methane. The methane is heated until it splits into carbon dioxide and hydrogen and produces an electric charge. Using sewage or methane to create power isn’t new, but creating hydrogen fuel for cars from it is.
Few hydrogen cell vehicles until 2015
The hydrogen-powered car market is currently almost non-existent, and commercial hydrogen refueling stations are barely available outside California. According to AutoGuide, about 200 people have leased the Honda Clarity, Honda’s fuel cell-powered sedan, all in California. According to Autos.ca, a Canadian automotive news website, Honda and Mercedes are likely to have the first hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicles on the road in large numbers. A study by Pike Research, a marketing research and consultancy firm in Boulder, Co., found Mercedes and Honda were the closest to bringing a fuel-cell vehicle, or FCV, to market by 2014 or 2015. Some companies aren’t very accepting of the technology. General Motors CEO Dan Akerson recently said that hydrogen cell vehicles probably won’t be ready for mass use until 2020. Some car makers won’t be rolling out any hydrogen-powered supercars, either. According to CNET, Aston Martin and Ferrari refuse to make any non-gasoline powered models of their high-end sports cars.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are electric cars, but they aren’t powered by batteries like the Tesla Roadster or the Nissan Leaf are. According to Wikipedia, the fuel cell’s tank is filled with liquid compressed hydrogen. The compressed hydrogen, along with oxygen from the air outside the car, are pumped into the fuel cell, where electricity is generated between negative and positive-charged electrodes by the electrolyte, the mix of liquid hydrogen and air. That powers the car’s electric motor. The fuel cell only requires replenishing of the hydrogen supply. However, the technology is expensive to manufacture and there isn’t much of a hydrogen infrastructure.
Road test of the Honda Clarity by Top Gear