BY: Bianca Nicholson
With gas prices predicted to continue rising, the push for alternative energy sources is growing. President Obama has supported the exploration and need for alternative fuel sources, particularly in the automotive industry, since entering office.
United Hydrogen Group is working toward creating the infrastructure needed to successfully introduce alternative fueled vehicles.
Dana Lamb, office manager of United Hydrogen Group’s main office in the U.S. located in Kennesaw, explained that the company is working closely with Toyota and GM to create and introduce a reliable hydrogen infrastructure to the public by the time fuel cell vehicles are introduced to the market, expected for 2015.
She explained, “We are all working together to build a hydrogen infrastructure so that when the fuel cell electric vehicles do come out, customers will have no problem filling up their new cars with hydrogen.”
Lamb further elaborated on the company’s projects and goals. The company is involved in the planning where key locations for hydrogen stations all across the U.S. will be.
United Hydrogen Group hopes that by making hydrogen fuel a reliable and plentiful resource, prices and quality of the new fuel source will be a better option than traditional gasoline.
Why hydrogen as an alternative fuel?
Hydrogen will cost about half the amount of gasoline, which is expected to cost around $6 per gallon, by 2015. The fuel cell vehicles will have a greater mile per gallon ratio as well as decrease the pollutants emitted into the atmosphere.
As the cars release water into the atmosphere, this is a vast improvement to the emissions from traditional gasoline powered vehicles.
Concerns toward the safety of hydrogen as a fuel source in vehicles have been addressed by United Hydrogen Group. Chief financial officer of United Hydrogen Group, Brett Koski, explained that hydrogen flames are almost invisible to the human eye and do not generate less ambient heat that other types of flames.
Because hydrogen escapes into the atmosphere at a rate of 20 feet per second, the possibility of any sustained accident is significantly reduced.
As with gasoline, proper handling of hydrogen is the key to safety. He added, “You can feel secure with the knowledge and expertise of United Hydrogen; there is no alternative for experience.”
Other areas for hydrogen energy
The company has several areas of focus for the application of hydrogen. This includes automotive, recreational, residential, and corporate and large enterprises.
The company partners with other hydrogen companies in meeting customer needs. The growing company plans to successfully introduce the hydrogen economy, including fuel cell vehicles, to the United States public.
Koski explained, “United Hydrogen’s mission is to build out the hydrogen filling station infrastructure in the U.S. Bring safe, reliable hydrogen and filling station solutions to the retail market at competitive prices.”
Currently United Hydrogen Group has one plant in the southeast, located in Tennessee. The plant provides hydrogen with 99.95% purity that is available for delivery by high volume tube trailers directly to customer sites.
TOYOTA PLANS TO INTRODUCE HYDROGEN FUEL CELL VEHICLES
Toyota’s research toward more eco-friendly vehicles has focused on the fuel cell hybrid vehicle. The so-called FCHV-adv vehicle would be the next generation of Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle, with a newly designed high performance fuel stack.
The U.S. Department of Energy explains the technology behind fuel cell vehicles on its website. Fuel cell vehicles look like traditionally fueled vehicles from the outside, but the power source is a fuel cell stack that converts hydrogen gas stored on-board into electricity to drive the electric motor propelling the vehicle. Typical Fuel Cell Vehicles function as the one illustrated below:
The fuel tank is where hydrogen combined with oxygen is fed into the fuel stack that produces the electricity that charges the battery and powers the motor, propelling the vehicle.
Because one fuel cell designed for vehicle use produced less than 1.16 volts of electricity, requiring the use of multiple cells to be stacked.
The hydrogen tank in the Toyota’s vehicle is a high pressure tank with increased tank capacity and reduced weight. This was achieved by using optimal materials, improving design and production procedures and minimizing wall thickness. These improvements improved the cruising range of fuel cell vehicles significantly.
Toyota’s vehicle uses the alternating current synchronous motor that the company developed. The motor functions as a power generator under deceleration.
The second battery, made of nickel-metal hydride, featured in Toyotas FCHV-adv stores the regenerated energy from deceleration. This secondary battery supplements the power from fuels cells.
Each of the components works when needed, controlled by the FCHV-adv power control unit. This unit decides when to use battery power and when to use the fuel cell stack to power the vehicle. The unit contains an inverter which converts direct current into alternating current to power the motor. A DC/DC converter is also contained in the unit, recharging and drawing current from the second battery.