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SRTC’s Low-Pressure Metal Hydride Hydrogen Storage System: GATOR™
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By Ed Danko, Business Development, Savannah River Technology Center


The Westinghouse Savannah River Company’s Savannah River Technology Center (SRTC) has been active in developing advanced hydrogen storage technologies. The HyTech Team at SRTC partnered with academic and industrial partners to successfully develop an Industrial Fuel Cell Vehicle that is also known as the “GATOR™”. This project, selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy, brought together a dedicated team with expertise in hydrogen technologies. The goal of this project was to develop and demonstrate small industrial fuel cell vehicles running on direct hydrogen.

In addition to SRTC, the project partners included Deere and Company, Teledyne Energy Systems, Southeastern Technology Center, University of South Carolina, and York Technical College. The project partners and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency shared in the cost of the project.

The project objective was to offer the small industrial vehicle sector an alternative to limited-range, battery-electric vehicles. To ensure the utmost safety for indoor applications, HyTech was asked to develop a low-pressure hydrogen storage system for these vehicles.

The project team was able to develop and demonstrate the GATOR™ vehicles running on hydrogen stored in the form of metal hydride powder, an inherently safe and efficient solution. The vehicles demonstrated a 50 percent improvement in fuel-to-wheel efficiency when compared to similar internal combustion engine vehicles and 100 percent improvement in range when compared to battery-electric vehicles. During the course of the vehicle development the HyTech team was able to reduce the weight of the hydrogen storage system by 15 percent and lower its material costs by over 50 percent.

The GATOR™ was exhibited at the Utah 2001 Industry Showcase of Technologies in August and at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference held 9-14 June 2002 in Montreal, Québec, Canada. At both events, conference participants had the opportunity to drive the hydrogen powered GATOR™ vehicle to experience the technology of the future for themselves.

The HyTech Team is currently involved in another partnership to develop an underground fuel cell mining vehicle. There are substantial health and safety benefits in replacing diesel engines in underground mines. Safe hydrogen storage and refueling will be major issues in this project and the HyTech Team is prepared to address these issues as part of the overall project. ©2002. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
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