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Earth Day at the Pentagon Highlights An Array of Hydrogen Technologies
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By Brian Schorr, Project Coordinator, National Hydrogen Association


Hydrogen and fuel cell companies from across the country gathered in the inner courtyard of the Pentagon on April 21, 2003, to display their technologies, vehicles, and literature in recognition of Earth Day. The Fuel Cell Vehicles Event Day was hosted by Acting Secretary of the Navy Hansford T. Johnson. In addition to private industry representation, the Pentagon event also featured projects using fuel cell and clean energy technologies developed for U.S. military applications.

The displays featured an array of hydrogen storage, production, and communication technologies, but most visitors were first drawn to the many fuel-cell-powered vehicles. On-hand that day were several passenger automobiles, a Humvee from the U.S. Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), a John Deere Gator, and a U.S. Air Force Aircraft Towing Vehicle. In all, seven NHA members were represented at the event: Air Products and Chemicals, Ballard Power Systems, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Millenium Cell, and UTC Fuel Cells.

Ford displayed two of its Focus FCV-Hybrids which feature a powertrain that combines a Ni-MH high-voltage battery with a hydrogen-powered fuel cell engine. Participants could drive the cars around the perimeter of the courtyard. The Focus’ hydrogen storage tank can hold 8.8 lb (4 kg) of hydrogen at 5,000 psi. It can reach a top speed of 80 mph (130 kmh) and has a driving range between 160 and 200 miles (250-320 km). Ford expects to start selling its FCV-Hybrids to fleets in 2004.

On display from GM was the futuristic-looking Hy-Wire prototype which uses drive-by-wire technology to operate the hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicle. By-wire technology allows for a number of dramatic changes in the vehicle design, including a feeling of spaciousness from windows extending to the chassis and the absence of foot pedals and axels. For example, by-wire eliminates the need for the traditional steering wheel and foot pedal system, allowing the driver to steer, accelerate, and brake with just the wheel. The vehicle is laid out upon an 11-inch thick aluminum “skateboard” chassis and features large windows, doors that open from the middle, and cameras which replace traditional rear-view mirrors. The Hy-Wire can obtain a maximum speed of 99 mph (165 kmh). The vehicle is equipped with three 5,000 psi composite TriShield® hydrogen storage tanks, developed by Quantum Technologies, which contain 4.4 lb (2 kg) of hydrogen for an 80-mile range. Plans are underway to increase the storage pressure to 10,000 psi and reduce the chassis size while increasing the driving range to 170 miles.

DaimlerChrysler’s Natrium minivan, which was on display that Monday, is the company’s third generation fuel-cell concept vehicle. The minivan is powered by a catalyst system called “Hydrogen on Demand™,” a technology developed by Millennium Cell, which had a display at the event to explain the technology. Through a chemical reaction with water, hydrogen is released from sodium borohydride and used to power the vehicle’s fuel cell engine, leaving sodium metaborate in an aqueous solution. Sodium borohydride is nontoxic, nonflammable, and recyclable. The minivan can achieve a maximum speed of 80 mph and a driving range of up to 300 miles. Ballard Power Systems provided the fuel cell.

Also on display at the Pentagon was a mobile hydrogen refueler from Air Products and Chemicals. Because no utility hook-ups are required, the trailer-mounted fueling unit can be easily relocated to off-site events. Each refueling unit can provide hydrogen for a five-vehicle fleet for up to three weeks before refilling. Air Products also remotely monitors fuel levels so the fuel unit is replaced or exchanged only when necessary. Air Products refuelers have a total hydrogen capacity of 162 kg, with a usable hydrogen capacity of up to 120 kg. The dispensing pressure is 350 barg. The trailer is 16 feet by eight feet and weighs 10,000 lbs.

Stationary Applications Displayed
I
n addition to hydrogen vehicles and refuelers, fuel cells were on display for stationary applications as well. UTC Fuel Cells displayed its PC25™ Fuel Cell, which is capable of generating 1,000 kWh of electricity while producing less than one ounce of pollutants. The PC25™ Fuel Cell has been used in 19 countries on five continents for heavy commercials applications. Currently, work is being done to develop integrated PEM-based fuel cell power systems for electricity and interior heating for home and light commercial use. UTC is working with several companies—including Thor Industries and NHA member BMW—to integrate the PEM fuel cell into their vehicles.

U.S. military representation included Navy, Army, and Air Force technologies. The Department of the Navy’s tabletop display featured a variety of potential fuel cell applications for field use in military exercises. The Army brought its CECOM Humvee, an elongated version of the standard Humvee, which includes several computers and a dizzying collection of fuel-cell-powered communication equipment. The Air Force brought its fuel-cell-powered Aircraft Towing Vehicle, called a “tug.”

Other organizations with displays at the Fuel Cell Event included Quantum Technologies, which displayed its storage technologies, and Hydrogenics and Delphi, which both displayed fuel cells.

During the morning, the event’s host, Secretary Johnson, met with representatives of the organizations with technologies on display. The Fuel Cell Event also attracted the attention of former Congressman Bob Walker, author of the 1996 Hydrogen Future Act, who played a key role in President Bush’s US$1.2 billion budget proposal for hydrogen research and development. The Fuel Cell Event Day at the Pentagon was a great way to recognize Earth Day and we look forward to future events.  ©2003. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
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