Scientists work to improve hydrogen car

June 4, 2008 9:31:29 PM PDT
One of the roadblocks to a marketable hydrogen car is the fuel tank. Hydrogen tends to evaporate from it.

Some Bay Area scientists may have solved that problem.

It's been a long time since anyone got so excited about a tank, even if it does look kind of like a big beer keg.

For Tim Ross of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, it's about 13 years of research that have concluded with this modified Toyota Prius.

"Does it feel the same as any hybrid car?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"Pretty much the same," said Ross.

Except that it runs on hydrogen, thanks to that tank. This tank allows storage in either liquid form or under cold high pressure without leaking for several days.

The carbon fiber tank has undergone rigorous testing, not just from altitude, but bullets and even fire. It neither leaks nor explodes, even at 5,000 pounds per square inch.

The biggest test, though examined distance from one tank of hydrogen. The Prius set a new record -- 650 miles.

About 650 miles on a 10-gallon tank of hydrogen equates to 65 miles per gallon. The problem is you can't just save out those numbers, you have to prove it ? which means you have to drive it. Unfortunately this car is not legal on streets, so they had to keep it on campus.

I guess you know every nook and cranny of these roads?" asked ABC7's Wayne Freedman.

"We certainly do," said Ross.

As gas prices reach record highs, this tank offers a measure of hope for energy independence.

Hydrogen is not perfect, however. We have limited distribution and it's dirty to produce.

"Green fuel, Green hydrogen, that's the Holy Grail. It's what you need with fuel cells and storage to get accelerated rapidly," said UC Berkeley Energy Analyst Dan Kammen, Ph.D.

But at least we have the tank now. It's one small step toward a new kind of gas.


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