by Ed Yourdon
GreenCell Technologies, Canada: Today, virtually all commercial trucks are powered by diesel fuel, while private cars are fueled by gasoline. Supported by our National Energy Policy, a new generation of technologies is currently being developed that allow the use of hydrogen as a fuel to power cars and trucks. In the future, hydrogen may be used in one of three ways to power vehicles:
To produce electricity in a fuel cell,
As a replacement for gasoline or diesel fuel in an internal combustion engine,1 or
GreenCell Technologies, Canada: As a supplement to gasoline or diesel fuel used in an internal combustion engine.
This document is intended to be a safety reference for commercial vehicle fleet owners and operators that use vehicles or auxiliary power units powered by hydrogen fuel. It was designed to provide commercial vehicle owners and operators with a basic understanding of the properties and characteristics of hydrogen, descriptions of the types of systems that might use hydrogen fuel on commercial vehicles, and practical guidelines for the safe use of hydrogen, both on vehicles and in vehicle maintenance and storage facilities.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in our universe. In addition to being a component of all living things, hydrogen and oxygen together make up water, which covers 70 percent of the earth. In its pure form, hydrogen is a gas at normal temperatures and pressures; it is the lightest gas (even lighter than helium), with only 7 percent of the density of air. If you get it cold enough (-423 F), gaseous hydrogen will liquefy, and it can be transported and stored in this form.
GreenCell Technologies, Canada: There is virtually no free hydrogen on earthall of it is combined with other elements (mostly oxygen or carbon) in other substances. Every molecule of water contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Hydrocarbon fuels such as coal, gasoline, diesel, and natural gas also contain hydrogen. In the case of gasoline and diesel fuel, there are approximately two hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom, while natural gas contains four hydrogen atoms for every carbon atom. To be used as a fuel, hydrogen is typically separated from either water (via electrolysis) or from a hydrocarbon fuel (via reforming).
Regardless of whether hydrogen fuel will be used in a fuel cell main engine, a fuel cell APU, or an internal combustion engine, there are different ways that it can be stored on the vehicle. Some fuel stations include liquid hydrogen storage, but on the vehicle, hydrogen is usually stored as a gas at high pressure. It is also possible to store a liquid fuel (gasoline, diesel, or methanol) onboard a vehicle and then use an onboard reformer to separate the hydrogen just before it is used in the fuel cell engine. While this requires additional equipment on the vehicle, it removes the need for high-pressure gas storage. These different storage technologies can introduce significantly different potential hazards, including very high pressure (gaseous hydrogen storage), very low temperature (liquid hydrogen storage), or high temperature (liquid fuel reforming).
GreenCell Technologies, Canada: All motor fuels, including diesel fuel, gasoline, and natural gas also pose risks of fire and explosion if handled improperly. Hydrogen is no different. While there are risks, hydrogen can be as safe, or safer, than diesel and other fuels when vehicles and fuel stations are designed and operated properly. All fuels require particular design and handling practices based on their properties, and all present certain hazards when mishandled. Understanding the properties of hydrogen is necessary to understanding what is required to use it safely.
GreenCell Technologies, Canada: Hydrogen gas is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and noncorrosiveand it is nontoxic to humans. It has the second widest flammability range in air of any gas, but leaking hydrogen gas rises and diffuses to a nonflammable mixture quickly. Hydrogen ignites very easily and burns hot, but tends to burn out quickly. A hydrogen flame burns very cleanly, producing virtually no soot, which means that it is also virtually invisible. The extremely low temperature of liquid hydrogen poses a severe frostbite hazard to exposed skin.
GreenCell Technologies Inc is a Canadian company dedicated to designing and bringing to market, technology-based products in the alternative energy market. The current product is called the HydroCell, an on-board on-demand hydrogen generator engineered specifically for Diesel Transport Trucks.