Hydrogen-Fueled Three-Wheelers for India

A project implemented by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to introduce three-wheel hydrogen-powered vehicles into India could have important consequences on air pollution and transportation in developing countries and the U.S.

Rochester Hills, Michigan – December 30, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), on behalf of Texaco Ovonic Hydrogen Systems, both of Rochester Hills, Michigan, is undertaking conversion in the U.S. in a 50-50 joint venture with the unit of ChevronTexaco Corp. of San Ramon, California. ECD will carry out the project in cooperation with one of India’s largest automobile manufacturers, Mahindra and Mahindra Limited. “Hydrogen engine technology can have a dramatic impact in the developing world by improving air quality and energy security, and promoting sustainable economic growth,” Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. “The positive impacts are far-reaching both in the United States and abroad.” DOE is interested in testing alternative fuel-efficient systems under congested traffic conditions where transportation pollution is severe. USAID’s U.S.-Asia Environmental Partnership program and its Global Development Alliance program brought the American and Indian partners together and supported them with US$500,000 to pursue the conversion of a three-wheeler internal combustion engine to run on hydrogen fuel. “This project could ultimately hasten introduction of hydrogen-fueled transportation into the United States by building upon lessons learned in wide scale deployment of small vehicles in India,” Abraham said. The DOE said that the project could encourage conversion of vast emerging economies to less-polluting hydrogen fuels, introduce key American technology to the immense Asian market, and hasten introduction of hydrogen- fueled transportation into the United States. According to the DOE, one attractive factor in this test is the amount of fuel that needs to be stored on an average Indian three-wheeler is one-tenth that needed for automobiles favored by U.S. consumers. The DOE said that the smaller storage capacity significantly reduces technological challenges in introducing the vehicles into the Asian market. In this project, Mahindra and Mahindra selected two vehicles for conversation and ships them to ECD, a company which has experience in solid-state hydrogen storage systems and has done work in converting gasoline-powered vehicles to hydrogen. ECD will convert the engine to run on hydrogen, design a metal hydride storage system, integrate the storage system into the vehicle, and perform vehicle testing. ECD will use its proprietary Ovonic metal hydrides, which are alloys that act like a sponge, to absorb hydrogen gas. Waste heat from the engine is delivered to the metal hydride bed to release the hydrogen fuel. One converted vehicle will be returned to India, a country where three-wheelers powered by smaller two- and four-stroke engines are a common form of transportation in densely populated, low-income areas. The DOE reported that these smaller engines are a major source of air pollution in developing nations. The second vehicle will remain at ECD for tests and demonstrations in the U.S. The project supports research, development and demonstration activities under the DOE’s hydrogen program to develop improved metal hydride materials and for hydrogen-based transportation options. It will also complement a broader initiative by USAID/India working with Indian government agencies and the private sector, with the support of NETL, to develop a vision and a road-map for India’s hydrogen future.
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