New Potential for Hydrogen Fuel Storage

Texaco Ovonic Hydrogen Systems (TOHS), claims the company has made an innovation in compact, solid hydrogen storage for hydrogen-powered vehicles. According to TOHS, the company’s hydride storage system can be used both at the refueling site and onboard the vehicle, employing a powdered metal alloy within a storage tank to absorb and store hydrogen in a significantly lower 1,500 psi pressure environment, a reversal of the current trend toward 10,000 psi gaseous storage.

Rochester Hills, Michigan – September 25, 2003 [] This system works by absorbing hydrogen into a solid metal alloy while removing any heat released by the reaction. The result is hydrogen that can be stored safely in a solid, inert state, only to be released on demand when heated. This process would ideally make use of the waste heat from either an internal combustion or fuel cell power plant. “The technology can potentially be applied to all internal combustion engine vehicles, not just hybrids,” said Stanford R. Ovshinsky, president of TOHS, and ECD Ovonics’ co-founder, president, and CEO. “The Ovonic solid hydrogen system is also applicable directly to fuel cell models so it has potential application with a variety of models from the automakers.” In the specially equipped modified sedan, a 2002 Toyota Prius, that is currently being used to demonstrate the technology, a trunk-mounted 60-liter pressure vessel stores three kg of hydrogen to provide a range in excess of 130 miles. Refueling at 1,500 psi takes 10 minutes, but could decrease to just five minutes with future designs. According to Ovshinsky, DOE’s 250-mile range target could be achievable with the use of a five kg Ovonic solid hydrogen storage system, and TOHS is already prototyping systems with potentially greater ranges. Because refueling is done at such low pressure, no extraordinary improvements in station compressors, regulators, connectors, or new high-pressure pipelines are required. Similarly sized 5,000 psi compressed hydrogen tanks hold just one kg of hydrogen while providing a range of about 50 miles. In overcoming range and storage issues with current technology, According to TOHS, the company’s low-pressure solid storage allows today’s internal combustion engine technology (as well as developing fuel cell technology) to use hydrogen fuel. TOHS’ low-pressure, hydrogen fuel tanks can also be used at refueling stations allowing drivers to refuel their hydrogen-fueled vehicles safely and easily. Because these solid storage systems are compact and work at low pressure, refueling sites can be smaller with simpler designs. TOHS claims that expensive high-pressure storage tanks and the compressors to fill them would no longer be needed, as the tanks can also be located underground similar to the way gasoline tanks are now. “Hydrogen is widely recognized as the most promising path to our transportation future,” said Ovshinsky. “But getting to that future is our current challenge. We believe that taking an integrated system approach with onboard as well as off-board (refueling) storage of this fuel leads to a logical (short-term) and even long-term solution.”
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