Revolutionary U.S. Hydrogen Car on the Stocks

The Hypercar company developed by environmentalist Amory Lovins is developing a lightweight vehicle that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell for introduction in 2005. The 100 mpg emission-free ‘Revolution’ model is eight times as efficient as most standard models, according to designers.

BASALT, Colorado, US, 2001-11-06 [] A lighter car requires a smaller engine for power, less braking to stop, less suspension and, because the Hypercar runs on an electricity-producing fuel cell rather than an internal combustion engine, certain parts are eliminated, including the starter, alternator, clutch, and transmission. “The car gets radically simplified,” says Lovins. “And then it costs less to make.” The vehicle body is made from a composite of carbon fibre set in a plastic matrix, a stronger version of the material used in skis and tennis rackets and which (per pound) is five times stronger than steel. Although carbon composites are more expensive, a smaller quantity is needed and is cheaper to manufacture. While the Hypercar weighs less than 2,000 pounds (907 kg), it meets federal safety standards based on a 30 mpg barrier crash. In a computer simulated crash with a Ford Explorer (which weighs twice as much), all the damage to the Hypercar occurred in the front end. While none of the fuel-efficient features are claimed as unique to Hypercar, the company claims they are optimized. Half a dozen automakers, including Ford, Daimler-Chrysler and BMW, are developing fuel cell-powered cars but, because their vehicles are heavy, they need fuel cells that are three times bigger and heavier and more expensive than fuel cells for the Hypercar. The biggest hurdle to overcome for fuel cell cars is setting up a distribution network to supply the hydrogen gas. Hydrogen can be extracted from natural gas or gasoline, using a device called a reformer, or through electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. There are few hydrogen stations in the world and some myths concerning the fuel’s dangers, but Hypercar says hydrogen has characteristics that make it a safer fuel than gasoline or natural gas. The gas is lighter than air and dissipates quickly, so any flames from hydrogen burn straight up and away, as opposed to pooling around its source. Hydrogen also creates no soot or ash, has little radiant heat and cannot burn its surroundings or crash victims unless they are extremely close to the flame. Hydrogen storage tanks made from advanced composites, are extremely safe, and manufacturers have dropped tanks from 80 feet to simulate crashes, incurring no functional damage. Advocates also explain that hydrogen did not cause the crash of the famous Hindenburg blimp. The exterior of the airship had a coating of aluminum and iron oxide, which sparked after it came into contact with an electric current (either lightning or static). The hydrogen then caught fire and burned straight up, causing no direct injuries to humans on the ill-fated blimp.

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