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Car Runs on Home-Brew Hydrogen Answered

BBC News are running an item about a car running on home-produced hydrogen.

UK company ITM Power has produced a plastic film they claim is suitable for home electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen (they say) can be used in the home, to be burned for cooking or heating, or to power a car (they are simply burning it, but it could supply a hydrogen fuel cell).

As we have mentioned elsewhere on this site, current sources of hydrogen are not "green" (95% of current H2 supplies are manufactured from fossil fuels), but ITM say that their system is green because you aren't stopping at a filling station, you're generating your own hydrogen from the energy resource of your choice (maybe your own solar cells or wind turbine).

Others, however, have questioned the wisdom of storing tanks of hydrogen at home.

Whatever the application, if this new material is all that they claim, it could be a major step towards a true hydrogen society.

BBC Story
ITM Power


They're storing it as a metal hydride. So you'd be releasing the metal as waste rather than the CO2+H2O etc you get from car engines at the moment. And as it'll not just blow away/ float off like CO2, where's it all going to go? You'd have to drop it off at a recycling point- perhaps you'd just get interchangeable modules for fuel, so you'd pull the spent one out and slot in a new one. Then the recyclers would have to dispose of it or "re-charge" it. Actually, come to think of it it's probably not a bad idea. I can't watch the video, have you got any energy density figures for it (metal hydride, so gravatic will be awful but volumetric could be good...)? Thanks!

Actually I saw that on Scientific American Frontiers on PBS. The substance (guess it's hydride) stays in a tank, the hydrogen is pumped in and gets soaked up, which generates lots of heat. The fill nozzle is fitted with a water line, water is used to cool the tank. The hydrogen is released, iirc, by (gently) heating the tank. No metal is released as waste.

The downsides, few as they are, involve the current planned H2 filling scheme using pressurized gas period, no provision for water cooling, and then, well, you have a chunk that'll release hydrogen when heated. Not good in a fire, like after a collision with a gas-powered vehicle, more heat yields more gas released and if the hydrogen is burning that means even more heat... Although for the first one it might be overcome with an on-board refrigeration unit that'll cool the tank while filling. After that, well, since it's not a highly-pressurized gas tank suddenly exploding (shrapnel and fireball) guess it'll be no worse than an exploding gasoline tank.

"After that, well, since it's not a highly-pressurized gas tank suddenly exploding (shrapnel and fireball) guess it'll be no worse than an exploding gasoline tank." I believe this is the setup that I had researched a while ago. Altho, I'm not positive. What I had found was that they tested the tank by shooting it with incendiary rounds resulting in neither an explosion/violent gas leak or fire. The tank around the bullet paths just smoldered. It was either this tank or another one that had some kind of special baffling inside to prevent these from occurring. I have yet to find if there was another tank. Also, I don't think cooling would present much of a problem to overcome. That should be fairly easy in my opinion. None of it really matters. I won't be able to afford any these new technologies anyway. It's just fun to see what's out there.

My friend got a hydrogen generator that claims to double mileage in his truck and his dad's jeep. I should call him.....

the chance of an onboard hydrogen generator doubling gas milage is nil, zip, non existant. The web is full of this stuff, i suspect alot of people selling snake oil. There is a ton of money to be made off gullible, desperate people. The ethics of this are obvious. No one should even conside this until some reliable data comes out, i'll be stunned if it improves mileage by more than 10%. If this works then GM and Ford who are tanking, would put it in next year's big SUV's, and that's not happening. Wonder why? They're not stupid. And if you think it's a "conspiracy" i have some old Enron Stock that will certainly net you a fortune some day. Remember that there are people who swear that they've seen aliens.

They work. Not the best, but they do help. Remember that most car companies have their hands in the oil companies pockets.

All due respect, but explaining the lack of interest by ANY major car company as a conspiracy just isn't rational. For you to be right, they'd have to ALL be in bed with the oil companies. And like any good urban legend, the claims of savings on this are all over the board. It reminds me of the people who were selling turbines for the air intakes, it was supposed to dramatically increase fuel economy. That was garbage. You still see those on late night TV. Until we see reliable data, i'm a major skeptic. An until then I certainly wouldn't buy one.

I wouldn't buy either. I'd build. Its taking extra electricity and using it to split water. Remember, the energy is form electricity, not H

there is no such thing as "Extra Electricity". The only way that hydrogen augmentation of internal combustion will work is if it somehowe improves combustion. It has to work nearly at the catalytic level like tetra ethyl lead. Even then it's very, very unlikely that it works at all much less a 100% improvement in mileage. If this works then the chinese, russians or some foriegn power, not possibly in bed with the american oil companies would be driving their tanks with it. I'm waiting on some reliable testing agengy to put this one to bed, the myth buster site has pretty much decided it's bogus. Rememer there are still people who think we didn't land on the moon...

Yes there is. Imagine you have a lake a pump and a bucket. Your pump fills the bucket until its full. After that it spills over the edges. After a certain point your battery can't hold more electricity. Lets not argue this anymore until you have proof. I'll be installing one in a honda crx soon, we'll see how that goes.

The best way to run a car on water would be to have water pressurize, brought to some ejector type device and to break upthe water in the "injector" so as to the have both H and the O. injected in the cylinder head. Not the most efficient, put the most practicable since the internal combustion engine has been around for so long, We need some sort of "open source" movement on the energy front, so as to make information avail to all. A balanced approached to the information that is available about HHO with hard facts of what works and what doesn't.

There is no such thing as HHO, it's hydrogen and oxygen. Nothing magically here. I've got a PhD in Biochem with a minor in organic. What we really need is data from a reputable source. Myth busters had a thread on this, it was pretty well researched. They pretty much emphatically dismissed the idea that alternators made "extra electricity". But my point remains, if this works, then why doesn't the chinese military run their tanks on it? They certainly don't care about Exon. I'll believe it when we have reproducable data from a reputable source, until then it's alot of people selling stuff. It's alot like the alternative health care industry, they have testimonials from people claiming that their brand of seaweed cures cancer, and the only reason that the medical community is not pushing it is that we are sleeping with the drug companies. The fact that MD's with cancer don't use it eludes them.. data, data, data.... that's all that matters... until then it's wistful thinking at best..

To be charitable, I think the term "HHO" has been appropriated from the Brown's Gas woowoos to simply mean "Hydrogen and oxygen obtained by electrolysis of water at point of use". See? it's a lot shorter.

...I think the term "HHO" has been appropriated from the Brown's Gas woowoos to simply mean "Hydrogen and oxygen obtained by electrolysis of water at point of use".
Except they keep talking about elemental hydrogen... Makes one wonder if at the beginning of the mythos, they thought not only was there energy released from making the water, but they had individual hydrogen atoms combining, thus hydrogen hydrogen oxygen (HHO) instead of H2 + O (actually 2H2O -> 2H2 + O2). Of course with the mighty free energy liberated by the generators which operate at the third harmonic of the resonant background frequency of the universal aether, that'd be easy to do.

If car manufacturers are in the pockets of the oil companies, why the work on electric cars?

Why all the work on solar-electric?

Not that one of the biggest researchers and manufacturers of photovoltaic cells is British Petroleum...

Yes, but consider how expensive those solar panels are.

When they make a home system that can generate liquid hydrocarbons for vehicles, being a more efficient storage method for energy than pressurized gas or batteries, using alternate energy like solar, then I'll be impressed.

Of course one can always whip up a solar-powered still and make some form of alcohol... Well, when I can start with my compostable garbage and end up with fuel, then I'll really be impressed.

Consider the wood gas generators of WWII in Europe. If you have an outside wood burning furnace for your house you can capture the gases from the flue, pressurize it then run it in your car via an LPG or Natural Gas converter on your car, truck, tractor, stationary generator,etc.

*reads up on wood gas generators*

There's a basic flaw there. Wood gas generators are designed to put the most energy possible into the gas. A wood furnace is designed to put the most energy possible into heat generation. A truly efficient furnace design would leave hardly any usable energy sources in the flue gases, the engine wouldn't run at all.

Ah but they still make a good amount of heat energy, a combination of designs or a simple addition of a large heating coil would generate a good amount of heat and gas...

With catalytics and a heat exchanger for the flue, you can have exhaust gases with no real usable energy at all, and lots and lots of heat. Although guess you could then vent the gases to a greenhouse. Though remember the biology fine print on that, plants only use CO2 with sunlight, at night they need O2 just like us, so when we need heat the most and plants would appreciate some warmth the most is when you'd likely suffocate them.

Aye, minor issue with that... If we were better at thermal storage we could make it work, in fact most greenhouse owners on a commercial level both heat and add CO2 to their greenhouses, if the plants grew well intensively then you could run lights all the time...

Really I think the wood gas generator would have to be running constantly on a massive level to make it an effective fuel for many, of course this could be done and it would provide a large amount of spare heat, assuming this was using sustainable sources then it'd be reasonably friendly to the environment, making use of the waste heat would be a massive bonus aswell... I'm not sure what the remnants are from a wood gas generator but I'd suspect there would be a fair amount of carbon left over, something like charcoal at a guess, I've seen plenty on them but people always neglect to point out what comes out the other end...

I'm not sure what the remnants are from a wood gas generator...
Ash mainly, I'd expect. It's a combustion process and carbon burns well thus I doubt there'd be much at all left over.

it was just a wondering, as long as it's efficient then I'd tend to agree. I wonder if a large scale wood gas generator was to be run under very high pressures and temperatures if it would become a viable and efficient fuel source, I suppose small scale experiments would eb the way to find out...

Small scale experimenters should well note the main usable gas produced is carbon monoxide, a very dangerous toxin with cumulative and long-lasting effects, poisoning can yield long-term serious medical conditions, and CO accumulates in the body easily so both intermittent and continuous exposure may harm. OSHA limits long-term work-related exposure to just 50 ppm, 0.005%; 400ppm (0.04%) can kill. Wood gas runs about 27%. Everything from the wood chamber to after whatever is burning the wood gas needs to be sealed, pressure test the assembly before use, only use it outside. Remember CO is colorless and odorless. Spend a few minutes up close while running trying to figure out where that pressure leak is coming from, you may never know what killed you.

I know, that's exactly why I keep a few CO detector plates from when my dad flew, they're dead handy if you're worried, we had one for the old house sitting on the windowsill opposite the door so you could see if the boiler had went wrong... It's a shame that CO is so damned dangerous, it would make a great fuel in some ways, though again not very stable and that whole bonding with your blood is a bit of a nuisance...

CO detector plates? If they're chemical-based and out in the air, then they can age. Go find a running engine and test.

They have a date stamp on them for that very purpose, in normal air they last a long time, that and the majority are sealed... I'll have to dig them out and have a look at the time they take to go bad

I'd feel better if said plate went off with an annoying loud shriek that'd get you up in the middle of the night. ;-)

You can get detectors that work the same as smoke detectors in that respect, though I think they're expensive...

Funerals are more expensive. Good shovels and pickaxes don't come cheap, you know. ;-)

In that case I reckon a pilot flame at the other end, should you dies from a wood gas leak you'll be burned for quick disposal.

Well you could have a pop off roof, just so you'd have a chance at survival...

My thought was that if the flue gas were captured you would be able to do that but, only after a period of time however, if the combustible gas remaining is so low then, it is an exercise in futility...very unfortunate.

I thought the basic idea was that wood = carbon + organic volatiles (wood tar, wood gas). If you heat wood and drive off the volatiles you get charcoal (cf. every camp fire ever made, charcoal burners etc.). You could probably run a wood gas generator and then heat your home with the charcoal produced- hell, maybe you could even heat the generator with the charcoal.

Well one has to clarify what is charcoal, the bagged briquettes used in campfire burners are not it. I'm saying that from the perspective of when I was studying up on modern blacksmithing.

Traditional charcoal is nearly all carbon, equivalent to coke, both made by heating and driving off the volatiles. A blacksmith using a coal forge is actually using coke, with careful tending of the fire bituminous coal is introduced on the outside and gradually raked near the middle, being heated along the way, stirred into the mound surrounding the air grate, until when it is finally over the air grate and being used to heat the metal it's become coke.

The purity of the fire is very important, impurities must be kept out of the metal, and coke burns hotter than coal. Likewise true charcoal is made from wood, but as a batch process prior to smithing, yielding temps in excess of wood. That stuff shaped into briquettes, is not real charcoal, should not and often can not be used for smithing.


Huh? Where was I? Oh yeah...

Wood gas production is by inefficient burning, yielding primarily carbon monoxide as the burnable gas, in an oxygen-restricted environment. Charcoal is made in an oxygen-free environment, traditional method is some version of getting a large pile of wood burning then covering it with dirt, all oxygen is consumed and the remaining heat does the cooking. But charcoal production technically is not a combustion process, oxygen is not used in the actual conversion. While wood gas production is combustion, though inefficient the source material will still be consumed. About the only real way to get charcoal from a generator would be shutting down gas production by cutting off the air supply, closing off the flue, then digging out what remains in the chamber after it cools.

the "other" uses for this thing besides cars is cool. You should be able to make point of use water heaters that don't emit CO or CO2. Put the heater on the shower head! People have converted gas stoves to hydrogen for years, they're not inherently dangerous. You could store hydrogen in underground tanks under a column of water, wonder how much of a hit you'd take on efficiency if you generated it under pressure, you wouldn't need a pump. Hydrogen lawnmowers, hand tools, getting rid of the batteries would be fantastic, they're expensive, short lived and toxic. We're going to "turn the corner" on the basis of something simple, this could be it.

As far as I can tell, the plastic film still needs an electrical supply - it's electrolysis, not catalytic cracking.

That means it is not suitable for small devices like showers - it is best-suited to generating hydrogen continuously, with whatever electrical source you choose, to store the H2 until required (say, to run your domestic water-heater).

Any idea how much of a hit you'd take doing electrolysis under pressure? I've been looking for that data. There has to be a trade off between generating it at pressure in the storage container and the cost of compression. So if you stored it under ground, under water, could you generate it there, blowing off the O2? Safety would no longer be an issue if the tank was at say 600 feet, which would give you 300 psi or so. Is it cheaper to generate it at 300 psi or generate it at 1 atmosphere and compress it. I suspect that compressing it would be cheaper. Some Researcher in California has a new Nanotube electrolysis plate that is 85% efficient, now we're talking..

i would plumb the house for hydrogen. Store the hydrogen in the ground and use it like nat gas. But unlike nat gas, no one is going to suffocate when they leave the heater on. Putting the heater in the water line would give you extremely high efficiency. Leaks could be handled by monitoring pressure drops and flagging any pressure drop that ocurred without a concomittant drop in water pressure. And they make very small hydrogen detectors, so i suspect that we will eventually be using this stuff indoors like we use nat gas, but without the asphixiation risks.

. Inside a closed house, asphyxiation is just as big a problem with H2 as it is with natural gas, Argon, CO2 , or any other gas.

I think senojjones was referring to the fact that burning H2 cannot produce carbon monoxide if the flame is deprived of a proper supply of oxygen.

there's no way that enough H2 could build up to asphyxiate someone, no one's house is that tight. Hydrogen has a problem with leaking out of perfectly good gas lines, it's not going to hang around. In fact that's one of it's strengths over Nat gas, it doesn't "settle" My point was that if you can generate hydrogen for a car, then it will fairly quickly substitute for most uses of propane and Nat gas for appliances. In many respects it's much safer, you can use a hydrogen heater in a "closed" room.

> there's no way that enough H2 could build up to asphyxiate someone
. Yes it can. Very easily.
> it doesn't "settle"
. That just makes the situation worse in a closed room/house
> you can use a hydrogen heater in a "closed" room.
. No. It consumes the O2 and you die.

Well assuming it's like a bog standard propane space heater, you can if the room's not airtight, in this new house I'd worry more, to give an idea of the tight sealedness of the rooms mine only takes ten minutes of direct sunlight to become superheated, it'll stay that way for several hours after no sun if I don't open a window... This makes me worry about the damage done by all those crazed experiments that I should have done outside in the first place...