• Jun 29th 2007 at 6:48PM
  • 19
The British company ITM Power said today it has a made a "major breakthrough" for petrol-to-hyrogen vehicle conversions. Let's see how much through this announcement breaks.
ITM and the University of Hertfordshire have been working for about the last six months on putting hydrogen in IC engines
at the Sustainable Energy Tehnologies Centre (SETCE). The news from ITM today is that they've run a bi-fuel Ford Focus, "with minimal modifications," through initial trials that sent the car over 25 miles on a single charge of hydrogen (they don't say how much hydrogen makes up this single charge).

The other announcement is about the green box you see in the picture. This device is "a low-cost electrolyser which can convert renewable energy (wind, wave or solar power) or off-peak electricity into hydrogen." The device made hydrogen that the Focus used in its test.

Jim Heathcote, ITM Power's CEO, keeps up the bluster, saying "Both these developments represent a seismic advance in our efforts to cut ourselves free from the dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. The Bi-fuel car and refuelling system clearly demonstrate a simple, convenient and low-cost transportation solution that can significantly reduce greenhouse gases and help mitigate climate change. We believe combining electrolysers with an internal combustion-engined vehicle brings affordable hydrogen transportation forward by many years."

ITM will demonstrate the refueling station and the car later the year. But what's the breakthrough here? Other companies have hydrogen-burning ICEs, and there are other hydrogen home refueling systems in the works. I'm glad to see people working on alternatives to petrol, but, um, let's not use breakthrough without good reason, K?

[Source: ITM Power]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Someone actually did a setup with photovoltaics and electrolyzer and fuel cell and H2 compressor and lots of hydrogen tanks to fully power his house. It cost $500,000.00 So, A.Brien, do you have a spare half million to set up your own home H2 power unit?

      Ironically, he could have achieved the same result for less than 1/10th the price if he had used regular batteries for energy storage, instead of pricy H2 electrolyzer/fuel cells. Batteries would have a higher efficiency, too!
      • 8 Years Ago
      I agree on comments made by Chris M before me.
      I personnally after reading how ineffecient hydrogen actually is, have come to same conclusion than Chris and I would rather see good NEV's to be developed ASAP.

      Hydrogen is only oil-companies baby, which make all of us to be dependent on big-oils fueling/charging stations. I would rather charge my future electric car in my own garage.
      • 8 Years Ago
      If the MOD ever decide to make a decision!!.

      My concerns are the usual delays with MOD assessments.

      Government evaluators always think there is something better around the corner and usually avoid making these sort of decisions for as long as possible.

      What Britain and ITM needs is some sort of decent pilot order for the kit. The MOD have had it long enough on loan to get a feel of it now. We don’t want another British invention going by the board just because the MOD can’t get it’s finger out.

      Quote from ITM RNS

      "However, the full commercial or military implications of the results cannot be judged in advance of a research programme such as that agreed with ABRO"

      Also I know what researchers are like.

      To them, the product is never ready; they always can improve more before going to market.

      I hope ITM have a visualiser who can "see" the packaged consumer/industrial product "on the shelves" next year.

      i.e. we can go into any major garage chain, and ask for an ITM conversion whose installation and running costs will have a payback of under a year for a 15K annual mileage motorist.

      The conversion should come with an internal charging system or a 12 volt external connector for overnight mains or alternative energy charging.

      Perhaps even a H2 boot container which is "plug replaceable" so that a hot swap can take place and the other unit charged with H" "offline"

      These are the sort of things I visualise they should be doing to make the impact on the market the research and early development deserves.

      I know from my own patents and designs in Video Pabx technology how important it is to have an end product and price in mind/

      It is important it is to specify and build in all the sales features and benefits of the end product before development, not wait until each piece of the design and testing is finished before addressing these issues of system integration and end user packaging.

      • 8 Years Ago
      Chris M

      I'm not going to attempt to convince you here because this will end up a tit for tat tennis match of claim and counter claim. but I think if you do some deeper research into ITM you will discover that the reason they are "fiddling" around with ICE H2 is very obvious. You are most correct in your statement that a cheap fuel cell is the holy grail of H2 research. Also you are probably aware a fuel cell is in simple terms a reversal of an electrolyser. ITM decided that the main problem regarding the enabling of the H2 economy was the lack of a cheap way to generate H2 from green sources. With this in mind they decided to focus research on reducing the costs of electrolysis first which as an interim measure the H2 produced could be utilised in a non breakthrough H2 ICE. Their research program is now applying the same chemistry to the Fuel Cell side of the chemical loop and they are making great progress on this too. I can assure you ITM's membrane is 100 times cheaper than Duponts Nafion at an approximate ratio of $500 to $5. Do your research and you will uncover this fact easily. I can also assure you the durability test on their electrolysers have now passed 11500 hours of continues operation which makes the ITM technology now commercially viable. This technology is now being developed for their fuel cells and in due course will arrive. In the mean time reflecting on the words of Honda. Using an ICE to burn H2 produced by a cheap electrolyser that IS LIGHT YEARS AHEAD OF ALL THE COMPETITION enables the beginning of the H2 economy TODAY, rather than in another 10 years time.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Wake up people, this system solves nothing, it brings only more problems of its own at a higher price-tag and delays/diverts the attention from real solutions.
      • 8 Years Ago

      How does it do that any more than a plug-in hybrid?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'm really sick of everyone just running on anti-hydrogen autopilot on this one, how this has anything to do with the points you brought up is really beyond me.

      Anyways, the idea itself has some real merit worth considering. Think of it as a PHEV that instead of batteries uses a low pressure hydrogen tank to power an ICE engine for the first few miles.

      Its, actually an ingenious idea if you think about it, and actually worthy of some admiration.

      Now the problem as I figure it is that the average efficiency for an electrolyzer seems to average about 55 KwH per 1Kg of hydrogen, which contains 134,200 BTUs of energy. So If you assume $0.05 off-peak rates, your still talking $2.50 GGE, which is not exactly impressive in the US, but might be a big deal in Europe with their high gas prices (not sure of the electricity prices).

      Anyways, stop it with the canned anti-hydrogen posts, most of you didn't make it past the first line of the story.
      • 8 Years Ago
      If we haven't yet hit peak oil (my feeling is we have) then we will in just a few years. It may be another decade or two but that's going to be about it. So we (the industrialized world that is) need to have alternatives in place, ready to quickly replace gasoline when the time comes.

      The costs of not investing in hydrogen and plant-based fuels as well as electric/battery vehicles would be catastrophic.

      If all you had to do was take your car into the shop for a few hours to have the h2 tank installed and the other adjustments to the fuel system that would be a lot easier than converting your vehicle to battery. Still not as easy as converting your car to run on biodiesel or ethanol but still a good option. I wish them great success in the future.
      • 8 Years Ago
      With technologies like that it will be possible to power a house and a car with only solar panels or windmills if living in the north like me. I prefer windmills too because it's useful at night too contrary to more costly solar panels. I think that
      this technology(electrolyser) don't appeal the general consumer only because 99.9% of the people don't have a clue of what an electrolyser is nor fuelcell or that water can be separate in 2 giving hydrogen and oxygen. If they put that on the market the consumer will adopt it on the long run and will understand it then forget abouth petrol,ethanol,nuclear,coal,natural gas, tidal, geothermal except for tourism, hydro-electricity.
      Only cigarette lighter will survive, LOL.
      • 8 Years Ago
      A mere 25 mile range? The average cheap NEV can do that, and using a lot less electricity to boot.

      This is a graphic example of the problems of storing enough bulky H2 fuel, and how horribly inefficient IC engines really are.

      Their proposed electrolyzer/IC combination is under 10% efficient. Why throw away most of our electric power, when charger/batteries/motor are 80% efficient?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Connolly, we do understand how much of a "breakthrough" this is. It is yet another electrolyzer joining hundreds of others made by would-be "H2 messiahs". While PEM membranes and platinum electrodes can be used for electrolysis, they are not required, and eliminating them is no breakthrough.

      Running an IC engine on compressed H2 is no breakthrough, either. Ford, Quantum, and Mazda have already done it. Some college students converted a Gremlin to run on compressed H2 back in the '60s.

      Now, if ITM’s PEM membrane really did cost 100th the price per sq/mtr of Dupont’s Nafion and if the ITM membrane lasts longer than Nafion, that would count as a breakthrough - for fuel cells. If ITM really did find a way to dramatically reduce assembly costs, that too would count as a breakthrough. An affordable fuel cell is the holy grail of H2 fuel research. So why are they fiddling around with inefficient IC engines, when fuel cells are much more efficient, and potentially more lucrative?

      Perhaps the same reason they are fiddling around with H2, rather than using much much more efficient batteries.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Yes, Connolly, we are aware of "peak oil", the problem of global warming, oil money going to hostile regimes, overpopulation, and a host of other looming problems. That is precisely why we are so upset about all the money, time and effort wasted on such an unpromising technology as H2 automotive fuel, particularly when there are cheaper cleaner safer alternatives already available.
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