Hydrogen – Fuel Of The Future (Today?)

The hydrogen fuel cell is not a new idea. It was invented in 1839 by Sir William Grove, a Welsh judge, but at that time there were NO vehicles on the road! It took 127 more years to develop a car with a fuel cell.

Still, development of the cell progressed over the years and in October of 1959, Harry Karl Ihrig, an engineer for the Allis – Chalmers Manufacturing Company, demonstrated a 20-horsepower tractor that was the first vehicle ever powered by a fuel cell.

NASA improved and adapted the hydrogen fuel cell for use on satellites and the Space Shuttle. The Orbiter had 3 separate “stacks” of cells and operated equipment aboard the vehicle. They were rather large but were reusable and proved VERY dependable, only having one or two failures during the lifetime of the Shuttle program.


Fuel cells are clean, fuel efficient, and fuel flexible. Any hydrogen-rich material can serve as a potential fuel source for this developing technology. Possibilities include fossil-derived fuels, such as natural gas, petroleum distillates, liquid propane, and gasified coal, or renewable fuels, such as ethanol, methanol, or hydrogen.

The fuel of choice would be hydrogen – it is a primary component of the air we breathe – and simple “compressor/extractors” in your garage at home or a service station can draw out the hydrogen directly from the air.

The difficulty in the development of cells for common (automobile) use is the cost of the materials (metals) used to construct the cell (see diagram below). The anode (plate that gathers the electrons) is currently made of platinum,  an extremely rare “noble” metal, and only a few hundred tons of it are mined annually.

Strangely, our Moon exploration of the ’60s and ’70s revealed large deposits of mine-able platinum on the Moon. Alternately, other experiments are being conducted to find a substitute for the expensive platinum, and your empty soft drink and beer cans may be the ideal replacement! By melting down the recycled aluminum and treating it with a special chemical, it produces a surface area that is almost as efficient as platinum in generating electricity.

As research and development proceeds we may see cost-effective fuel cells in personal vehicles within a few short years. And, to satisfy the “Al Gore Greenies“, this vehicle’s exhaust is pure, potable WATER, and we can use all that we can get. You could actually port the exhaust (water) into a tank in the trunk, run A/C lines through the tank and have a cold-water spigot in  the car’s bar!


Obama, quit giving our money away to the failing Solyndra companies and buy more Pepsi; we’ll all benefit!  More fun. Tastes better, too.


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