Fuel Cells & Alternative Fuel VehiclesWritten by Andrea Susan Glass
FUEL CELLS & ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES
The history of fuel cell can be traced back to 19th century. Since then development and usage of fuel cells in a variety of applications have come a long way. Fuel cells hold great promise for fueling alternative fuel vehicles. Here is some of history of development of fuel cells:
William Grove invented fuel cell in 1839. General Electric invented proton exchange membrane fuel cells in 1950s Francis Bacon demonstrated a 5kW alkaline fuel cell in 1959. NASA's use of fuel cells during Apollo space missions in 1960s was first commercial use of fuel cells. Alkaline fuel cells have flown over 100 missions and operated for more than 80,000 hours in spacecrafts operated by NASA. The US Navy has been using fuel cells in submarines since 1980s Fuel cell buses are running in several cities around world, largest being European Union backed CUTE project (Clean Urban Transport for Europe). All major automakers have prototypes of alternative fuel vehicles using fuel cells on road-some have already been leased to customers. Iceland has plans to convert its fishing fleet from diesel engines to hydrogen fuel cells as part of a national project to create a fossil fuel free economy Several car manufacturers are hoping to produce their first semi-commercial models of fuel cell cars by 2005, yet they will most probably not be mass produced until 2010. Numerous fuel cell products will be coming to market-portable direct methanol fuel cells will power mobile phones, laptops and cameras in near future A fuel cell is around 60% efficient at converting fuel to power, double efficiency of an internal combustion gas engine-which makes it perfect for alternative fuel vehicles. Fuel cells have several advantages over conventional power sources like internal combustion gas engines or batteries. Additionally, there are disadvantages facing manufacturers hoping to commercialize fuel cells. See how they stack up as next best fuel for alternative fuel vehicles.
Fuel cells reduce pollution that is caused by burning of fossil fuels-their only by-product is water If hydrogen used in fuel cell comes from electrolysis of water, then using fuel cells will eliminate greenhouse gases Because fuel cells don't need conventional fuels like oil or gas, they eliminate economic dependence on politically unstable countries Since hydrogen can be manufactured anywhere there is water and electricity, production of potential fuel can be allocated in various areas Fuel cells operate at a higher efficiency than diesel or gas engines which makes them an ideal source of efficient power for alternative fuel vehicles Most fuel cells operate silently, while internal combustion engines do not Fuel cells can operate for longer times than batteries, therefore to double operating time, only fuel needs to be doubled and not capacity of unit itself The maintenance of fuel cells is relatively straightforward since there are few moving parts in system Disadvantages
The U.S. Dependence on Foreign OilWritten by Andrea Susan Glass
In late 2004, Hudson Institute conducted a survey with following results:
75% of Americans prioritized "reducing our reliance on foreign oil" over "cheaper prices for oil and gas." 83% of Americans agreed that "reducing our dependence on foreign oil must be a top priority for next administration." 91% of Americans concurred that "when it comes to energy, we need an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation-not Saudi royal family." How much oil we depend on from foreign sources affects our economy and our national security. Today, we import more than half of oil we use, and it will increase as we use up domestic resources. The majority (65% to 75%) of world's oil reserves are in Middle East and are controlled by OPEC oil cartel. The U.S. depends on oil for most of its transportation needs--up to 95%. Until alternative energy vehicles start becoming more commonplace, our dependence on foreign oil will only grow.
In past, dependence on oil has cost our economy dearly. Oil price shocks and manipulation by OPEC between 1979 to 2000 cost U.S. around $7 trillion, nearly as much as was spent on national defense over same period and more than interest payments on U.S. national debt. An economic recession resulted from each major price shock, so with increasing dependence on OPEC oil, continued price shocks will continue to cost U.S. economy.
In late 2004, oil prices charged toward $50 a barrel as hurricanes slowed petroleum output from Gulf of Mexico and rebels threatened Nigerian oil facilities. Not only did that create a surge in gas prices at pump, but increased dependence of U.S. on oil from middle East. "Higher oil prices could trigger a global recession," according to Purnomo Yusgiantoro, President of OPEC. Analysts reported surging demands from a booming Chinese economy as cause of putting global demand only slightly below global supply. Most OPEC nations are already producing at full capacities.