Re: Fuel Cells et al (gas go boom?)

Michael M. Butler (butler@comp*
Sat, 06 Sep 1997 19:56:44 -0700


It depends on exactly which kind of fuel cell Mercedes-Benz rolls out.

The most practical kind of fuel cell would use a common liquid fuel, say
methyl or ethyl alcohol, and
somehow dissociate just the hydrogen for use in a hydrox fuel cell with the
oxygen from the air. That would have a significant impact in that rice,
wheat, sorghum and other crops would become more practical sources of
energy for transportation than they are currently. Shifts in price supports
and subsidies for these sorts of crops might or might not occur, and
there's be more of a direct competition between fuel and food/feed uses for
same. Different parts of cars would require some changes, since there are
seals, tubing etc. that like nonpolar hydrocarbons better than polar.
Tuning of engines would be different; high-proof alcohol evaporates faster
than gasoline and might be considered more dangerous as a vapor... And some
people would try to drink the stuff, I guarantee.

Hydrogen as metal hydrides is somewhat less convenient, and "bare" H2 as
gas or liquid even more so (bulky!). Either of those two approaches would
fundamentally change the tooling as you mentioned, and also the
distribution chains, were they to become accepted or *shudder* mandated.

The expected lifetime of the fuel cell catalyst bed also is crucial in
assessing the impact of this product. There are alcohol-air fuel cells
right now--they just cost too much and don't last long enough, due to
eventual contamination.


At 08:43 PM 9/6/97 -0400, you wrote:
>Abraham Moses Genen
>Being dedicated to the future progress of humankind
>should be the prime concern of all civilized beings.
>Dear nice people,
>When I asked for information about the possible substitution of a fuel
>cell operated by hydrogen as a substitute for the internal combustion
>engine as proposed and developed by Mercedes, my main concerns, among
>others, however, was the possible necessity of re-tooling all of the
>automobile plants in the world. The other possible effects would include a
>change in some of the balances in powers due to the possible lessening of
>dependence on mid-east oil, the controls --if any -- over the production
>and distribution of hydrogen as a fuel, the ecological effects and any and
>all possible socio-economic changes and other such contingencies.

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