CHRYSLER - Unveils fuel-cell minivangreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Chrysler unveils fuel-cell minivan
By Richard Truett Automotive News / December 12, 2001
Most automakers are developing fuel cell technology around gaseous hydrogen, gasoline, natural gas or methanol. But the Chrysler group has built a zero-emission fuel cell-powered minivan that avoids fossil fuels and emits no pollution.
The Natrium minivan, based on the Chrysler Town & Country, derives hydrogen from sodium borohydride, a chemical close to the borax that is commonly used in laundry detergent.
Chrysler will show the Natrium minivan Wednesday, Dec. 12, at the Electric Vehicle Association of the Americas conference in Sacramento, Calif.
Hydrogen is carried in the sodium borohydride and is separated by a catalyst developed by Millennium Cell, a start-up company based in Eatontown, N.J. The hydrogen then produces electricity through a chemical reaction in the fuel cell stack. The electricity powers a 55-kilowatt electric motor that drives the van.
The Natrium goes 300 miles on a 54-gallon tank of water and sodium borate, reaches 60 mph in about 16 seconds and gets the equivalent of 30 mpg of gasoline, said Thomas Moore, vice president of DaimlerChrysler's technical affairs and engineering technologies.
New filling stations needed
As with all other fuel cell vehicles, the nation's petroleum-based fuel infrastructure poses the toughest obstacle for the Natrium. Not one, but two fuel tanks would have to be installed at filling stations for the system to work. One tank would hold fresh fuel; the other would be a receptacle for the spent fuel that must be expelled from the vehicle at every fill up.
The good news is that the old fuel doesn't wear out but can be endlessly recharged with hydrogen, said Rex Luzader, of Millennium Cell.
Chrysler officials would not estimate how much the van would cost to produce, nor would they put a price on sodium borohydride per gallon. But Moore said as long as gasoline is selling for about $1.25 per gallon the Natrium would not make economic sense to produce.
Running down a list of potential fuel cell fuels and their drawbacks, Moore said a sodium borohydride fuel cell vehicle is worth exploring because it:
Could free the United States from its dependence on imported oil
Is environmentally friendly because it contains no carbon
Is a renewable energy source
Is safer than fossil fuelsbecause it is not flammable.
"The biggest problem is what fuel do you use? Where do you get the hydrogen?" Moore said. "These issues have to be resolved before fuel cell vehicles can be put on the road."
The Natrium's electric motor is made by Siemens VDO; the van uses a fuel cell stack from Ballard Power Systems of Vancouver, British Columbia. The vehicle will be on display in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Chrysler engineers have been working on the Natrium for 18 months and plan to test it this year. "We are not saying this is the clear winner. We are saying it's worth exploring," Moore said.
-- Anonymous, December 12, 2001