Waste Power Boosts Fuel Cell Cars

Sunday, 09 March 2014

Green motoring debates have been gaining traction lately, as more manufacturers release electric cars, and rapid charge points spread across the country. But a US university is bringing a surprising alternative fuel source into the fray.

According to a news report by Bloomberg, the Fountain Valley waste facility in Orange County has started to produce hydrogen fuel from the waste on site. Scientists at the nearby University of California at Irvine developed the system that generates the fuel, and if you are a bit squeamish about this sort of thing, you might want to skip the details in the next paragraph.

The process begins with the standard separation of liquid and solid waste. The liquid, as you may know, is filtered, cleaned and treated for reuse. The solid waste, meanwhile, is sent to separate, airless tanks. Here, the waste is broken down organically by microorganisms, producing methane and carbon dioxide. The methane is filtered off into a ‘tri-generation fuel cell’, which uses the gas to produce electricity, heat and hydrogen. The hydrogen produced in the waste treatment process is then sent to a public fuel pump, where it is used to supply fuel cell cars.

These green engines appear to be in the middle of a resurgence - both Hyundai and Honda entered the market last year, revealing their new fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) concepts at the Los Angeles motor show, while Toyota had earlier revealed their own FCEV in Tokyo.

And though this form of recycling may not be universally appealing, it certainly has green credentials. As The Green Car Website reports, the most common way of generating hydrogen fuel is reforming it from natural gas (a fossil fuel), so harnessing a renewable source will likely do wonders for its popularity among eco-conscious drivers.

And while Jack Brouwer, the project’s lead researcher, anticipates that California’s waste treatment could only power 10% of the state’s cars, a much denser population like the UK may find additional benefits from the frequency of such ‘fuelling stations’. And with the potential cost reductions they are likely to bring, you might want to start getting car insurance quotes on these green vehicles, as they’re looking more and more mainstream by the day.

Sources:
1.
www.bloomberg.com/video/sewage-derived-hydrogen-fuel-sparks-global-interest-sBEZgbVcRvOepfDcWSRluw.html  
2.
www.thegreencarwebsite.co.uk/blog/index.php/2014/02/21/hydrogen-fuel-cell-car-runs-on-sewage-derived-hydrogen/  

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