Clean, Mean and Green
February 17, 2005 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Peugeot's Fuel Cell ATV
Popular Mechanics examines Peugeot's concept ATV, the Quark, that runs on hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Some neat features (aside from zero emissions):
* A PDA style "key" interface that authenticates the rider and serves as an instrument panel.
* Its an air cooled fuel cell so its reduced in size and won't freeze in cold weather.
* The 9 liter hydrogen tank gives an 80 mile range and is designed to pop out so a refill can be plugged in almost instantly.
* Each 17" wheel has its own electric motor to produce 74 lb.-ft of torque and also employ regenerative braking technology.
More pictures here and lots of interest from many quarters.
posted by fenriq (30 comments total)

 
Would it be street legal? Cause there is a huge need for the fuel efficient, easily parkable vehicle that's not dangerous to drive when it rains in the city.
posted by destro at 9:01 AM on February 17, 2005


Mmm, a Peugeot, yah.

"The French copy nobody and nobody copies the French."

--Tom & Ray Magliozzi, in reference to French automobiles.
posted by bicyclingfool at 9:05 AM on February 17, 2005


Would it be street legal? Cause there is a huge need for the fuel efficient, easily parkable vehicle that's not dangerous to drive when it rains in the city.

Have you actually clicked the link? You would immediately notice that you'd not want to drive this in the city when it rains.
posted by kika at 9:19 AM on February 17, 2005


Peugeot has moved on from its old dowdy image folks... The 206 is one of the most popular compacts in Europe, the 307 has been killing in the medium-size category (and I personally love the 307cc version, even though I own the 206cc one (yes, my bias is showing). Most importantly though, the Pininfarina-designed (and recently replaced, sadly) 406 is still one of the most beautiful (affordable) production cars in existence. I for one hope they will end up building the 907.

Also financially Peugeot-Citroen has been cleaning up in Europe and expanding rapidly. The same cannot be said for VW, GM, Ford, or God forbid, Fiat.
posted by costas at 9:20 AM on February 17, 2005


Compared to a moped, you might get wet, but you wouldn't risk crashing with 4 wheels.
posted by destro at 9:22 AM on February 17, 2005


I should have been more specific: the 406 coupe is the Pininfarina-designed variant and it's gorgeous... the sedan and wagon are indifferent if not outright ugly...
posted by costas at 9:22 AM on February 17, 2005


Isn't the whole building of prototype hydrogen fuel vehicles still putting cart before horse? I thought the deal breaker was the fact that extracting the hydrogen from water was still prohibitively costly, energywise. Can someone elucidate me?
posted by jikel_morten at 9:27 AM on February 17, 2005


It's a reasonably safe fuel:

http://www.airproducts.com/Products/LiquidBulkGases/HydrogenEnergyFuelCells/CommonMisconceptions.htm

Cost is comparative according to the above site:

Exerpt:
The cost of hydrogen is dependent on the production technology, the cost of the feedstock, and power. Delivery, storage and fuel delivery equipment are also part of the cost. Our industrial customers see a wide range in price difference depending on their geography, delivery method and use quantity. It is our belief that hydrogen has the potential to compete with gasoline when the improved efficiency of the fuel cell is taken into consideration.

The cost of hydrogen produced at a large SMR is approximately equal on an energy equivalent basis to gasoline at a refinery.
posted by laurenbove at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2005


destro, actually an ATV is alot more likely to rollovers than a motorcycle. Unless you're talking about an ATV with that active suspension balancing stuff.

Aside from the fun aspect of this machine offroad, I think it can help demonstrate just how far fuel cell tech has come. Its not a stretch to extend this technology into passenger vehicles and then we can begin to wean ourselves from OPEC's teat.

destro, check out the fuel cell link in the post, its to the Wiki entry and there's some excellent info available in there including pros and cons of fuel cell tech.
posted by fenriq at 9:39 AM on February 17, 2005


Thanks for the info. I don't know if I believe that about ATVs more likely to rollover than a motorcycle, but you're right that the more important piece of this is about the fuel cell.

From what I've read, most manufacturers aren't using Hydrogen as a transferrable substance like gasoline, but as a battery. So when you would fill up your hydrogen vehicle, you wouldn't get new Hydrogen, it would just charge up the Hydrogen already stored in your tank. This way little Hydrogen has to be inefficiently produced.
posted by destro at 9:53 AM on February 17, 2005


OMG, I want one of those in motorcycle form.

Destro, ATVs drive like a Radio Flyer wagon, motorcycles more like a bicycle. Which do you think corners better? Which is going to flip over? The wagon, every time.

BC's electrical supply is all hydroelectricity. Ergo, we can do hydrogen on the cheap. Hell, it'd make sense to do it at the dams, eliminating the power transmission losses.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:41 AM on February 17, 2005


I'm the last person who wants to discourage alternative fuels, but I've read that the cost and pollution and toxicity involved with manufacturing the fuel-cell battery practically negates the environmental benefits.

Can someone please debunk this for me? Please?

Tks.
posted by Shane at 11:16 AM on February 17, 2005


I'm no expert, but aren't most ATVs ridden off-road on surfaces that are anything but level? You can't buy a three-wheeler anymore because of rollovers but on a city street there's no reason to expect any four wheeled ATV to be significantly worse than a motorcycle. I'd be more concerned about the fairly low height reducing your visibility to drivers in SUVs than rolling over.
posted by tommasz at 11:44 AM on February 17, 2005


I have an old 205 with a red body and a blue driver-side door.
Complètement pourri, but it gets me around the island...
posted by pwedza at 1:40 PM on February 17, 2005


I think it's more that, if you turn too fast on dry or uneven pavement, the 4-wheeler might flip over -- while if you turn too fast on slippery (wet) or uneven pavement, the motorcycle will slide out from under you. In the wet, the 4-wheeler is likely to slide rather than flip (unless it's poorly balanced) and on dry pavement you'll have to work very hard to fall off your motorcycle (automotive, curb and pothole impacts excluded).

Which way do you prefer to hurt yourself if you're reckless, essentially.
posted by davejay at 1:41 PM on February 17, 2005


I think it's because ATVs don't have a sophisticated suspension, so when you corner it tends to have a lot of body lean... enough so that one needs to throw one's weight heavily to the inside of the turn, even so far as to put one's centre of gravity outside the track. It's work.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2005


Shane,
It's way late and I don't know if you'll look back here but here it is anyway.

No debunking; you're absolutely right about the hydrogen fuel cell engine (a battery isn't necessary). People seem to be completely focused on the the end product when they look at fuel cell vehicles. Yes they do produce clean energy, but developing the production, storage and transportation systems for the hydrogen fuel will be an enormous undertaking. As far as producing the hydrogen itself what about the second law of thermodynamics? Where does the tremendous amount of energy needed to produce enough hydrogen to fuel our vehicles come from?

There's plenty of analysis available out there, you just have to get past the hype about the non-polluting, cost free, hydrogen fuel cell concept.
posted by X4ster at 9:28 PM on February 17, 2005


Where does the tremendous amount of energy needed to produce enough hydrogen to fuel our vehicles come from?

This is a pretty standard question, so I'll give you the standard answer: it comes from the same place as the tremendous amount of energy needed to power our existing vehicle fleet.

Yes, there are losses involved in the energy->hydrogen and hydrogen->energy conversion steps, but with the lightweight vehicles made possible by the flexibility of the fuel-cell + multiple motors concept, those total losses can be made less than the total losses involved in getting the same automotive services using internal combustion engines.

The main advantage of using hydrogen instead of a carbon-based fuel for energy distribution is that carbon dioxide production can become centralized, and it is therefore easier to do something smart with it. For example: if you're making hydrogen out of natural gas and you do that at the wellhead, the carbon dioxide left over from that reaction can get pumped straight back down the well, where it will sink to the bottom (carbon dioxide is denser than methane). This not only leaves the carbon in the ground where it started from, it maintains gas pressure in the well and helps extract more gas. Try doing that with the emissions from a hundred million tailpipes.

Ultimately, of course, we will need to supply all of our energy needs from renewable sources - but that's a separate issue from our most pressing need today, which is to stop pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Anything that helps us do that is good.
posted by flabdablet at 12:53 AM on February 18, 2005


Destro, you've got the wrong end of the stick with "charging up your existing hydrogen". The way fuel cells work is that hydrogen comes out of the tank, goes through the fuel cell where it reacts with atmospheric oxygen to make electricity and water vapor, which then leaves the vehicle via the tailpipe.

When there's no more hydrogen left in the tank, you have to get some more. It works just like gasoline in that regard.

Where you may have been confused is that there's a lot of talk about hydrogen being an "energy storage medium" or "energy transfer medium" rather than a "true fuel". This is, IMHO, ill informed. To my way of thinking, "fuel" and "energy transfer medium" are exactly the same thing.

The main difference between hydrogen as a fuel and fossil fuels is that there do not exist vast amounts of hydrogen just lying around in the landscape; any hydrogen we want to use for fuel, we have to manufacture. Any quantity of hydrogen fuel from which we can extract X amount of energy will always need rather more than X amount of energy to make, so many people think of hydrogen as a retrograde step or Bush Administration boondoggle and claim that it will worsen, not improve, a looming fuel shortage.

This position overlooks two things: one is that any quantity of fossil fuel we can extract X amount of energy from also took far more than X amount of energy to make - it's just that the stuff was all made so long ago we tend to overlook that and act as if its available energy got there by magic.

The second is that a fuel cell driving an electric motor can turn over 60% of the energy locked up in its fuel into energy of motion, compared to under 30% for the best available internal combustion engine. Combined with other vehicle efficiencies made possible by not needing the weight of drive shafts and gearboxes, hydrogen powered vehicles can actually achieve net energy savings.

Plenty more at the Rocky Mountain Institute website.
posted by flabdablet at 1:40 AM on February 18, 2005


flabdablet, thanks for the excellent comments about the process of making hydrogen to fuel a cell and the relative expenses of each.

I'd thought the efficiency was better but I didn't know that it was about twice as efficient over a combustion engine. It's impressive.

And I'll get one of these when they make it into a motorcycle.
posted by fenriq at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2005


flabdablet,
I'm willing to relook at this. I would like to be hopeful about the future of hydrogen fueled vehicles, but I'm sceptical for a couple of reasons.

The US Air Force had a Scout missile that successfully launched payloads into orbit fueled by hydrogen peroxide in a catalyzed reaction - essentially a hydrogen fuel cell. It was very successful but was replaced by other more cost effective program vehicles. Hydrogen in other carriers fuels a lot of other space vehicles. It's a risky and costly process to provide the fuel.

I accept that we face a potentially disastrous situation for many people as a result of global warming and that greenhouse gases are one of the significant contributing factors. I also recognize that eventually all of the existing fossil fuels will have been consumed. But I'm skeptical of the enthusiasm for the hydrogen fueled vehicle to become our answer at any time in the near future. I think its practical use is decades away.

I don't attribute any boondoggling that's going on to any particular administration but I think there are people who are, and will continue to, take advantage of the situation and convince people to invest heavily and have hopes for something that doesn't work out.

"Yes, there are losses involved in the energy->hydrogen and hydrogen->energy conversion steps, but with the lightweight vehicles made possible by the flexibility of the fuel-cell + multiple motors concept, those total losses can be made less than the total losses involved in getting the same automotive services using internal combustion engines."

Perhaps in time; many, many years into the future I fear.

..."making hydrogen out of natural gas and you do that at the wellhead, the carbon dioxide left over from that reaction can get pumped straight back down the well, where it will sink to the bottom (carbon dioxide is denser than methane).."...

The other byproduct of the hydrogen production is carbon monoxide. Lighter than atmospheric air it rises.

..."This position overlooks two things: one is that any quantity of fossil fuel we can extract X amount of energy from also took far more than X amount of energy to make - it's just that the stuff was all made so long ago we tend to overlook that and act as if its available energy got there by magic...."

Nothing magic about either fossil fuels or hydrogen fuels. But the equation for energy yield to energy investment in fossil fuels is a net positive. That's why they're in such demand worldwide. To talk about and make a comparison to "making" either fuel is rediculous.

In the end all of the energy depends on the energy of hydrogen bonds. It just depends on what the atoms are bound with and how and where they're separated and rejoined.
posted by X4ster at 10:45 AM on February 18, 2005


The 9 liter hydrogen tank gives an 80 mile range

Am I the only one who noticed this?
posted by crazy finger at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2005


As is often the case for me I did additional research after submitting my comments. Googled "hydrogen fuel" and found that most of the top listings were for investing in the coming hydrogen economy.

Also found this .
posted by X4ster at 11:18 AM on February 18, 2005


x4ster: oooh, I'll give you such a fisking :-)

The US Air Force had a Scout missile that successfully launched payloads into orbit fueled by hydrogen peroxide in a catalyzed reaction - essentially a hydrogen fuel cell.

Rocket engine (combustion chamber + nozzle -> thrust) != fuel cell (reaction vessel + proton exchange membrane -> electricity).

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) != hydrogen (H2).

Conclusions drawn about H2O2 powered rocket motors are not, prima facie, relevant to a discussion about H2 powered automotive fuel cells.

It was very successful but was replaced by other more cost effective program vehicles. Hydrogen in other carriers fuels a lot of other space vehicles.

Hydrogen in other carriers (gasoline is mostly octane: C8H18; LPG is propane and butane: C3H8 and C4H10; natural gas is mostly methane: CH4) fuels our existing vehicle fleet.

We're not talking about hydrogen occurring in other carriers; we're talking about molecular hydrogen, H2.

It's a risky and costly process to provide the fuel.

It's a risky and costly process getting up in the morning. The right questions are: How risky? How costly? Compared to what?

I accept ... I also recognize ... But I'm skeptical of the enthusiasm for the hydrogen fueled vehicle to become our answer at any time in the near future. I think its practical use is decades away.

Seems to me that the fewer decades the better, and that we can only shrink that timeframe by working on it.

Naturally, I don't see FCVs as a panacea (and strongly caution anybody else against seeing them that way!). However, given that (a) private vehicles contribute significantly to our present greenhouse emission mix (b) reorganizing our entire society to make private vehicles obsolete is a much bigger job than changing our standard vehicle designs and fuel delivery mechanisms, they seem like a worthwhile thing to work on

I don't attribute any boondoggling that's going on to any particular administration but I think there are people who are, and will continue to, take advantage of the situation and convince people to invest heavily and have hopes for something that doesn't work out.

It was ever thus, in every field of endeavour. The well-informed will always stiff the ill-informed. That fact has no relevance to the technical merit of the technology in question.

"Yes, there are losses involved in the energy->hydrogen and hydrogen->energy conversion steps, but with the lightweight vehicles made possible by the flexibility of the fuel-cell + multiple motors concept, those total losses can be made less than the total losses involved in getting the same automotive services using internal combustion engines."

Perhaps in time; many, many years into the future I fear.


Maybe not quite as many as you fear: http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid175.php#T0401

..."making hydrogen out of natural gas and you do that at the wellhead, the carbon dioxide left over from that reaction can get pumped straight back down the well, where it will sink to the bottom (carbon dioxide is denser than methane).."...

The other byproduct of the hydrogen production is carbon monoxide. Lighter than atmospheric air it rises.


First point: carbon monoxide is a useful fuel, which can be burnt to generate industrial process heat and carbon dioxide; if this is done close to the wellhead that CO2 can go down the well too.

Second point: even if it isn't burnt, it's still denser than methane. There is no atmospheric air down a gas well, so comparison with air density is irrelevant.

Interesting side point: each molecule of methane (CH4) you get out of a gas well will yield one molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2). If the CO2 is pumped back down the well, the well pressure will therefore remain absolutely constant.

Nothing magic about either fossil fuels or hydrogen fuels. But the equation for energy yield to energy investment in fossil fuels is a net positive. That's why they're in such demand worldwide. To talk about and make a comparison to "making" either fuel is rediculous.

My point is that the fact that fossil fuels have already been made doesn't make them qualitatively different to any other fuel, and that speaking of hydrogen as a fuel is perfectly legitimate.

Of course, speaking of hydrogen as an energy source is an error. My point is, so is thinking of fossil fuels as an energy source.

Fossil fuels represent an energy store, not a source, and the fact that it costs less than X energy to extract and ship X energy's worth of that store doesn't make it magical - just relatively cheap to use. When the fossil fuels are used up, we'll need a different way to store energy. Well before they're used up, we should stop spraying them all over, because they're crapping up the atmosphere.

In the end all of the energy depends on the energy of hydrogen bonds. It just depends on what the atoms are bound with and how and where they're separated and rejoined.

Technically, a hydrogen bond is not what glues atoms into molecules (that's a covalent bond). A hydrogen bond is a much weaker electrostatic attraction between asymmetric molecules, and is responsible for things like keeping water liquid at room temperature and holding the two halves of your DNA together.

Terminology aside, what you say boils down to "chemical energy is just chemical energy," which is tautologous and irrelevant.

What we are talking about here is the feasibility of replacing one kind of (specifically automotive) fuel (energy carrier) with a different kind. We want to do this because the new kind doesn't suffer the main deficiency of the old kind, which is that it craps up the atmosphere and screws with the climate.

We can, and should, do this; we can probably do it two decades or less.

We also can, and also should, do a whole bunch of other things to provide for our energy needs in a way that can be sustained indefinitely. Those will probably take the best part of a century.

posted by flabdablet at 8:05 PM on February 18, 2005


Crazy finger: 80 miles on nine litres is about nine miles per litre, or about 33 miles per (US) gallon. By way of comparison, a typical gasoline-powered quad bike will be good for about 2.5 litres per 100 kilometres, which would give a machine with a nine litre tank a range of 360km (220 miles) - almost three times what the FCV can do.

But consider: before you rush ahead making negative judgements about hydrogen's worth as a fuel compared to gasoline, remember that the FCV's nine litres is a gas compressed to 10,150 pounds per square inch, not a liquid. When the tank is full, assuming a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), let's work out just how much fuel that is.

The basic gas law is PV = nRT, where P is pressure in kilopascals, V is volume in litres, n is number of moles, R is 8.3145 J/mol K, and T is absolute temperature in Kelvins. Rearranging this we get

n = PV/RT

Converting the figures we have to the right units gives

P = 10150 psi * 6.89 kPa/psi = 70000 kPa
V = 9
T = 25 deg Celcius = 25 + 273.15 Kelvin = 300K

So 9 * 70000 / (8.3145 * 300) = 250 moles of compressed H2. The molecular weight of H2 is 2, so it takes 250 * 2 = 500 grams (a little over a pound) of fuel to fill the tank.

80 miles range on 500 grams of fuel is 6.3 grams per mile.

Gasoline has a density of about 750 grams per litre, so for our 2.5l/100km gasoline quaddie we're talking 1.9 kilograms per 100 kilometres, or 19 grams per kilometre, or 30 grams per mile.

So gram for gram, the fuel-cell bike betters the standard machine's fuel consumption by more than four times; and compressed-hydrogen tanks only need to get three times stronger to outperform the standard gasoline tank on a volume for volume basis.

That sounds achievable in well under twenty years, to me.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 PM on February 18, 2005


X4ster: a thought on your link to Joseph Romm. It looks to me like what he's mostly objecting to is the Hydrogen As Panacea hype. I object to that too. But I think it's important not to throw a very beautiful baby out with the marketing bathwater.
posted by flabdablet at 9:03 PM on February 18, 2005


I remain open and willing to be convinced. Among the first things that I want to find out about is this "fisking". What the hell is that? But I do appreciate seeing your response.

"It was ever thus, in every field of endeavour. The well-informed will always stiff the ill-informed. That fact has no relevance to the technical merit of the technology in question." My concern is that the ill informed will be stiffed not by the well informed but by the unscrupulus with no regard to any merit of the technology. I've seen a few too many technologies that failed to materialize held up as the remedy for problems.
Perdue peroxide news
OSU
Risks?

"We can, and should, do this; we can probably do it two decades or less." I hope that you're right. Statistically It's unlikely that I'll see it even if it is done but I have great confidence in the future and hope that it works.

posted by X4ster at 9:23 PM on February 18, 2005


flabdablet,
Yes I provided the Joseph Romm link because my reservation is to the push to make large investments of public money in bus terminals or other large capitol investments in undeveloped and unproven technologies.

I had a CNG fueled vehicle as a work vehicle at one time. I learned from that experience that fuel alternatives to conventional gasoline have some drawbacks too.
posted by X4ster at 9:39 PM on February 18, 2005


I believe Ballard Power is creating methane -> electricity via catalyst generators. No need for raw hydrogen.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:22 AM on February 19, 2005


X4ster: yes, your Perdue article is exactly the kind of uninformed marketspeak I object to most. Calling a primary cell with an aluminium anode a "fuel cell" is absolutely misleading.

Just in case anybody misses this: all those articles are about hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and have nothing to say about hydrogen (H2).

Whinging aside: given that the FCV we're talking about here does store its hydrogen fuel as a compressed gas, I would be interested in hearing about your experiences with CNG.

fff: that methane-eating fuel cell is likely to be a solid-oxide fuel cell, and therefore not really suited to automotive use. Ballard is also a major supplier of proton exchange membrane cells for automotive use.

Here's a rundown on the various kinds of fuel cell, with brief notes on the applications they're best suited for.

As a side note, using methane as an energy distribution medium means you're still shipping carbon all over the place, and need to find a way to clean it up after it's gone through the cells or engines or whatever.
posted by flabdablet at 4:03 PM on February 19, 2005


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