Shortening the 800-mile Trip Between Hydrogen Filling Stations

January 16th, 2008

I stumbled across an article recently about Jonathan Goodwin (thanks Asher). A little more digging and I realized he is something like a cult hero in the “green car” field (fortunately he seems to spend more time in the shop than on his website).

Goodwin is a self-taught tinkerer, big-car loving environmentalist and alternative fuel afficionado. It’s a cool combination. The Fast Company article talks about a 600 horsepower, 60 mpg biodiesel-hybrid Hummer he is working on, which sounds interesting but expensive.

What is more interesting is his idea of “dual fuel” systems. I think the article refers to one of these as a $5000 bolt-on system that injects hydrogen into a diesel motor, doubling fuel efficiency and producing 80% fewer emissions.

Tinkerers abound in any field, of course. The question is whether their ideas can scale to the mass-production requirements of a major auto manufacturer. Goodwin’s $28,000+ conversions probably won’t make it onto any production lines any time soon.

The dual-fuel idea, though, is awfully interesting. The jury is still out on whether hydrogen has a future (wikipedia covers all the problems), and one of the sticking points is the chicken-and-egg issue of needing ubiquitous fuel stations to fill up before hydrogen cars become appealing, and needing a certain number of hydrogen cars on the road to justify investment in the hydrogen delivery infrastructure.

Enter the dual-fuel vehicle. Goodwin’s engines run cleaner and longer on hydrogen, but can run nicely on plain old diesel as well. Dual-fuel would allow a gradual transition to hydrogen (still assuming that is a desirable objective). Makes sense to me.

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