Nissan’s SOFC Vehicle – Just in Time for the Olympics

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen Fuel, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Two major types of fuel cells vie for vehicle designers’ attention: PEM, or proton exchange membrane types, and solid oxide fuels cells (SOFCs). PEMs (also known as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells) require an expensive catalyst such as platinum, and hydrogen as fuel. Hydrogen itself is costly to produce and runs up the operating cost for such a fuel cell. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. timed things to coincide with the 2016 Olympics opening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the introduction of their solid oxide fuel cell vehicle, a van that runs on bio-ethanol electric power.  Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn claims this to be a first, with benefits for potential users. “The e-Bio Fuel-Cell offers eco-friendly transportation and creates opportunities for …

H2 – Many Benefits, Many Challenges

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

The benefits of hydrogen are fairly obvious.  It would almost necessarily be a domestically produced material with few environmental shortcomings if made by clean processes.  The challenges to be overcome are many and varied, though – with the biggest obstacle to wide-spread use being in the distribution of the fuel. The U. S. Department of Energy, on its Fuel Economy.gov web site, concedes, “The current infrastructure for producing, delivering, and dispensing hydrogen to consumers cannot yet support the widespread adoption of FCVs (fuel cell vehicles).”  As different strategies are tested and adopted, this is likely to change, as are the costs for fuel cells and their longevity. Auto makers, working to bring FCVs to market, have dropped prices from the …

Suppressing Those Pesky Dendrites

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Dendrites in the human body are tree-branch-like protuberances that help transmit synapses, defined as tiny transmitters and receivers for chemical messages between the cells.  In this setting they are beneficial and necessary for brain and nervous system development.  In batteries, however, such protuberances send mixed and negative messages that short out connections between the components of the host battery.  This is a serious enough issue that it’s kept lithium-metal batteries from serious development, dendrites growing between dissimilar metals being a malady of such cells, and even causing fires that make lithium batteries a bit fearsome. The blog has reported on efforts by Berkeley Lab researchers to reduce dendrite growth. To enable visualization of these growths, Clare Grey, a professor of …

Electric Tugs at Sea-Tac Lower Costs, Emissions

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Green Air Online reports that Seattle-Tacoma Airport (Sea-Tac) has launched a “$31 million project to provide nearly 600 electric charging stations for ground support equipment (GSE) such as baggage tugs, bag ramps and pushback vehicles.”  Besides saving “around $2.8 million in airline fuel costs,” the conversion will reduce greenhouse gas emissions around 10,000 tons per year.  Alaska Airlines will swap 204 fossil-fuel burning GSEs to electric and its partner Horizon Airlines will trade in 58.  More airlines are going to join the program later this year.  Federal grants and funding from the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sweeten the transition for participants. “This project provides the infrastructure for airlines to convert their vehicles …

Dendrites Grow Like Kudzu

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Getting your fiber is a good idea for digestion and general health, but what if those fibers get you first?  Or at least destroy your battery?  This is the situation as described by a report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in which the writer tells us that dendrites are hairy little lithium fibers that “sprout from the surface of the lithium electrode and spread like kudzu across the electrolyte until they reach the other electrode.” These 3D reconstructions show how dendritic structures that can short-circuit a battery form deep within a lithium electrode, break through the surface and spread across the electrolyte. Besides resembling a fast-growing invasive plant, the dendrite bridge across …

Cheap and Dirty Fuel Cells – Good News for Hydrogen

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Hydrogen fuel cells would be just about the most wonderful power producers in the world if they weren’t so expensive and so finicky about their diet of hydrogen.  Their catalysts, usually made of costly platinum, can be destroyed by impurities in the gas.  Making high-purity hydrogen is an exacting task and adds to the expense of operation. Two studies by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory; one in conjunction with researchers at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER), show that it may be commercially possible to make less expensive catalysts with available materials, and in one case, use “dirty” hydrogen that would otherwise destroy fuel …

Transformative EV Range Expansion?

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

In what may be eventual good news for future electric aviators, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) will award approximately $36 million to 22 projects to develop transformational electric vehicle (EV) energy storage systems using innovative chemistries, architectures and designs.  ARPA-E also uses the term, “revolutionary.” The series of awards is part of the RANGE program (Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems), intended “to enable a 3X increase in electric vehicle range (from ~80 to ~240 miles per charge) with a simultaneous price reduction of > 1/3 (to ~ $30,000). If successful, these vehicles will provide near cost and range parity to gasoline-powered ICE vehicles, ARPA-E said.” “Transformational” comes straight from the CAFE …