back to article Brits unveil 'revolutionary' hydrogen-powered car

A UK startup is banking on a hydrogen-powered automotive future with its "Rasa" - a "revolutionary" vehicle whose production prototype hit the streets earlier this week. Featuring a carbon-fibre monocoque frame, four electric motors powered by an 8.5 kW hydrogen fuel cell and regenerative braking, the Rasa (as in "tabula …

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Re: Joined up thinking....

Except for one thing. Those wind and solar plants are normally located far from civilization. What good is a fuel station far from all the vehicles?

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Re: Joined up thinking....

>>"My idea is this :- install one of these hydrogen producing units close by the wind turbines."

Works much better with nuclear. You have more power and also ready supply of hot water for more efficient electrolysis. Nuclear is more predictable than Wind, but similarly has a problem with variability only in nuclear's case it results from variability of demand, not production, as it doesn't ramp up and down very efficiently. Producing hydrogen enables a power station to usefully run at above demand and thus avoid the variability of demand issue.

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Re: Joined up thinking....

" it doesn't ramp up and down very efficiently."

Nuclear using fuel rods doesn't ramp up/down very well (ie, can't load follow)

This is because of xenon buildup in the rods when you ramp down that has to decay away before it can ramp back up again (this also builds up a shitload of pressure inside the rods and the gassing causes the ceramic fuel pellets in the rods to break down to powder over time - both are undesirable, so ramping down is best avoided in a fuel-rod based design.

Molten salt fuel reactors don't have this problem, because the xenon (insoluble in Fl/Li salts) gasses out in the circulating pump headspace and can be extracted or left in situ to decay before being removed. This was amply demonstrated at Oak Ridge in 1968

Conventional MSRs aren't pressurised and can run far hotter than water-cooled systems, which in turn means more efficient turbines or process heat supply and no risk of radioactive steam explosions.

There's a UK fuelrod design variant which substitutes circulating molten salts inside tubes for the fuel rods. Whilst it's a simpler engineering change vs current civil reactor designs, it still puts superhot (400C), pressurised (20-40 atmospheres), acidic water (boric acid is dissolved in the water as part of the moderation process) in close proximity with radioactives which is a "very bad idea" in the overall scheme of things and means you still need a huge containment building with all the associated gubbins. Water isn't known as "the universal solvent" for nothing, and almost all the nuke incidents in the last 70 years have been because of water-related issues (corrosion of piping or rods) or compounded by the release of radionucleide-contaminated water/steam.

If a nuke plant is producing hydrogen for fuel (with further carbon tacking to the molecules to make 'em more easily transportable - hydrogen is a bitch to store and transport), then you do not want it as a load-following electrical generation system as well - large scale hydrogen generators or processors don't take kindly to variable inputs. In any case, a water-moderated nuke plant doesn't run hot enough to directly drive the water-cracking process (electrolytic generation is supremely inefficient, never mind the inefficiencies of uranium plants (mined vs fuel vs waste) and water-moderated electricity generation.)

Bear in mind that a molten salt system doesn't need to dump heat to water bodies (ocean or river), so you're not location-constrained to vulnerable areas, nor by hot days (dumping to atmosphere is sufficient and it's entirely possible you can scavenge more energy by using a vortex generator, bringing the overall thermal efficiency up from 35% to something like 45%, vs a water-cooled system's absolute best thermal efficiency of 28%)

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Re: Joined up thinking....

I entirely agree with your comments about molten salt Thorium fueled reactors but the chances of any UK government being that far sighted in my lifetime is rather less than there being little green men from Mars at the bottom of my garden.

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A better offroad vehicle than a Range Rover?

Well, it looks as if it has better ground clearance, all it needs is chunky tyres!

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Trollface

Re: A better offroad vehicle than a Range Rover?

And managing to be less ugly than a Range Rover Evoque

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Stupid aerodynamics

This has been optimised for 50+ mph when as a city car it could have the aerodynamics of a brick wall and it wouldn't matter.

Why do makers constantly make this mistake with cars like this? I'd far rather have something shaped like a Suzuki Wagon-R which is tiny, but actually surprisingly practical.

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@Alan Brown -- Re: Stupid aerodynamics

Why do makers constantly make this mistake with cars like this?

This looks more like a concept car one would see at auto shows. They do these for several reasons... 1) to get the automobile writers enthused and awed 2) same for investors 3) and lastly for the buying public to "want" but never get one. It's quite possible that by the time production rolls around, it'll just be a box on wheels.

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TRT
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The good thing about electric cars...

is that if you run out of juice, you just need a AA van. Or AAA at a pinch.

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I don't care what you all say. If it does 250 mpg (equivalent) then I'd happily sit in a plastic milk crate as long as I could steer it.

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Zero emissions ?

Except that hydrogen is currently produced by mixing methane with super heated steam. The steam is produced by burning more methane. The reaction is endothermic, it absorbs heat, so the reaction has to be helped along by burning yet more methane. Not quite zero emissions, just emissions somewhere else. The production of hydrogen by electrolysis is too inefficient. In any case how do we produce the electricity, in a gas powered power station!

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Re: Zero emissions ?

Seeing how it's from a Welsh company, I'm surprised they didn't find a way to make it run on misery. Or rain.

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Re: Zero emissions ?

"I'm surprised they didn't find a way to make it run on misery. Or rain."

This is a brilliant idea which might work. Take a lot of Welsh rain and recite Welsh poetry at it until the water molecules become so miserable that they split up.

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Re: Zero emissions ?

Di-atomic, the Welsh particle physicist.

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Re: Zero emissions ?

Is Welsh poetry anything like Vogon poetry?

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Who's the target audience?

As an automotive design engineer, here's my take on this.

We need to stop making comparison to this car and to an average UK family hatchback; two very different cars for two different tasks. As a city car it meets these following requirements:

- Reduce local air pollution. Granted it's not "green" as you still have to pressurise the hydrogen to ~300bar to get the energy density for it. Being "green" and reducing local air pollution are mutually inclusive but not the same. Most hybrid cars are not even remotely "green"; take the currently best-selling hybrid: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - High powered, heavy, toxic batteries and massive upfront energy consumption (~2.5 times) to manufacture an equivalent combustion engine vehicle.

-The styling may not be in everyone's taste but I imagine it's designed to reduce cross sectional surface area to improve fuel efficiency. For example covering the rear wheels has been a classic feature to reduce drag. Like the Honda Insight MK1 and VW XL1. The Honda Insight MK1 was to me the best attempt at a fuel efficient hybrid. Problem was it was too radical and the general consumer didn't want to change their lifestyle to fit around this car. We want green but not willing to adapt our driving habit for it.

-60mph top speed is ideal for rush hour commute and city driving. Considering average speed these days are getting smaller, 60mph is more than enough. Check your daily commute average speed. You'll be surprise.

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-3315898/Average-speeds-morning-rush-hours-slower-second-World-War-tank.html

Personally I would consider this as a commute car for weekdays and would get a used hatch/estate for weekend load carrying or a classic sport car for fun. Problem they have is lack of hydrogen station around UK and £500 monthly hire lease cost. If they maybe built this car on a small petrol 600cc engine (like a Japanese K-car) then it would have worked better for me.

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Joke

Re: Who's the target audience?

It's true, I have to come to a full stop several times on the freeway on my morning commute but if I could drive a tank on the freeway I'd never have to stop in traffic even if it had a top speed of only 60.

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Re: Who's the target audience?

It's a Citroen surely?

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If someone develops a way to produce hydrogen on the cheap and with a low impact on the envoirment then we can just use it to make alcohol or syntehtic diesel fuel for our cars.

Problems solved! No more infra structure, transportation storage, co2, fuel cell or battery problems. We don't even need new cars!

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@mab14367

If we find a way to make cheap hydrogen, though, why would we want to react it with carbon dioxide (thus wasting some of the stored energy) to make a fuel which is going to continue to pollute the air of cities?

And that's assuming we can use recovered carbon dioxide. If we have really cheap hydrogen, why not use it to replace natural gas? So one source of carbon dioxide (generator plant waste streams) would be lost.

In the long term we probably want fuel cells because there's no NOx emission. The metals in catalytic converters may well be displaced to the fuel cells but consumption of expensive lubricants is going to go down drastically as is replacement of wearing parts.

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Re: @mab14367

"If we have really cheap hydrogen, why not use it to replace natural gas?"

Because hydrogen has a tiny molecular structure and anything rated for natural gas will probably leak hydrogen like a (relative) sieve. Not a problem for short pipe lengths but when you factor in hundreds of miles of pipeline (lots of surface area to diffuse through) at relatively high pressures (more diffusion) there's an economic benefit in tacking on at least one carbon atom to make methane or ethane (methane attacks metals too, so ethane or heavier is better)

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Two questions:

- who is bankrolling this?

- why is the steering wheel on the wrong side?

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re:why is the steering wheel on the wrong side?

You think it should be on the outside?

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hmmm...

Looks like it was designed by people for people that hate cars.

Hardly revolutionary either. Hydrogen propulsion in one for or other has been around for years. It'll be the implementation of infrastructure that will impress the hell out of me if it ever comes to any sort of fruition...

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Perpetual Motion Again

Something wrong with all this?

Regardless of the chemistry used, the energy cost of splitting hydrogen away from its accompanying atom (probably oxygen - there is no free hydrogen around I know of, well, not within 93m miles or so) is at least equivalent to the energy value of re-combining it in an engine to create motive power.

How will that basic thermodynamic equation ever change?

And if that is the case how is it conceivable that the hydrogen energy equation can ever stack up against petrol/lpg which is now so cheap and likely to remain so as other uses of oil fade away?

Were petrol/lpg getting more expensive then hydrogen might have a chance but with it reducing in price how can it ever work? Particularly when its energy density and portability are factored in?

I think petrol will remain unchallenged until such time as our understanding of batteries improves to the extent there is a step change in their performance (cost, weight, recycling time etc) or we get fusion engines for vehicles.

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Re: Perpetual Motion Again

There is a paper by a Total executive explaining how as oil sources dry up - and they will - eventually the price of oil will rise so that oil companies stay profitable on diminishing reserves. As this happens alternative technologies gradually take over as their costs fall below the increasing oil price.

Oil price has dipped because the Saudis are in a bid to prevent this from happening sooner rather than later. They are sacrificing revenue in an attempt to kill alternative technologies and discourage future investment in them, in the hope that the long term oil price will therefore spike much higher and their importance to the US will stay high. They also hope that low prices now will hold off a recession in the mid term, while damaging their feared competitors - Russia and Iran.

Like all attempts to use economics as a tool for foreign policy, it is not long term sustainable. I suspect that in 2025 Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be frantically trying to blame everybody else for Hinckley Point not going ahead, and the lack of wind farms, as the oil price spikes uncontrollably.

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Re: Perpetual Motion Again

I suppose you're right, those dumbies! Didn't they realize they were doomed to fail?

I confirmed what you say by the way, I went to the gas station "NO HYDROGEN ON THE PREMISES".

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Devil

Car-2-Go alternative? I'm into it, if it's cheap enough.

It looks way better minus the body, but if it's just a short-term rental heck I don't care what it looks like.

Big hint though: the App needs to say "HEY DONT FORGET YOUR PARCELS !!!!!" when you go to leave the car behind. Big letters. Maybe even an auditory warning.

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Anonymous Coward

Dumbest thing ever

The efficiency of producing the hydrogen in the first place is horribly bad. The emission are massive just to produce the hydrogen. Hydrogen is a massive fire and explosion hazard. Hydrogen is just about the worst material to come into contact with metals.

Face it people, hydrogen cars will never survive, because there is no point ever to use hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen is just a party trick --- look I burned something and just got water. But when you take into account the cost of producing the hydrogen ((was it something like 75% loss of energy )from natural gas usually) the losses of the process can never compete with electrical cars.

I believe in coming up with good excuses to get money to do research but it is really sad when people drink their own propaganda and miss out on the big picture.

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Re: Dumbest thing ever

"The efficiency of producing the hydrogen in the first place is horribly bad."

not if you use cold fusion

Fleishmann and Pons must have been on to something, how else did they generate the hydrogen they found?

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Re: Dumbest thing ever

"Face it people, hydrogen cars will never survive, because there is no point ever to use hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen is just a party trick --- look I burned something and just got water. But when you take into account the cost of producing the hydrogen ((was it something like 75% loss of energy )from natural gas usually) the losses of the process can never compete with electrical cars."

Not even with High-Temperature Electrolysis?

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Re: Dumbest thing ever

"Fleishmann and Pons must have been on to something, how else did they generate the hydrogen they found?"

Regrettably no. It's been replicated time and again - all science must be replicable or it cannot in principle be falsified, which it must in order to not be religious fantasy - and nothing came out of it.

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Mushroom

Oh, the Humanity!

Why not "Excelsior"?

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Sinclair C6?

Looks like a cheap and nasty version of the cars in the Gerry Anderson "UFO" TV series.

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Leap Frog

This is a leap frog technology move. A great one at that.

SO, I would get a grant from the government such that the vehicles are available only on a subsidized lease. Also, there should be some incentive where for every, say 50 leased vehicles, in a given area, say 15km, the government subsidizes a fueling station as part of an existing gasoline station.

Also, I liked to add it needs a little more power. Go faster, more acceleration. That certainly can be done.

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Dare I say 'typically British' - lots of boffin, little design, and no commercial input. A shame!

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Zero Emissions!

Currently hydrogen is produced by mixing methane with super heated steam. This produces carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The super heated steam is made by burning - you got it - more methane. Unfortunately the reaction is endothermic, it absorbs heat, so more heat has to be supplied - by burning more methane. Producing hydrogen by electrolysis is still far to inefficient. In any way, the electricity will be produced by - burning methane. This car is not "Zero Emissions" it just has a long tailpipe.

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Re: Zero Emissions!

"Producing hydrogen by electrolysis is still far to inefficient."

Not even high-temperature electrolysis? Plus you can just use electrolysis to even out power spikes in low-demand times.

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