Thursday, September 02, 2004

ZAP unveils hydrogen fuel cell breakthrough

The small company, Zap, is making some inovative moves in the U.S. auto industry. They began with electric cars, but these carried the limitations that have kept electric cars from becoming popular, limited range and speed. They are now lining up dealers to sell an American version of the Smart Car, a two passenger car that gets sixty miles to the gallon.

But their biggest breakthrough may be to combine this small car baody with a new version of a fuel cell that is lighter than ordinary batteries with a higher voltage ans a greater energy and power density. Because of the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure, the new cars will run on liguid amonia.

"The immediate use of ammonia can jump-start the country into a true hydrogen economy," said Robert R. Aronsson. "Ammonia is the second most common chemical produced in the world and can be made from natural gas or renewable energy. It is shipped by truck, rail, pipeline, ship and barge and is commonly used as fertilizer or in household refrigerators and can be competitive in price to gasoline. Ammonia fueling stations could be set up at very little cost, as the infrastructure already exists throughout the country. Ammonia distributors could begin making weekly deliveries of ammonia to gas stations in the 100 largest metropolitan areas of the U.S., serving 70 percent of the population. Former plans, proposed by others, of equipping gas stations with mini-factories for producing hydrogen by electrolysis at a cost of $1 million per gas station, could be replaced by this new, low-cost system. The new fueling system would make it possible for thousands of ZAP Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars to operate throughout the country, silently, and with zero emissions."

It will be a daunting challange for such a small country to put together a line of dealers, and to secure enough capital to get their effort off the ground, but it will be something to watch.


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