Many agree that replacing conventional petrol driven cars with hydrogen is a good idea provided the hydrogen does not originate in a process involving oil as the only product from hydrogen burning is water, rather than carbon dioxide.
However the road to hydrogen-powered vehicles will not be easy, industry experts state. Representatives of European and American car and energy companies at the National Hydrogen Association convention said hydrogen technology is feasible, but faces big challenges to become commercially viable.
"We all have our homework to do in the coming years," said Klaus Bonhof, manager of the alternative fuels division of DaimlerChrysler AG. "We must produce technology viable in volume, and that technology must be commercially applicable."
Several car compnaies had hydrogen-powered vehicles on display at the conference, but all have similar technological challenges, including costs that range up to a million dollars a piece and limited range on a hydrogen fill-up. While a hydrogen-pwered car can travel 45 to 50 miles on a gallon, the fuel tank only provide a range of 125 to 150 miles. This is because hydrogen is put in a car as a liquid at very low temperatures, but reverts to a gas as on warming. The gas produced has to be vented while the car is not being used so that after a few days the tank will be empty.
The industry is working on this and BMW vice president of clean technology Frank Ochmann said BMW is testing an insulated tank that would keep hydrogen cold and liquid. "If you put in this tank a snowman, it would take about thirteen years to melt down," he said.
Developing hydrogen fuel station is easy part, experts said as hydrogen is already shipped to industrial users in tanks or moved through pipelines. BMW estimates it will be 2025 before hydrogen powered vehicles are commonly produced and sold.
The European Space Agency's Beagle 2 is approaching Mars for a landing (bouncy, but hopefully soft) on Christmas Day (will we hear "The Beagle has landed" !). Part of its mission is to look for chemical traces of life. One of the tests will be for methane in the martian atmosphere. Methane is a byproduct of life but will not last long in the Martian atmosphere, so a positive result would be interesting. Other experiments will determine C-12/C-13 ratios since a high value is indicative of life. Two NASA craft will follow on a month later.
Instructions for satellite:
All live transmissions are also carried free-to-air on Astra 2C at 19 degrees East, transponder 57, horizontal, (DVB-MPEG-2), frequency 10832 MHz, Symbol Rate 22000 MS/sec, FEC 5/6. The service name is ESA."