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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So one of the main reasons why I bought the Fisker was because of the business I am doing. I am the CEO for Innovation Metals Corp, where we are in the process of building a Heavy Rare Earth refinery in Quebec, Canada. It's sort of like building an oil and gas refinery except ours will be one of the only ones outside of China which holds almost 100% of the operating capacity of heavy rare earths. Rare Earth oxides/metals are used in things like magnets, phosphor powders, etc. and really are key critical components to so many things we use today that it would blow your mind.

Anyways, I liked the Karma because it was a true hybrid where it used the battery first and then the gas engine when the battery was depleted unlike the Prius. Now having driven one for over a year and putting over 17k on it, I have come to see that the best solution our petrol based economy is the combination of Lithium/Fuel Cell technology. Why? Well it's because the biggest hang-up over the hydrogen fuel cell debate is the lack of infrastructure but after driving the Karma, I realized that I only fill up once every few months so there is no need for a robust infrastructure if it only requires me to fill up my hydrogen every few months.

So here's my question... is it possible to get a Fuel Cell capable of powering the Karma and replace the gas combustion engine, the gas tank and everything related to the gas combustion system?

If so, I would consider giving up my Karma as the guinnea pig and I think I could get funding for such a project. Honda recently announced a car with Lithium/Fuel Cell power and I really think this is what consumers would want. Something that is battery operated but has extended range with a hydrogen fuel cell.
 

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So one of the main reasons why I bought the Fisker was because of the business I am doing. I am the CEO for Innovation Metals Corp, where we are in the process of building a Heavy Rare Earth refinery in Quebec, Canada. It's sort of like building an oil and gas refinery except ours will be one of the only ones outside of China which holds almost 100% of the operating capacity of heavy rare earths. Rare Earth oxides/metals are used in things like magnets, phosphor powders, etc. and really are key critical components to so many things we use today that it would blow your mind.

Anyways, I liked the Karma because it was a true hybrid where it used the battery first and then the gas engine when the battery was depleted unlike the Prius. Now having driven one for over a year and putting over 17k on it, I have come to see that the best solution our petrol based economy is the combination of Lithium/Fuel Cell technology. Why? Well it's because the biggest hang-up over the hydrogen fuel cell debate is the lack of infrastructure but after driving the Karma, I realized that I only fill up once every few months so there is no need for a robust infrastructure if it only requires me to fill up my hydrogen every few months.

So here's my question... is it possible to get a Fuel Cell capable of powering the Karma and replace the gas combustion engine, the gas tank and everything related to the gas combustion system?

If so, I would consider giving up my Karma as the guinnea pig and I think I could get funding for such a project. Honda recently announced a car with Lithium/Fuel Cell power and I really think this is what consumers would want. Something that is battery operated but has extended range with a hydrogen fuel cell.
From a technical point of view, the power coming from the front of the car is electricity and, as long as it is within the required parameters, I don't think the inverters and motors care how it was generated. Of course, the real work of taking out the engine and replacing it with a fuel cell is very complicated, particularly if you don't have direct access to the car's software and have to make your fuel cell system pretend it's a GM engine as far as the car's electronics are concerned to make it work with the car's other systems.

I would think that is certainly achievable, it just requires significant investment in engineering talent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I was hoping that if we could bypass a lot of the sensors associated with the gas combustion system, we could just 'remove' the parts and live without sensors for the fuel cell system or make it a separate reporting system, for the purpose of this experiment.

If anyone would like to lend a hand in this project I'd really appreciate hearing from them and if we can get enough support, I will draft a proposal to try and get funding but I definitely think this is the way to go and it addresses the concerns of the average consumer. We have a plug every where which can be used for daily commute needs but the hydrogen fuel cell is used as a range extender.
 

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Theoretically, it's quite simple.

Practically speaking, it's far too expensive even to attempt. Fuel cell prices are still over $4/watt (varies depending on fuel cell type, but I suspect you're talking PEM cells here, SOFCs are not exactly suitable for cars :D). Internal combustion engines cost less than $1/watt. There is also the issue with the input to the fuel cell. Methane or methanol is manageable ("raw" hydrogen is not) but these generally require reformers between the fuel and the fuel-cell (to extract the hydrogen).

Fuel cells have perennially been a "20 years away" technology in terms of practical use. They may have graduated to "10 years away" now, maybe.
 

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Anyways, I liked the Karma because it was a true hybrid where it used the battery first and then the gas engine when the battery was depleted unlike the Prius. Now having driven one for over a year and putting over 17k on it, I have come to see that the best solution our petrol based economy is the combination of Lithium/Fuel Cell technology. Why? Well it's because the biggest hang-up over the hydrogen fuel cell debate is the lack of infrastructure but after driving the Karma, I realized that I only fill up once every few months so there is no need for a robust infrastructure if it only requires me to fill up my hydrogen every few months.
I suppose it depends on what the goals are, but I think you have your premise backwards.

In your situation, most of your miles are electric from the grid. So you don't have to fill up with gas very often. But when you do need gas there is a gas station every few blocks.

In fact you could drive cross country no problem because you can easily find a gas station every 200 or so miles, which allows you to refuel quickly and be on your way. If there didn't already exist a robust gasoline fueling infrastructure, there would be little advantage to have a PHEV over a pure BEV with more battery range.

Now imagine instead that your range extender required hydrogen. Where are you going to refuel it? Do you really want to drive out of your way to get to that rare hydrogen station that costs millions to build?

The only advantage HFCVs has left over pure BEV is quick refueling (and that is advantage is continually being diminishes with technological advances). PHEV is great because it bridges that gap without the need for building a new and ridiculously expensive hydrogen fueling infrastructure. There will be gas cars on the road for years to come, and therefore there will be still be gas stations.

Now do get my wrong. I think fuel cell technology is great. But for transportation, those fuel cells should run off say ethanol or methanol. Fuels that are liquids at standard temperature and pressure. Then you can leverage the existing liquid fueling infrastructure. Hydrogen, on the other hand, just makes no sense.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
very true if you are looking at back up systems for every day use but I'm only looking for a system to be the range extender. If I know I will exhaust the fuel cell every 6 months or so, I will just order it a month ahead of time. I would think that Toyota, Honda etc. who are coming out with FCEV's in 2015 would have some sort of program where the fuel cell is accessible enough to swap with new ones and everyone would have at least 2 fuel cells. You could probably buy extra and just store them if you want but I would think you'd need at least 2.

The goal here is to use existing battery technology that is, for now, limited to maybe a few hundred kilometers (ex. Tesla) but have a range extender to make consumers feel comfortable for what is a huge expense only second to the purchase of a house. Even worse the range is much less for colder climates. BEV's will no doubt takeover but all this time we're living with $100+ oil and a political agenda that's based on a petrol based economy. Just today I read a promising article on Lithium-Air batteries that use a virus to help build nanotubes required for the battery but this is being done on an experimental stage at MIT and years from commercialization.

The range extender doesn't need to have the infrastructure required for daily use. It only needs to be there for those days where you are travelling longer distances or in my case, 2-3 days of the week where I'm driving my kids to school, hockey and guitar lessons :)

Any suggestions other than a fuel cell? Remember, the qualifications for the range extender only need to be to fuel the car for 3-400km and that is replenishable on a few days notice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
oh and ideally the weight of this range extender would need to be less than the weight of the current gas combustion system including the gas tank, engine and whatever else that system needs
 

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very true if you are looking at back up systems for every day use but I'm only looking for a system to be the range extender. If I know I will exhaust the fuel cell every 6 months or so, I will just order it a month ahead of time. I would think that Toyota, Honda etc. who are coming out with FCEV's in 2015 would have some sort of program where the fuel cell is accessible enough to swap with new ones and everyone would have at least 2 fuel cells. You could probably buy extra and just store them if you want but I would think you'd need at least 2.
Not really sure what you're talking about here. The fuel cell is the part of the vehicles which converts H2 to electricity. You don't swap out fuel cells, you refill the high pressure H2 tanks that supply them.

The goal here is to use existing battery technology that is, for now, limited to maybe a few hundred kilometers (ex. Tesla) but have a range extender to make consumers feel comfortable for what is a huge expense only second to the purchase of a house. Even worse the range is much less for colder climates. BEV's will no doubt takeover but all this time we're living with $100+ oil and a political agenda that's based on a petrol based economy.
Turns out hydrogen fuel cells are also affected by the cold. It reduces their efficiency. Also part of the system produces liquid water. It can't work if that part is frozen.

Also, hydrogen is not exactly cheep. On a cost per mile basis it's actually more expensive than gasoline. This is why typically the pilot programs allow drivers to refill with hydrogen for free or at greatly reduced cost.

Most of the hydrogen is produced by steam reformation of natural gas. That's really the only economical way to do it. If the hydrogen is produced via electrolysis from whatever electricity source (renewable or no), it about a third as efficient as just using that electricity to charge a BEV

The range extender doesn't need to have the infrastructure required for daily use. It only needs to be there for those days where you are travelling longer distances or in my case, 2-3 days of the week where I'm driving my kids to school, hockey and guitar lessons :)
Actually, sounds to me like all you need is a vehicle with a longer battery range than ~40 miles.


Any suggestions other than a fuel cell? Remember, the qualifications for the range extender only need to be to fuel the car for 3-400km and that is replenishable on a few days notice.
EPA range of the Model S is already > 400km
If you really want a different range extender, perhaps a turbine generator that ran on propane.

There's still a lot of space for improvement for even the gasoline fueled range extenders. So far they've been using off the shelf engines. A purpose built generator optimized for this application would be very interesting.
 

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It seems to me, if you want to be green when you run out of electricity, the simplist solution is to convert the ICE to natural gas.
 

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It seems to me, if you want to be green when you run out of electricity, the simplist solution is to convert the ICE to natural gas.
Or you could convert the ICE to run on propane which is more available than NG on the road and is under a lot less pressure which means a lighter tank. Check my signature as I did this to my 66 pontiac in 1972. It runs great and has about 200K miles on propane.
 

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@marswill, do you have a receiver hitch with a grill hookup? Would be a great mod. This would be great for Hockeydad. No more accessory 12V heater to kill his 12V battery. How about a propane furnace?
 

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@marswill, do you have a receiver hitch with a grill hookup? Would be a great mod. This would be great for Hockeydad. No more accessory 12V heater to kill his 12V battery. How about a propane furnace?
I do have the ability to run propane appliances from the car and yes, I do have a hitch for a trailer. I can also fill propane bottles from the car with both a liquid and gas outlet available. To compare propane with gasoline I once ran for 80K miles without changing the oil (using synthetic oil). At the end of the run, the oil was still clear and when I checked the engine bearings I found that they were all at the tight end of factory spec, i.e., no measurable wear. The main contaminate in the oil is caused by the sulfur from the fuel combining with water (a natural byproduct of combustion) creating sulfuric acid. Propane has no sulfur. This is also reflected in that the original cheap iron exhaust system is still in great shape after 235K miles. Oh, and propane is about 110 octane and is great for high compression engines. Also, I did all of the conversion myself.
Wheel Vehicle Tire Car Hood
 

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The goal here is to…. have a range extender to make consumers feel comfortable for what is a huge expense only second to the purchase of a house.
If you think the battery is expensive, the FC would be far worse. Why replace a cheap ICE that you say you rarely use with an expensive FC that you also rarely use?

Moreover, CT-Fiskerbuzz made the correct point that the technology is always too far off. The biggest reason is the hydrogen (H) itself. Proponents love to say that hydrogen is the most plentiful chemical element in the world. But they fail to recognize that it is connected to other stuff that you have to "break it off of". H is not laying around in pools. Where do you get H for your fuel cell? At this point, you either reform it from natural gas, or you use electrolysis to separate the H from H20 (water). So to get H for your Fuel cell, you need to either drill for, extract, transport natural gas, or you need to generate electricity first to introduce into your water. You can either store the natgas in a compressed tank on your car and have a reformer on board, or you can reform it at a plant and then store the H in a tank on your car. Either way, you either use hydrocarbons or some other alternative generation. In your scenario, it sounds like you just want to refill the H into an H tank in your car , so you have ignored the upstream issues for creating the H in the first place, and that is fine. But now we still go back to the issue of having a very expensive FC on board, and to get enough H on board to get you much distance, the H would have to be pressurized. Now you are driving a bomb, unless you have a very good storage solution. And it takes up a lot of space. Here's a pic of a Honda version for storing H.
 
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