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SAE International World in Motion Fuel Cell Olympics Held This Week

This coming Thursday, April 14, 2011, SAE International will hold its first ever “World in Motion Fuel Cell Olympics” in Detroit. The event is being sponsored by GM. Last week I had talked about Michigan getting its first public hydrogen fueling station. So, it looks like the Great Lakes State (or the Wolverine State depending upon who you ask) is stepping up their game in regard to hydrogen technology.

According to , “The technology behind the autos is available to educators, volunteers and young engineers. Using distilled water as the source for hydrogen fuel, the reversible fuel cell is used to electrolyze water and then the hydrogen produced is drawn back into the fuel cell to power the electric motor.

“The Fuel Cell Olympics have four different events, covering different components of successful vehicle engineering: distance, weight, accuracy and speed. All of the events take place on a ten meter track. The goal of the distance event is for the auto to travel as long as possible while staying in the guidelines of the track. The goal of the weight category is for the auto to travel as far as possible with an attached weight. The goal of the accuracy event is to have the auto stop at a specific point in the ten meter strip. The goal of the speed event is to have the auto that crosses the ten meter line in the shortest time. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to student teams for each event.”

I’ve talked about other student hydrogen fuel cell auto competitions in the past such as this one in Union County, NJ. It’s always good seeing competitions such as this so that the educators of today can teach the engineers of tomorrows where future jobs will be and how to become an active part in revolutionary technology that will forever change how people drive.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen auto blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen autos, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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One comment

  1. Avatar
    Michael C. Robinson

    This is interesting, but there are different issues for RC sized autos no
    matter how they are powered compared to the issues affecting larger vehicles. I’m concerned that this event could be more bold. Why not
    Formula Zero for zero emissions racing at high speed on a race track?

    I am concerned that this event using distilled water, harder to
    electrolyze than salt water, will fail to show future prospective engineers
    how practical hydrogen based transportation is going to be. The
    challenge should involve capturing the hydrogen in ordinary tap water
    or sea water instead of distilled water, and I would like to see advanced techniques used.

    Conventional thinking is to use distilled water and split that water storing the hydrogen gas as a gas. This is not necessarily the wisest let alone the only available approach. Long term, the real promise of a hydrogen based transportation system is that hydrogen can be procured with a negligible or even a positive environmental impact. The artificial leaf idea comes to mind.

    A final concern of mine, is platinum used in the fuel cells of these tiny hydrogen powered vehicles? Platinum is too expensive and too rare a metal at this time for platinum based fuel cells to really take off. If platinum were cheap and plentiful, wouldn’t there be fuel cell vehicles in every state and every country in the world? Maybe if space flight ever becomes cheap enough and a large source of platinum in our solar system reasonably close
    to Earth is found, using platinum will be a different story.

    One use for hydrogen that should be discussed more is rocket fuel. If space can be reached using less fuel and the fuel is hydrogen, eco friendly space travel becomes possible. With eco friendly low cost space travel, building space based solar panels the size of football fields becomes possible.
    With the amount of power a football field size solar array in space can generate, the need to use fossil fuel goes away entirely. We would have enough electricity to: synthesize fuels, release hydrogen, and power the
    grid without using earth based power plants.

    If I were the U.S. President in 2012, this is the challenge I’d give the nation: “Put a football stadium sized or larger high efficiency solar collector into space
    and beam the power generated back to the earth within 10 years. Produce enough hydrogen to fuel all earth based transportation and synthesize other fuels as needed. Obviate completely the need to drill for Oil, mine for coal, or mine for uranium.”

    Space based solar power stations are essentially, indirect fusion plants. Unlike their Earth based counterparts, the space equivalent can be
    positioned in direct sunlight 24×7. Unlike a direct fusion power plant,
    there are no containment issues. The only concern I have is that panels
    will likely have to be replaced because of space debris colliding with the
    array over time. Short of finding a way to repel debris, perhaps via magnets,
    I don’t know what can be done to mitigate this issue. With the amount of
    power a space based football field sized solar collector will collect, it should
    be possible to use some of that power to deflect space debris.

    Back to building hydrogen powered vehicles on the small scale, I hope advanced design techniques and advanced technologies are introduced to participants.

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