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New Hydrogen Sensors Contribute to Fuel Cell Vehicle Safety

Many people are concerned with the safety of fuel cell vehicles. After all consumers aren’t used to gassing up with hydrogen fuel like they are gasoline and don’t fully know how the safety issues of one fuel compares to another.

People in general know that hydrogen is a flammable and combustible gas and even film footage of the Hindenburg accident may flash through one’s head thinking about this issue. Even knowing that hydrogen was not the culprit in this dramatic accident does little to quiet one’s fears.

And consumers do have a right to be concerned about any gas that is compressed from 5,000 to 10,000 psi and what would happen if there were a leak. This is why a company called American Sensor Technologies has developed a new hydrogen pressure sensor to detect leaks in fuel cell vehicles. The company has been developing hydrogen sensors for a while for both onboard and off board vehicle uses.

But, it is not only important that all of the components of a fuel cell system including hydrogen fuel tanks, valves, lines, fuel cell stacks and other components be leak-proof, but it is also important that the sensors that measure H2 are also sturdy and resistant to degradation as well.

According to the American Sensor Technologies , “To overcome hydrogen permeability and embrittlement, the AST 2000H2 Hydrogen Pressure Sensors employ a one-piece thick diaphragm, free of internal O-rings, welds or fill fluids, that keep hazardous media out, eliminating the chance of hydrogen permeation and eventual sensor failure. To reduce the chance of embrittlement caused by long-term exposure to hydrogen, units are constructed from a version of high strength 316L stainless steel wetted parts that promote long life and resistance to media corrosion. AST’s proprietary Krystal Bond Technology further enhances performance by reducing long-term drift to just 0.25-percent per year. The technology also utilizes an inorganic bond, free from glue line failure and outgassings.”

So, what this means is that the sensors and systems in place that detect hydrogen leaks are designed not to fail to insure vehicle safety of H2 autos going forward. If sensors and systems are in place to insure that only very safe hydrogen vehicles are produced and sold, then there will be little to stall the industry going forward.

Even though there has been a hydrogen auto totaled in an accident, no one was hurt or injured and all onboard hydrogen safety systems worked perfectly. It is this kind of safety record we will need to keep for this emerging technology to make it into full steam ahead production.

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

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    How much hydrogen is needed to drive from the West Coast of the United States to the East coast? Assume 10k PSI H2 gas storage. Assume the best prototypes on the road today: Toyota FCHV Adv, Chevy Volt Hydrogen, Chevy Equinox fuel cell SUV, etcetera.

    Acceptable is hooking a small trailer to the vehicle to increase the amount of hydrogen available. The challenge is to start in California, fuel up, and travel all the way to Washington D.C. without a refuel. A 2300 or so mile trip, about 10 times the range of a typical fuel cell auto, assume 60 miles per kg hydrogen gas, where the vehicle should have a 4 kg tank standard.

    One possibility is to outfit a trailer with solar panels, a small water tank, an electrolyzer, a 10k PSI hydrogen gas tank, and a compressor. This way,
    the trailer can produce hydrogen as you drive and bring it up to pressure.

    Another option is to pull on the trailer a 10k PSI hydrogen gas tank
    that is 10x the capacity of the on vehicle tank(s).

    I’d like to see someone take this challenge. I’d like to see them prove that using a support trailer to increase their driving range is both effective and
    safe. I’d like to see the auto makers redesign their prototypes so that you can swap H2 tanks or better yet connect the trailer’s tanks directly to the vehicles fuel system. Another redesign possibility is to allow exhaust capture so that you can reuse the water being produced by the vehicle and reduce the need to autory water.

    I’d like to see this challenge taken and conquered for a number of reasons:

    1) Prove that hydrogen based transportation is safe.

    2) Drive home that hydrogen electric vehicles have a better driving range
    than their battery electric cousins.

    3) Put needed pressure on the Department of Energy.

    4) Get talented people exploring how to increase the effective range
    of a fuel cell vehicle.

    5) Make the commercialization of fuel cell autos, trucks, and SUVs happen

    The trailer has to be street legal and weigh no more than the vehicle.

    In the interest of getting this challenge taken seriously, consider setting up a fund to reward the person who succeeds. I’ll donate what I can to the fund and I’m sure others who can be more generous will be.

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