US Lab Develops Long-range Hydrogen Tank

300 pound, super-insulated tank of liquid hydrogen propelled Prius converted to burn hydrogen some 650 miles.

Published: 23-Jun-2008

A team at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have revealed a potential revolution in hydrogen cars, after driving 650 miles on one tank of liquid hydrogen. In a recent test, the scientists set a new world record after they installed a super-insulated hydrogen gas tank in a standard Prius hybrid that was able to keep a full load of the liquid without evaporating for six days.

The tank, weighing in at around 300 pounds, removes a heck of a lot of obstacles to the advancement of hydrogen-powered cars. Current versions, such as the fleet of hydrogen-electric Toyota Prius’s used by various city governments across Southern California, run on compressed hydrogen gas, and have a limited range of around 80 miles between refuels. Even a pretty unambitious three-gallon tank fills the entire trunk of a Prius, yet still only enables a range of approximately 200 miles, not really enough to compete with gasoline-only vehicles.

One way to avoid this limitation is by using liquid hydrogen, which takes up around a third of the volume of compressed gas. However, it is much more problematic to handle, mainly due to the fact it must be kept at extremely low temperatures (around -420oF) and very high pressure to stop it from evaporating as the engine gets hotter.


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With the adoption of a hybrid system composed of a hydrogen rotary engine combined with a motor, the output of the new vehicle is improved by 40% and the travel range when driving on hydrogen alone is extended to 200km.

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