Fill ‘Er Up — With Electrons or Hydrogen?
Gasoline, compressed air, hybrid gas/electric, diesel, electric, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, gas/electric/steam — some of the vehicle power sources in recent patents. There are also patents pertaining to the fueling station technologies for these types of vehicles.
For example, Meyer Steinberg (Meville, NY) was recently granted Patent Number 7,910,258 for his invention “Natural gas direct carbon fuel cell,” which provides a natural gas fueled, direct carbon fuel cell producing electricity and hydrogen. The patent, issued on March 22, 2011 and assigned to HCE, LLC of Oakton, VA, is classified as 429/472 chemistry: electrical current producing apparatus, product, and process, using a fuel cell with a molten electrolyte.
Claim 1 states:
“A natural gas fueled, direct carbon fuel cell for producing electricity and hydrogen comprising:
a cathode compartment comprising: an oxygen-containing gas;
a carbon dioxide feeding port;
and a molten electrolyte;
an anode compartment comprising: a port for feeding natural gas to the anode compartment;
a hydrogen extraction port;
a carbon dioxide extraction port;
and a slurry comprising said molten electrolyte;
wherein the anode compartment further comprises: a louvered baffle dividing the anode compartment into an ante-chamber adjacent to the port for feeding natural gas, wherein the ante-chamber comprises the hydrogen extraction port;
and a main chamber adjacent to the separator between the cathode compartment and the anode compartment;
and an electron insulating, ion conducting, porous ceramic separator between said cathode compartment and said anode compartment.”
Steinberg’s invention uses methane or natural gas as a fuel in a direct carbon fuel cell to co-produce hydrogen and electricity. He envisions that it “is especially amenable to producing and supplying hydrogen at vehicle gas filling stations. A natural gas fed direct carbon fuel cell is much more efficient and economical than conventional steam reforming of natural gas now being deployed for supplying hydrogen at gas filling stations. It also can do so with considerably reduced greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emission compared with the conventional steam reforming process . . . [c]arbon dioxide is emitted at 100% concentration [from the fuel cell], so it can be easily collected and either sold or sequestered. Furthermore, [his] invention simultaneously produces electricity and hydrogen. The electricity can be sold to power companies . . . or can be dispensed at the gas station for electrically powered vehicles.” Maybe we’ll need to refer to them as electricity outlets, rather than gas stations.
Found in the patentECO Energy Index, this invention may have a long wait to market penetration, given the recent (temporary) shutdown of the Chevy Volt line.