Tai's Toyota Tocoma and Fred's Hummer.
are able to run on hydrogen and CNG (in any combination), and ethanol, in addition to gasoline.
Intergalactic Hydrogen (IH) believes they can win the Automotive X-Prize championship
with their multi-fuel technology. The Auto X-Prize is searching for a vehicle
that can get 100 MPG-equivalent (MPGe), and would like to award the champion the
ability to produce 10,000 copies of their championship design.
Intergalactic Hydrogen multi-fuel vehicles have the ability to run on
hydrogen, methane, or ethanol while retaining the ability to use gasoline. The
same system can be used on a diesel engine as well.
"The goal of 100 MPGe can be achieved very easily with hydrogen",
says Tai Robinson, President of Intergalactic Hydrogen. He runs the
business with his father, Fred, who in the early '70s was converting diesel
engines on boats to run on hydrogen generated from the electrolysis
of seawater. They founded Intergalactic Hydrogen in 1999. Both are
members of the New Energy Congress.
The Hydrogen Fuel Solution
"One kilo of hydrogen has roughly the same BTU content as a gallon of gasoline,
yet a kilo of H2 will take a vehicle about twice as far as a gallon of
gasoline", says Robinson.
Solar-derived hydrogen can be purchased for vehicles at less than 1/4 the price
of gasoline. You can get four times the bang for your buck -- on your existing engine;
from renewable, locally-derived energy. And what are the emissions from
running a vehicle on hydrogen? Water!
The reason a vehicle running on hydrogen can be twice as efficient is a
combination of thermal and mechanical efficiencies. The carbon contained in gasoline and
diesel has a high radiant effect, so when that fuel is combusted its heat is
transmitted to the engine. This gives a thermal efficiency of around 23%.
Hydrogen fuel is carbon-free, so while it burns, that heat
is not transmitted as much to the engine, giving a thermal efficiency of 49%.
Mechanically, in a gasoline or diesel engine, the fuel is ignited while the
piston is yet in its compression stroke, so some that energy is not being used
to propel the vehicle. However, because hydrogen has such a high
flame propagation speed, it can be combusted at top-dead-center or slightly
past, so more of the energy is being transmitted to propelling the vehicle
Contest-Suitable OEM Vehicles
order to achieve 100+ MPGe, the Robinsons' X-Prize entry vehicle will need to be
one that can get 50+ MPG on gasoline or diesel to begin with. They're
looking at three high-efficiency vehicles presently in the market as likely
choices from which to build their X-Prize contest entry: the Toyota Yaris, the
Honda Fit, and the Chevy Aveo. The Honda Fit is rated at 39 mpg, but
hypermilers are getting as much as 70 mpg using efficient driving practices.
Though the present Aveo only gets 24 mpg, the 2009 is supposed to get much
higher than that.
To achieve in excess of the Prizes target 100
MPG-equivalent, the Robinsons would remove unnecessary weight from the
vehicle to make it lighter and modify its
engine to run on multiple fuels, including hydrogen, which is the fuel they
would use in the contest. The flex-fuel nature would create a more practical
alternative to our common single-fuel vehicle, and allow it to run on
cleaner-burning, locally sourced fuels. In retrofitting an existing line of vehicles, the
Robinsons design would easily meet the contest expectation of producing
10,000 copies within a year of the contest.
Other Clean Fuels in IH Flex Fuel Vehicles
Burning compressed natural gas (CNG) in an engine results in up to
18% better fuel economy than using gasoline; and it often costs less than
price of gasoline, and can be obtained today at public filling stations.
Hence, with CNG you get around six times the bang for your buck
-- and the emissions are much cleaner, around 95% cleaner than
gasoline. In fact, CNG burns so cleanly that the air emerging
from the tail pipe is actually cleaner than the ambient air in the city.
This vehicle actually cleans the air as it goes.
When an engine is optimized for ethanol, it can deliver greater fuel
efficiency than when burning gasoline. The only
commercially-available vehicle that is optimized for ethanol is the SAAB 9-5
Biopower, which gets 20% more power, 16% greater torque, and about 10% better fuel
efficiency over gasoline.
Tai Robinson points out that with
limitations in farming and land use, only about six percent of the U.S. fuel
needs could be met by ethanol in ideal circumstances. Consequently, as a
principle, he only uses ethanol only six percent of the time.
With the vehicles ability to burn hydrogen,
CNG, or ethanol, fuels that are currently expanding in distribution, Robinson
says he has not had to fill up with petrol for nearly two
he travels quite a bit, doing booths and presenting at various green-related
conferences around the U.S.
designs allow for super-efficient burning of a variety of fuels, but the
Intergalactic Hydrogen approach enables existing vehicles to run on cleaner
fuels on the existing filling-station infrastructure, while spurring increased
demand for the cleaner, local fuels.
The primary downside to what is an otherwise obvious sale, is the sticker price
for such conversions. It costs around $34,000 to convert a vehicle to run
on hydrogen. The CNG conversion is more affordable at around $8,000,
resulting in a quicker return on investment, which is getting shorter as petrol
Robinson encourages the CNG transition as "paving the way to the hydrogen
economy." The fundamentals of the infrastructure used for
distributing natural gas will also work for hydrogen. It's just a matter of higher tolerances. The
technicians trained on natural gas can upgrade to hydrogen, which has
higher pressures and more stringent safety considerations.
A vehicle that is fitted for hydrogen can also run natural gas, but not the
other way around, due to the higher requirements for hydrogen.
A few years ago, the U.S. government mandated that natural gas vehicles be made
and deployed. "Because it was forced on the manufacturers, they did not do
a very good job of implementing the technology. It just wasn't done
right", says Robinson.
Intergalactic Hydrogen is leading a bottom-up approach to deliver
cleaner fuel vehicles to the consumer. If they compete in, and
especially if the win the Automotive X-Prize,
that would significantly boost their ability to demonstrate this technology on a
scale that would both prove its viability as well as create a sufficient
grassroots support to then motivate the automobile manufactures to design it
well into their new models.
The Robinsons expects their participation in the contest will draw needed
attention to the political obstacles that make such conversions cost three times
more than they should. It's quite an eye-opener to learn about how the EPA
sometimes is an obstacle to the emergence of clean fuel
Multi-fuel options are very common in other countries around the
world. In the United States, the EPA criteria for certification require that the vehicle be "dedicated-fuel", which is not plausible
since the infrastructure does not yet provide enough filling stations for any
single one of the clean alternatives. A multi-fuel approach resolves this
infrastructure ramp-up inadequacy by providing filling options. "The
multi-fuel concept is simple and works within today's infrastructure while
creating the demand for more clean fuel infrastructure," says Robinson.
The Aug. 15 deadline is rapidly approaching for the
Automotive X-Prize entry fee of $5000. Intergalactic Hydrogen is looking for a
sponsor to help them out with this, which will guarantee a spot for them in the
After that, the budget to build, test, refine and enter their multi-fuel vehicle
in the qualifying race must be secured. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
The Robinsons hope to raise at least $250,000 to be competitive. These
budgeted costs include such things as the vehicle and its modification ($90k), a
fuel trailer ($190k), travel, lodging, and support crew.
The qualifying race, to be held in the Spring of 2009, requires each vehicle to
get at least 75 MPG. This should not be a problem for the Intergalactic
After competing in the qualifying race,
the Robinson design will be refined to get even better performance and efficiency for the
Championship round to be held in the Fall of 2009. The Robinsons expect
that they will need at least an additional $350,000 to win the Championship
round of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize.
Whether or not they win this contest, which they are confident is easily
within their reach, the Robinsons see this challenge as being a great platform for
spreading the message about clean, home-grown fuels and their plausibility
now. Being able to display the various X-Prize insignia along the way will
help in their educational outreach and help their business expand
in converting more vehicles to run on clean, local fuels.
Sticker on Tai Robinson's gas tank cover.
# # #
Special thanks to Joy Cernac and Sepp Hassleberger for help in editing.
The Water Makers preview
Tai and Fred Robinson would like to produce
a documentary film about clean fuels. This is their promotional
video, posted at YouTube
Aug. 8, 2008.
Mb; mp3) - On June 9, 2008, Sterling
D. Allan conducted a 1-hour, live interview with Tai Robinson as
part of the Free
Energy Nowradio series. An
overview of how to convert existing vehicles into clean fuel vehicles,
running on multiple local fuels. A look at the process, costs, and
other considerations regarding alternative fuels in general.
"It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom." // "I'd rather be an optimist and a fool than a pessimist and
right." -- Albert Einstein
ADVISORY: With any
technology, you take a high risk to invest significant time or money
unless (1) independent testing has thoroughly corroborated the
technology, (2) the group involved has intellectual rights to the
technology, and (3) the group has the ability to make a success of
truth passes through three stages:
First, it is ridiculed;
Second, it is violently opposed; and
Third, it is accepted as self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
"When you're one step ahead
of the crowd you're a genius.
When you're two steps ahead,
you're a crackpot."