BASF catalyst makes hydrogen fuel cell car a reality

Hydrogen fuel cell technology allows the generation of clean electricity. Inside the cells, hydrogen combines with oxygen to generate electricity with the only emission being water. Electric cars have been developed that run on these fuel cells but a problem has been the best way to provide the hydrogen for the cell. Liquid hydrogen, stored in a high pressure tank, is not really practical.

BASF have developed a catalyst that allows liquid methanol to be used as a hydrogen-source for the fuel cell. Made from a mixture of metal oxides, the catalyst reacts at high temperatures to form hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the methanol fuel. The hydrogen is then used by the fuel cell to generate electricity to drive the motor and the amount of carbon dioxide produced is much less than with a conventional petrol engine. Electric cars running on methanol can be fuelled at filling stations in the same way as traditional petrol-driven vehicles.

The catalyst is used in the New Electric Car 5 (NECAR5) is being developed by a consortium including DaimlerChrysler, Ballard Power Systems and Ford Motor Company.

Methanol and water react to produce hydrogen for the fuel cell
Methanol and water react to produce hydrogen for the fuel cell.
Graphic source: BASF.