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Rocket Fuel May Turn Cars Greener

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Photo credit: Some rights reserved by enriqueCARNICERO via Flickr

The primary fuels that are used on rockets when they are flown into space are liquid hydrogen and oxygen. These are ignited, to create the boosting thrust needed to reach escape velocity.

But a company that had previously worked for the European Space Agency (ESA) is now considering the use of the same kind of fuel to create a new breed of fuel-based cars that would be a lot greener than their current smoke-belching counterparts.

MagnaSteyr, and Austrian manufacturer has been developing and designing fuel lines and storage tanks that are capable of trapping and holding the needed rocket fuel that is used on ESA’s Ariane rockets. Lately, the manufacturer has decided to adapt the very same hydrogen storage technology to a prototype vehicle that would directly use hydrogen as fuel. Yes, this is different form fuel-cell vehicles, because this vehicle would use hydrogen to instead drive the primary mechanisms of the engine, and not just to produce electricity.

Using the knowledge, experience and expertise in developing space worthy hydrogen storage compartments for ESA, MagnaSteyr have developed a fuel tank for a prototype hydrogen vehicle, which is designated as the BMW Hydrogen 7. Its fuel tanks, instead of using constant refrigeration to keep the tanks at the desired temperature level, are simply made of a specially-insulated material. The tanks can store up to 114 liters of hydrogen, and can be stored for two weeks without having to worry about getting its cold temperature raised. They are also placed entirely at the back, instead of with and beside the engine.

The general challenge in storing hydrogen is that it is very difficult to keep and store. It is after all, the smallest, and the simplest element in the Universe. This is the very reason why it is needed to be kept at very low temperatures. It must be in its liquid form for it to be stored safely and for the rocket to use efficiently.

Vehicles that use hydrogen as a direct source of energy have already been conceptualized and proposed many years before. However their development has been hampered by two very difficult challenges. The first is the aforementioned storage of hydrogen, and second is the fact that hydrogen boils away and vents off when pressure drops and temperature levels rise. There also other perceived problems such as the usual scare of accidentally igniting the fuel tank. Despite all these hurdles though, BMW is hopeful that hydrogen will still be an important energy source in the future, as it is the only fuel-based energy source for the moment that is completely safe for the environment.

Christian Crisostomo
About Christian Crisostomo (266 Posts)

Christian Crisostomo is just your average tech geek that loves to see man's newest and most recent technological exploits. He holds great interest in the potentials of green technology, and is enthusiastic about the continuous development of environment-friendly alternative energy.


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