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Hydrogen from ethanol and its prospects for large automakers and countries

Electric cars powered by ethanol and hydrogen cells. But how does it all work?

We will analyze a Unicamp patent , which followed the "fast track" Green Patents of the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). Its application can go from the pharmaceutical industry to the automotive industry.

“... we are talking about the possibility of producing hydrogen onboard cars from ethanol. This hydrogen can feed fuel cells, enabling electrification and reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere in an easier and cheaper way using technology developed in the country” explains Prof. Rubens Maciel Filho. "Onboard" means that the hydrogen is produced inside the vehicle.

Some of the hydrogen powered vehicles - e.g. Mirai, Hyvia - already carry highly pressurized gas in tanks, something that requires care and the setting up of an infrastructure that is perhaps unfeasible in countries like Brazil or India.

Furthermore, as the reaction depends on the presence of water, it would simplify and make ethanol production cheaper. And the vehicle would run with practically half the concentration of ethanol that is currently available at gas stations. That is, here, mixing water helps.

Also read about Toyota do Brasil's partnership with Shell Brasil, Raízen, Hytron, USP and Senai to test renewable hydrogen from ethanol. A Toyota Mirai for testing was delivered to the Research Center for Greenhouse Gas Innovation (RCGI) at USP, which develops the research. In addition to the Mirai, renewable hydrogen will supply three buses that will circulate in Cidade Universitária. The technology is from Hytron, from São Paulo, recently acquired by a German group.

Nissan is also well advanced in researching. Click on the image below for schematics that explain how the complete system works. According to Nissan, the conversion of bioethanol into electricity emits some CO2. But because it is bioethanol, the complete cycle would be "carbon neutral", considering the CO2 absorbed in the sugarcane or corn growth phase.

The company highlights the potential of markets such as Brazil and Thailand, where the network of ethanol service stations is already significant.


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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