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    Default Fuel Cells in Fire Apparatus?

    I know many people have noted that the "wave of the future" in automobile technology seems to be fuel-cells where instead of a traditional internal combustion engine, a persistent chemical reaction will provide the necessary power for the vehicle.

    Fuel Cell Summary

    My question: Would fuel cells work in fire trucks? Are any manufacturers working on the concept of fuel cell-ed fire apparatus?

    It seems this would be a great way to reduce ongoing expenses associated with the volatile price of petroleum-based fuel.

    -Neil

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    Cool fuel cells

    When you talk chemical reaction and fuel cells is that CNG, hydrogen or whatever other than diesel? I have seen our local transportation buses on fire too many times with alternative fuel sources to want to rely on powering emergency vehicles with the stuff. Considering that fire trucks go to fires and there are embers and such blowing around I would hate to have a leak in a system that is highly volatile. The electronics on todays equipment is bad enough let alone messing with the power source. Bottom line I have not heard of current fire apparatus manufactures toying with the idea nor of the current diesel makers going that way.

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    I know diesel has a very high ignition point (you practically have to stick a flare in it and leave it in there) so sure, it's probably the safest right now.

    CNG vehicles work on the same idea as an internal combustion engine (spark + CNG = explosion). Any time you have that system, you're looking at the potential for mishaps.

    THe fuel cells I'm referring to now are the type that work on the same concept as electric cars but use fuel cells instead of batteries. I won't comment on whether or not it's safer than current technology simply because it's still an emerging technology. However, it seems that this type of system would resolve a lot of issues like dependency on foreign oil, pollution, etc. etc.

    I was just wondering if anyone was thinking about it at this time. Thx

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    It's all a dream. A fuel cell is sort of like a battery that uses fuel instead of electrolyte to generate electricity directly. But what you need to look for are changes in medium and heavy trucks. They outsell fire apparatus by such an enormous margin, fire apparatus isn't even a blip on the radar. And we in fire service aren't going to do anything (in force) which isn't already tried in the highway market. Right now the only viable alternative fuel source is biodiesel (sorry LV but I believe it will be easy to change over) but even a source of biodiesel is somewhat nebulous at this point. Soybeans ain't it because there is no way they could put the amount of ground into production to sustain our consumption and besides the fertilizers often gain their worth from petroleum energy so we are not really independent of petroleum. Someone came up with a salt water/desert/algae solution which sounds good, but it could also be a complely loco idea. Look for internal combustion engines to continue for a long, long time

    Birken

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    BioDiesel is becoming, more and, more popular...I'd bet we are going to see flex-fuel fire apparatus in the next 10 years
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    Any diesel can burn biodiesel (just a blend of diesel and low portion of a "bio" fuel). Not "fles" involved.

    So what logical reason is there to abandon diesels??? They don't function properly and efficiently?

    Anyone buying into (or purchasing) any of the hybrids, fuelcell, hydrogen, etc hype is doing so for emotional/religious (environmentalism) reasons not for any responsible logical or fiscal reason. And certainly should not be allowed anywhere near any public funds.

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    If we could getting up to 50 fireifghters per unit, use very lightweight materials and find a way to llighten up the weight of water we could all go the Fred Flintsone route and use our feet.... No fossil fuels or fuel cell needed!

    PS: Dino ran off after Fred passed a Sinclair station...
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    BirkenVogt; I appreciate your thoughtful response. Thanks.

    As far as economics: NEIOWA; You're right. Currently, the economics of alternative fuel vehicles are not feasible. However, I'm looking 15-20 or even 50years down the road. We used to rely on steam power to move our cars and power our fire apparatus. Now we use internal combustion. Progress marches on (and all that jazz).

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    The market will sort it all out. Monopolies make that process slow sometimes. The future is awfully hard to predict sometimes but I like the conservative approach for fire apparatus, don't want to invest in something that isn't reliable.

    Birken

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    Fuel cells is a technology that fascinates me, especially the ocean sailor I used to be. Ah, the freedom from running a generator 24/7 while at sea.

    But, I don't think you'll see it anytime soon, as the next few generations of fuel cell will be too large per HP to work w/o apparatus getting much larger just to carry the power plant. First place you'll see fuel cells is in ships, specifically naval vessels. The USCG was supposed to convert 2 of their cutters to 4/5 fuel cell power as an experiment, never heard the results. The USN is terrified of diesel-electric subs being converted to fuel cell as the resulting boat will be super silent and have the endurance of a nuke w/o all the noise.

    Once fuel cells are more refined you'll start seeing them in cars but I'm not sure they'll ever replace larger engines. Side though; I wonder what the start up time is for a big cell, do you have to let it "warm up" before it produces full output?

    Don't kid yourself on fuel cells being the freedom from oil, fuel cells run on hydrogen, guess where the hydrogen comes from? Hydrocarbons. The few experiemental fuel cell vehicles out there today run on gasoline which is refined in a mini reactor to burn off the carbon, free the oxygen, and harvest the hydrogen. You can get hydrogen from electrolosis of water but currently (pun not intended) you need more electricity to crack the H2O than the energy you obtain from that method (terrible movie a decade ago about that quest with Morgan Freedman and a very young Keanue Reaves).

    What makes a lot more sense it to go the diesel-electric route that train locomotives when back in the 50's. You run a very efficient engine that drives a large generator. Each axle of the train (and in the case of a road vehicle each wheel as with the new hybrid Hummer replacement) has a dedicated electric motor to drive it. Generators run best at a constant RPM, so you could use a gas-turbine to drive it. Turbine's HP to weight ratios are fantastic and they are inhearently much more fuel efficient than recipricating engines (remember your physics class?). Start up time to 100% duty cycle on turbines is a fraction of that for a diesel (most diesel engine manufacturers recommend a 5 minute fast idle before loading the engine, of course we all follow that practice). One last feature of the diesel electric is that you can place the engine-generator package anywhere and at any orientation you'd like since there are no hard connections to it. Engine can be mounted above the pump compartment across the body, or even in the front bumper compartment. 3 phase 400Hz system allows it to be both smaller and safer to use (60Hz is a particularly dangerous freq.).

    But Birken is 100% right, until you start to see it on the road we won't. Most of the component used in fire apparatus come directly from the the super heavy truck marker (we share a lot in common with cement mixers etc.,). Even if diesel were to hit $5/gal there would still be a lot of inertia fighting the change. The cost of switching over is just too high. I just heard a report from Cunsumer Reports on the newest hybrid SUV's. They figure at $3/gal it would take more than 10 years to pay off the surcharge you pay to get your money back. And since the life span of the battery is expected to be 10 years, you'll have to shell out another $5000 to keep driving.
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    Two things you mention have already been "invented":

    The diesel electric is coming in the form of the Allison "electric drive." It is a generator and electric motor that fits more or less inside a transmission case and uses transmission oil to cool it and has an output shaft like a transmission. Of course to fully develop this technology would mean motors at the wheel ends or more likely full independent suspension with a CV joint to each wheel and the motor tucked up in the frame. It would be sort of like a Hummer. It would be nice to have all wheel drive, save tires, better traction, etc.

    The other thing you mentioned was a gas turbine. Union Pacific tried this in the 50s or 60s and actually had a few in revenue service but they were not efficient, however they burned number 3 fuel which was cheap at the time, but due to market factors (I think it was feedstock for plastics manufacture) unfortunately for UP the price went through the roof so they had to abandon that. They were nicknakmed the "Big Blows" for their fantastic, incredible noise level. The problem with gas turbines is they aren't real efficient at partial load.

    Ever stood under a running helicopter?

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    The real beauty of the diesel-electric drive system is true all wheel drive with computer managed traction control. The military likes it due to battle hardness, you could blow a wheel right off the truck and it will still have traction on the other three wheels. Brakes and drive are incorporated right into a thin motor that fits in the space normally occupied by the brake rotor (or in the case of the HMMVV the final reduction gear).

    I am familiar with the turbine locomotives, but you've got to consider a couple of factors with these. First off, they were designed in the 40's and 50's when turbines were in their infancy. 2nd we're talking about 10,000HP in a single unit (they were rated 8000 because thats all the electrical side could handle). Turbines today are much more efficient as evidenced by the growing number of ship and electrical power plants that use them. A reciprocation plant is limited to 25% efficiency by design, a turbine on the other hand can run closer to 50% (up to 90% if you harvest exhaust heat to make steam).

    Cadilac made a turbine powered prototype car and of course the M1 Abrams tank is turbine drive, but these were/are direct drive vehicles. The Caddy was a flop because, despite its enormous horse power it had no acceleration. The Abrams is fast and starts up to 100% load in something like 15 seconds, but its a fuel hog getting about 1/2 mile per gallon. Of course it weights 70tons, is powered by a 1500hp plant, and can hit 60mph!

    I came up with a plan for automotive drive back in the 80's when I was in the Marines working on USMC jets. I based it on the small turbine compressors/generator we used to start the jet engines with. Take an 80HP turbine (HP determined by what ever it took to drive the car at top speed, no more), its about the size of a loaf of bread and a hundred pounds, couple it to a 208V400Hz 3 phase generator and burry the entire thing in a hush box (when running in a hush box these things are no louder than an oil furnace). Place an electric drive motor at each wheel and have a battery bank to provide suplimental power for acceleration, maybe make the bank large enough to drive it w/o the engine in the city. Turbines are ineficient when running at other than their design RPM, as are generators. Turbines are also considered inefficient when run at lower loads because the amount of power to spin them with no load is fairly high (fuel to HP curve is fairly flat). You solve this problem by only running the motor when power is truly needed and only at that one RPM. I didn't call it a hybrid because at this point in time they didn't exist. Imagine my surprise when I read the details of the Toyota Synergy drive (it shuts off when not needed). I was even more surpirsed when I read the details of the next gen HMMVV, I must of left my notes on my turbine-electric car in the barracks when I got out

    Anyways, I don't think it'll work for the fire service, as you'd need a very large drive motor for the pump, larger than the wheel motors. Fact is even in the military where cost is not a factor, there are still certain places where big diesels are used exclusively because a turbine just isn't the right fit for the job. Primarily the short time between overhauls is a big issue. Big enough that when Russia designed the replacement for the T-80 tank (built to fight the M1) it went back to conventional engines in the T-90 due to the high maintenance cost and short life of the turbine.

    Still, its nice to dream.
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    From Military.Com

    Hybrid Humvee Trials


    Gary Sheftick
    Army News Service

    WASHINGTON - The Hybrid Electric Humvee, which can operate in silent mode on battery power alone, was run through a number of field assessments Sept. 26 to Oct. 3 by Soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky.

    Soldiers drove the Humvee for six miles on only battery power, convoyed in the hybrid (electric-diesel) mode, and used the vehicle’s electrical system to power a battalion tactical operations center. It was the first phase of the vehicle’s Military Utility Assessment, conducted during a training exercise by Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1/501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

    Follow-on assessments for the HE Humvee are scheduled to begin Nov. 21 at Fort Benning, Ga. Two of the Humvees will take part in an Air Assault Expeditionary Force experiment.

    The hybrid vehicle is a bit heavier than a normal Humvee; it runs quiet on electric prowl power and can go 10 kilometers on battery power alone, said Maj. John Williamson of the Soldiers Battle Lab at Fort Benning. He said one of the limitations of the vehicle is that it can’t ford a deep stream because the power-generating batteries are located low on the vehicle’s frame.

    The Hybrid Electric Humvee is being developed by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, Mich. Two prototypes participated in the exercise at Fort Campbell, and another was on display the following week at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C.

    Two of the Soldiers who participated in the Humvee’s assessment at Fort Campbell were on hand at AUSA to help man the display and explain how the vehicle operates.

    The HE Humvee has a small, lightweight 2.2 -liter diesel engine and a 75 kW brushless DC generator to provide electric power for the wheel-drive motors. The vehicle also has an onboard 75-kilowatt generator and two lithium ion batteries as part of its energy management system an auxiliary power distribution system for export of clean power in the amount of 10 kW. If additional power is required, provision is made to install a second APDS, TARDEC officials said

    “It’s a prototype and has faults,” admitted Staff Sgt. Michelangelo Merksamer, of HHC, 1/506th Infantry, who experimented with the vehicle at Fort Campbell and manned the exhibit at AUSA. He explained that the field assessments were designed to work out the bugs.

    “It has some applications down the road once you work things out,” he said.

    Spc. Jeffrey Hammes of the same unit said the vehicle just doesn’t yet quite handle like a Humvee.

    In the silent electric mode, the vehicle crawls, and in the hybrid mode the throttle sometimes sticks at 25 miles per hour, he said.

    Soldiers liked the “Silent Watch” capability that allows the Humvee to set in a battle position at night and operate radios, battery chargers and other devices without the need to periodically run the engine to charge the battery, they said.

    As a generator, the Humvee is quieter and has less exhaust emissions that a diesel-powered field generator. The vehicle engine generator and battery systems It can provide 75 kilowatts of continuous power and up to 250 kW of peak power, according to TARDEC engineers materials. This power is available from the vehicle’s generator and battery-storage system, without towing any additional generator in a trailer behind the vehicle.

    The Hybrid Electric Humvees are considered simply demonstrator units right now, said a TARDEC spokesman, adding that there are no plans yet to field the vehicle.
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    Capt,

    How about the good old days of horses? Some of our stations still have the feed and hay chutes in them.

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