Ford Motor Company is now running an experimental process where they are taking paint shop fumes and using them as fuel to run a fuel cell and generate electricity. At its Oakville, Ontario plant just a few miles across the U. S. and Canadian border from Detroit, Ford is capturing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in topcoats of new vehicles.
These VOCs are typically incinerated and the resulting carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide is released, which is cleaner and greener than releasing the VOCs directly into the atmosphere. The VOCs get pumped into an absorber and “desorber” chamber filled with tiny carbon beads and then reformed into hydrogen and run through a fuel cell.
This process can generate up to 300 MW of power, with a net gain in energy, all while eliminating nitrogen oxides and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 88-percent. While many people seem to be solely concerned with tailpipe emissions, Ford has taken a step to clean up an important aspect of the process of building an automobile.
Imagine a few years from now fuel cell cars rolling off the assembly lines with a shiny coat of new paint that has had its emissions greatly reduced with the help of fuel cells. Now, if the interiors could be produced from non-volatile organic materials, these would be exceptionally green vehicles indeed.