Hydrogen reformers for automobiles may be just what the car doctor ordered for better gas mileage and cleaner air. Toyota featured this technology when they introduced their FCHV-5 SUV back in 2001. The FCHV-5 offered a CHF (clean hydrocarbon fuel) reformer.
According to Toyota, “Seen as the next generation liquid fuel, CHF can be produced from crude oil, natural gas or coal and it has a low sulfur content. CHF is also used as a fuel for gasoline engine vehicles and can be supplied by current gasoline pumps. Therefore, FCHV-5 will be useful where hydrogen supply infrastructure is not available.”
Another company called ArvinMeritor has another take on using hydrogen reformers. They, along with scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the German automotive engineering firm IAV, are developing a hydrogen reformer for current gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles (expected out in 2010).
This hydrogen reformer, or plasma fuel reformer as ArvinMeritor is calling it, uses a small amount of gasoline or diesel fuel and extracts the hydrogen from it, then adds the H2 gas to the engine’s normal air/fuel mixture. The plasma fuel reformer is used in combination with a NOx trap system, eliminating NOx build up and thus providing fewer pollutants into the air than would a normal gasoline-only or diesel-only engine.
Besides the reduction of pollutants, the hydrogen reformer also increases gas mileage by 20 to 30-percent, which if employed in large-scale use would mean a significant reduction in the U. S. dependence upon foreign oil.
Hydrogen reformers may turn out to be key transitional devices to help bridge the gap between the gasoline and diesel engines of today and the fuel cell vehicles of tomorrow. And, to the public it would just be business as usual at the gas pumps.