Good news and bad news time.
Good news: scientists at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, working with the Office of Naval Research and fuel-cell company SOFCo-EFS, have developed a system to allow even the dirtiest diesel fuel to be used by a fuel cell. By reforming the diesel into hydrogen, the system produces twice the energy output and no sulfur or NOx pollution.
Bad news: the development is currently focused on military uses, such as running Navy ships. It's also incredibly expensive, running a few hundred thousand dollars per unit. Hopefully, this will change as we get more civilian demand for cleaner, quieter power systems to replace dirty, noisy diesel generators.
"The 5-kilowatt experimental fuel cell that is running at the INEEL costs $200,000, and that doesn't include the cost of a system to isolate hydrogen from diesel."
And how much is that system? Too much to even quote?
"Studies have shown that if the cost of the system came down to about $3,500, and could provide 5 kilowatts of electricity, plus heat, there would be a huge market among homeowners, Witmer said."
You don't say? I'm sure there would be. Could be. Maybe. If.
Diesel generators are only as dirty as the fuel we put into them and the smaller ones at least can be very quiet. Call me critical of maybe tech but I'm going to keep doubting new promisng tech will be deployed while old promising tech is still undeployed.
Biodiesel may be considered a transitional fuel ultimately to be replaced by fuel cells, but the enormous benefits of biodiesel should not be over looked even as a long term solution. Diesel engines are the backbone of our industrial society, replacing all of these engines with fuel cells would be prohibitively expensive and probably unrealistic considering the dire state of the environment combined with the coming oil shortages.
Biodiesel has the following benefits and it is ready RIGHT NOW:
1. Better for the Environment: Biodiesel is a completely renewable fuel that can be made from any vegetable oil or fat including used cooking grease and its use does NOT add to global climate change.
2. Lower Emissions: Biodiesel is the only fuel to meet EPAs Tier I and Tier II Health Effects under Section 211(b) of the Clean Air Act.(see Harvard study: http://www.greencampus.harvard.edu/green_projects/afvp/alt/cng.pdf )
3. Safe to Handle: Biodiesel is nonflammable, biodegrades faster than sugar and is less toxic than table salt.
4. Easy to Use: Biodiesel works in any diesel engine without modification, improves performance, extends engine life, and can be splash mixed with petroleum diesel.
5. Promotes National Energy Security: Use of biodiesel reduces waste & supports local farmers while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
It also reduces engine noise and vibration.
Running on 100% biodiesel in 1980 Mercedes 300TD for two years also a member of the Berkeley Biodiesel Collective.