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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Hydrogen powered battle tanks 

Slashdot brings us a story about the U.S. Army's interest in developing hydrogen fuel technology for future use in its vehicles. Among the advantages of hydrogen would be much higher fuel mileage and reduced logistical costs in the field, according to the Department of Defense.

Wired ran a great article about hydrogen fuel in April 2003. I highly recommend it as a primer on the state of hydrogen fuel technology and the obstacles standing in the way of the "hydrogen economy." Among the roadblocks is figuring out a way to produce hydrogen that doesn't use hydrocarbons. Burning coal to produce the electricity needed to make hydrogen kind of defeats the idea of hydrogen as clean power. The Wired article suggests nuclear power as an alternative, but that brings a whole other set of baggage with it. Nuclear power has virtually zero impact on the atmosphere or water, but despite huge advances in reactor safety, a lot of people have a serious aversion to it. So, if nuclear power will open the door to hydrogen fuel, it might take some salesmanship.

That said, the government is often a driving force for change. Military and space technology has frequently paved the way for civilian applications, so if the Army leads the way on hydrogen, maybe the country will follow. I think that hydrogen is coming, and the military has the ability to hasten its arrival if programs like the one above are followed to completion.
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