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					Conference Session                                                                                                   Paper # 2055


           HYDROGEN: THE FUTURE OF THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

                      David McFadien (drm82@pitt.edu), Jack Ozaroff (jpo17@pitt.edu)

Abstract— Modern society currently uses more oil than the            ideas have been brought forth to be used in the automotive
natural patterns of the Earth can produce. Finding a                 industry, such as battery powered and solar powered
suitable replacement for vehicles using fossil fuels is one of       vehicles, as well as many different blends that will lower the
the more difficult challenges that engineers will and are            usage of fossil fuels. However, one of the most promising
working to accomplish. This paper will be written on the             new technologies for vehicles, when the technology is
integration of hydrogen fuels cells into automobiles, in order       mastered, is the hydrogen fuel cell. There are many
to solve the current issues with such means of                       different types of fuel cells, but the most conceivable for
transportation. As the supply of fossil fuels decreases it is        usage in vehicles is the Polymer Exchange Membrane Fuel
imperative that we, as a nation and global community,                Cell, due to its small size. Hydrogen fuel cell powered
pursue alternative means of energy. One of those promising           vehicles are the future of the automobile industry due to
replacements for the fossil fuels is hydrogen. Hydrogen has          their environmental safety, non-toxic, easy production, and
the potential to provide clean, renewable, and safe energy.          abundent availability for generations to come.
    Hydrogen vehicles are one of the more promising
alternative fuel vehicles. We will discuss these vehicles,                                   HYDROGEN
such as the Honda SFX Clarity. In doing so we hope to
highlight how hydrogen vehicles will establish a place in            Hydrogen is a means to an end of fossil fuel reliance in
transportation. The cost of such vehicles is projected to            regards to automotive transportation energy. Hydrogen acts
drop by 2015; the efficiency is predicted to rise. This is due       as an energy carrier since the energy harnessed is within the
to the quick improvement of the technology of fuel cells,            actual atom, unlike fossil fuels which act as energy sources,
which are becoming cheaper to manufacture and more                   since the energy is captured by burning it as fuel [9]. This
powerful (Fueleconomy).           Our focus will be on the           makes it overwhelmingly valuable as a means for future
Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell. We will explain              energy, providing for a growing society. Furthermore,
the composition of this fuel cell and the process which takes        hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is
place within it. Our main emphasis will be explaining how            mainly found on Earth in the form of water. This is valuable
the fuel cell breaks down hydrogen and reforms it with               since close to 75% of the Earth’s surface is water, making
oxygen to produce energy and water (Nice). We will                   hydrogen so plentiful that it is viewed as a nearly limitless
describe the different parts of the individual fuel cells            energy supply. Hydrogen can be separated from water
including the membrane which separates this particular               molecules in multiple ways. The most plausible way is
design. Furthermore, we will describe in length the positive         through electrolysis, in which large amounts of electricity
effects of using this form of fuel cell as well as the               are passed through water. It takes approximately 285.83 kJ
limitations that are currently associated with it                    to separate one mole of hydrogen from 1 mole water at
                                                                     standard temperature and pressure, 1 atmosphere and 298
Key Words—Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells,                   Kelvin [8]. This method however is currently quite
hydrogen fuel cells, alternative sources of energy, hydrogen,        expensive since it is a new technology and is still being fully
Honda FSX Clarity                                                    developed. With this level of proficiency in harvesting
                                                                     hydrogen, it is a more than feasible that this fuel should be
           THE FUTURE OF AUTOMOBILES                                 used by the automotive industry in order to meet the demand
                                                                     of the consumer market.
Modern American society is using its biggest supply of
energy at such a devastating rate that this source could be
completely depleted by the end of the century. Is this
necessarily a bad thing? Fossil fuels are a destructive source
of energy that have brought about international conflicts
while releasing toxic fumes that are dangerous not only for
the environment, but also for humanity. Engineers have
been tasked with finding a suitable form of alternative fuel
while developing technology that can use this fuel to its
maximum potential in order to replace this currently
necessary evil.       The new solution must be safe,
environmentally friendly, and relatively affordable. Many
University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering                                                                                      April 14, 2012
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                                                                                                                 David McFadien
                                                                                                                   Jack Ozaroff

                                                                     the form of gasoline and diesel [20].” By using hydrogen,
                                                                     this dependency can be lowered drastically, boosting the
                                                                     economy, and preventing international conflicts.




                                                                                              FIGURE 2
                                                                       ABOVE IS A CHART THAT SHOWS THE AMOUNT OF GRAMS OF CARBON
                                                                                        DIOXIDE PRODUCED/MILE [15].

                         FIGURE 1                                                         Hydrogen Vehicles
    ABOVE IS A DIAGRAM OF HOW HYDROGEN IS FORMED THROUGH
                       ELECTROLYSIS [4].                             For decades, research has gone into finding alternative
                                                                     sources of fuel to power vehicles. Research was kick started
                          Benefits
                                                                     in 2003 when President Bush announced a $1.3 research
The use of hydrogen as an energy carrier has the potential           budget for hydrogen fueled vehicles [2]. If President Bush is
for many important benefits.         Hydrogen, a naturally           classed as a hydrogen supporter, then President Obama can
occurring element, has no toxic properties. In contrast,             be labeled as a skeptic. The Obama administration cut
petroleum based fuels, are exceptionally toxic producing             funding for hydrogen vehicle research in 2011, marking the
emissions such as nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, and                 third straight year of funding cuts [12]. Others are not as
particulate matter [20]. Hydrogen’s toxic free properties are        convinced as the current administration and maintain that
beneficial for both mankind and the environment since these          hydrogen is a major option to fulfill the needs of individuals,
toxic gases lead to a phenomenon known as global warming,            while creating a safer, more viable alternative to fossil fuels
which is slowly devastating the planet Earth by heating up           that will maintain demand in a consumer market. There are
the atmosphere. By decreasing the number of these gases              currently two ways in which hydrogen can be used to power
produced, the natural healing process of the Earth can repair        vehicles while meeting most if not all of these guidelines.
this damage and slowly restore itself.          Additionally,        The first way, that is currently used more frequently, is to
hydrogen is also less flammable than gasoline with a flare           use hydrogen in an internal combustion engine similar to
point of 932 degrees Fahrenheit while gasoline’s flare point         those that are used with gasoline or diesel. Although this
is 536 degrees Fahrenheit.        Furthermore, contrary to           method still produces greenhouse gases (GHGs), hydrogen
common belief, hydrogen does in fact store safely. The               powered vehicles (HPVs) using internal combustion engines
containers for storing hydrogen actually undergo very strict         produce fewer GHGs than gasoline vehicles. The second
testing, more than can be said for most gasoline fuel tanks.         process used in HPVs is the use of hydrogen fuel cells.
Another positive property of hydrogen is that it disperses           Although currently less powerful than gasoline vehicles,
very quickly since it is much less dense than air. This was          diesel vehicles, and hydrogen powered vehicles run by
displayed by the Hindenburg Disaster in May of 1937 when             internal combustion engines, they do not produce any
a German airship named the Hindenburg ignited due to its             GHGs. Moreover, with the recent trends of improved
flammable skin layer catching fire which in turn set the             technology used and a decrease in cost of production of
flammable hydrogen filled bags ablaze. Originally hydrogen           hydrogen fuel cells, it is predicted that HPVs will be
was thought to have caused the disaster, but it was later            available to the public for sale by 2015 [1]. With this
proven that although it did burn, it was completely                  technology on the verge of a major breakthrough in the
consumed within 60 seconds well above the crew and guests            market, one must understand the technology behind it.
[3]. Another benefit of hydrogen is its abundant availability
in the form of water. According to the Alternative Fuels
Data Center, “The United States imports more than 60% of
its petroleum, two-thirds of which is used to fuel vehicles in



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                                                                                                                  David McFadien
                                                                                                                    Jack Ozaroff

                                                                     that contains platinum nanoparticles that are thinly coated
                                                                     onto a carbon paper that separates the hydrogen gas from the
                                                                     electrons. Meanwhile, oxygen gas is brought in through the
                                                                     cathode, which then attracts the hydronium ions through the
                                                                     fuel cell. The hydronium ion, oxygen and the electron all
                                                                     react at the cathode end to form water vapor which is
                                                                     released into the air through the exhaust line [9]. The
                                                                     electricity that was produced then sent to the electric motor,
                                                                     propelling the car. A power control unit controls the flow of
                                                                     electricity to the motor. This process runs quietly and
                                                                     smoothly while being very clean [15].



                         FIGURE 3
 ABOVE IS A DIAGRAM THAT SHOWS AN OUTLINE OF HOW HYDROGEN FUEL
                     CELL VEHICLES RUN [15].




   POLYMER ELECTROLYTE MEMBRANE FUEL
                 CELLS
       Components and How They Work Together
Fuel cells can fulfill a variety of jobs; they can be used to
power stationary objects in addition to powering vehicles.
Depending on the task needed to be accomplished, different
fuel cells can be used. The fuel cell best suited for use in
vehicles is the Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell
(PEMFC), also known as the Proton Exchange Membrane
(PEM) fuel cell. To best describe a PEMFC, one must
follow the path that hydrogen takes through the system.
Hydrogen’s trip begins in the storage tank, often located
under the back seats [15]. Automotive manufacturers are
working towards storing the hydrogen gas in these tanks at
10,000 psi, helping to extend the range of the vehicles [21].                                  FIGURE 4
The hydrogen then flows from this area towards the front of          THIS DIAGRAM (ABOVE) OUTLINES THE PROCESSES THAT OCCUR INSIDE AN
                                                                                        INDIVIDUAL FUEL CELL [23].
the car. The next destination is the fuel stacks. Fuel stacks
are multiple fuel cells placed together to optimize the                                Efficiency and Progress
amount of electricity that is produced, since only 1.16V are
produced per fuel cell on average [15]. The path inside the          The overall efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells has increased
fuel cell start as hydrogen is brought in through the intake         dramatically over the past decade. The technology was
valve that comes from the fuel tank. The fuel cells contain          discovered in 1839 by Sir William Grove; over the last
two sides that are oppositely charged points. The anode,             century and a half progress to make it a viable alternative
where the hydrogen is brought in, is the negative end, while         source of fuel has been hindered by the complexity of the
the cathode is the positive end. The hydrogen then reacts on         technology [9]. However, with the recent integration of the
the anode that strips one electron of every hydrogen atom            polymer membrane into the PEMFC, as well as an improved
and forces it into the external circuit, resulting in the            catalyst being used to speed up the reaction, HPVs are
formation of hydronium ions that are forced into channels            starting to become a competitor in the automotive industry.
that disperse the hydrogen gas equally over the catalyst. The        Currently, their power output is not as high as gasoline
electricity is then harnessed from the electrons passing             powered vehicles, but their ‘gas mileage’ is much better than
through an external circuit with load that then sends the            the average vehicle on the road today. For example, the
electrons back towards the cathode end of the fuel cell. The         2012 Honda FCX Clarity gets 60 miles/kg for both city and
polymer membrane, which blocks electrons from passing                highway driving and the 2012 Mercedes-Benz F-Cell gets 52
through to the side of the cathode, is covered with a catalyst       miles/kg for city driving. For comparisons sake, one kg of



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                                                                                                                  David McFadien
                                                                                                                    Jack Ozaroff

hydrogen is approximately equal to one gallon of gasoline             recently showcased one of their newer concept vehicles
[15]. Furthermore, the Clarity also has a range of 240 miles          named the Ecovoyager. Unlike the Clarity, this vehicle uses
per tank while the F-Cell has a range of 190 miles per tank.          both a lithium-ion battery and hydrogen fuel cells to give it a
These are examples of how efficient hydrogen vehicles have            range of over 300 miles. General Motors has featured the
become over the recent years. In addition, hydrogen fuel              Sequel with a range of 300 miles and an acceleration of 0-60
cell vehicles are 64% efficient overall and even have a               in just 10 seconds. General Motors claims that the Sequel is
potential to be 80% efficient, while gasoline powered                 easy to handle, build, and is safer than gasoline powered
vehicles have an efficiency rate of only 20% [9]. This, in            vehicles [19]. The Mercedes Model, a small station wagon
itself, is an indication of the true potential of hydrogen fuel       called the F-cell, has a combined fuel economy of 52
cell vehicles as the technology advances. There is, however,          miles/kg [15]. Hydrogen fuel cells are also being used in
one issue that currently remains with PEMFC powered                   public transportation. Ballard Power Systems has been
vehicles. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles currently have                  developing fuel cells for buses since 1992. According to
problems with the durability of the Polymer Electrolyte               Ballard, the buses they power have logged: more than
Membrane Fuel Cell. As of 2007, the DOE reported that the             200,000 hours, 3 million kilometers, and 7 million
average life span of a PEMFC was 2,000 hours or roughly               passengers transported [14].          Another example of
62,000 miles (100,000 km). This is still fairly far away from         hydrogen’s integration into public transportation began in
the required durability for current automotive engines which          2011, when London began a hydrogen bus initiative after the
is 5,000 hours or approximately 150,000 miles. Private                success of a trial run from 2003 to 2007. The trial’s purpose
automotive companies claim to be closer to this goal, but no          was to reduce air pollution and noise through the use of fuel
data has been released at this time.                                  cell buses. Since the test London has added a fleet of
                                                                      hydrogen fueled buses as well as a refilling station [17].
              The Future Already in Motion
                                                                                   SOCIAL ISSUES AND ETHICS
While yet to be tested on a wide scale, FCVs are beginning
to surface from many manufactures. Perhaps the most                                               Cost
notable of the FCVs is the Honda’s FCX Clarity. The
Clarity is a well-rounded example of a PEMFC system in a              Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are currently some of the most
car. Honda has already improved from one model to                     expensive vehicles available on the market. In fact they are
another. The latest model of the Clarity, the FCX Clarity             so expensive that they are typically used by public
FCEV, is 20% more fuel efficient than its predecessor. It             transportation services and leased to high end celebrities and
also has been recorded to be 10% more energy-efficient                businessmen [21]. The reason surrounding such extreme
[13]. The FCEV was reported to get 60 miles/kg in the city            costs is mainly due to the fuel cells themselves. However,
as well as 60 miles/kg on highways. The overall range of              there is hope to improve this situation.                  Vast
this midsized car is 240 miles [15]. The Clarity utilizes a           accomplishments have been made over the last decade
Vertical Flow, or v-flow, fuel cell stack, their self-reported        regarding the overall cost of these vehicles.         In fact,
greatest breakthrough to this point in the fuel cell area. The        according to the Department of Energy (DOE), programs
V-flow is smaller than previous attempts allowing for more            that they are currently financially supporting have made
room in the car. This fuel cell is also packed for better             major advances in the cost of these fuel cells. “DOE-
efficiency, as well as a reduction in the heat produced [13].         supported activities have reduced the high-volume cost of
In 2009 Honda announced the Clarity and began leasing the             fuel cells by 30% since 2008 and 80% since 2002” [11].
new concept to costumers in Southern California [19]. The             Furthermore, these high costs are also due to the fact that
Clarity was leased for $600 a month. Costumers seemed                 this technology isn’t manufactured on the large scale of
content with the performance of the car; one such costumer            other automotive technologies. According to a published
explained that they’ve had fewer problems with the Clarity            record update by the DOE, “The cost of an 80-kW (PEMFC)
than their gasoline powered cars [21]. Another explained,             system based on 2011 technology and operating on direct
“These cars change the way you affect the environment                 hydrogen is projected to be $49/kW when manufactured at a
WITHOUT changing the way you drive” [13].                  One        volume of 500,000 units/year”[11]. When compared to the
problem that consumers found with the product was the lack            projects from 2007 which were $94/kW, this is a decrease of
of hydrogen filling stations, as filling up had to be planned         nearly 52% in just five years.           With such drastic
in advance [21]. One current problem with the Clarity                 accomplishments in decreasing the price of PEMFC
costumers have found is its proclivity to leave a puddle of           technology, optimistic predictions are being made for the
water on the garage floor from the tailpipe. Honda has not            future. The Department of Energy’s goal is to have the cost
been the only car manufacturer to get caught up in the                of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles drop by approximately 15-
hydrogen movement. Companies such as General Motors,                  22% by the year 2015 in order to make it a competitive
Mercedes, and BMW have begun to turn out their own                    option in today’s market. This appears to be very reasonable
versions of hydrogen vehicles. For Example, Chrysler has              when compared to the current rate in which prices are falling
                                                                      [11]. However, critics debate this topic with the recent press


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                                                                                                                  David McFadien
                                                                                                                    Jack Ozaroff

release from Toyota that projects their new hydrogen fuel             hydrogen, and pollution-free.” He then allocated $1.2
cell vehicles to be priced over $100,000 [1]. This criticism          billion for hydrogen research which, even though it was not
is unwarranted due to the fact that the heightened costs are          nearly enough money to accomplish this goal; it was a start
directly correlated to the fact that there are not many               [2]. Unfortunately, this funding was largely cut by the
hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the market creating a                  Obama administration which believed that automakers were
monopoly of sorts. As these vehicles become more readily              focused on battery power, even though Honda, BMW,
available by different automotive companies, the price will           General Motors, and Toyota all plan to have HPVs on the
drop due to the competition. In fact, Toyota projects that by         road within the decade [5]. According to Pike Research in a
2015 the price of their fuel cell vehicles will drop to               recent estimate, “almost three million hydrogen cars will be
$50,000, making it a more reasonably priced option [5].               sold by 2020 [7].” Based on this estimate, huge strides have
                                                                      to be made in order to keep up with the demand to refuel
                  Hydrogen Distribution                               these vehicles.     With only nineteen states containing
Hydrogen fuel distribution is probably the biggest consumer           hydrogen fueling stations, advances must be made over the
concern surrounding hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.                      next few years to establish the infrastructure in order to keep
Unfortunately, there is no way to distribute hydrogen to the          up with the demand.
consumer on a large scale similar to that of gasoline                                   Environmental Impacts
powered vehicles. This leads to the large debate, which
should come first, hydrogen vehicles or hydrogen                      Fossil fuels have devastating impacts on the environment
distribution centers. Fortunately, engineers have opposing            due to the large scale usage in modern American society. In
ideas on how to solve this issue, leading to both items being         order for gasoline to be obtained to power the average
created simultaneously. Individuals like Tom Sullivan are             vehicle in the United States, crude oil is pumped up from
commercializing the distribution of hydrogen for HPVs.                beneath the soil, and then shipped across the Atlantic to the
Sullivan is currently the owner of both SunHydro and Proton           U.S. Next, the crude oil is processed into gasoline and
Energy, with plans to expand his companies, which                     shipped to local distributors throughout the nation.
specialize in solar energy, in the direction of clean hydrogen        Furthermore, after this entire process is complete, the
production. He plans to build ten to fifteen hydrogen                 gasoline is burned which releases greenhouse gases as an
distribution centers approximately 300 miles apart that               exhaust. In fact, the average vehicle produces over 20lbs of
stretch down the East Coast. This is similar to what already          CO2 gas per gallon or 6 to 9 tons per year [16]. This is
exist on the West Coast. These stations will produce                  devastating when multiplied by the over 1 billion vehicles
hydrogen through the electrolysis of water while being                that are driven daily in the world as of 2010 [10]. Hydrogen
powered by solar panels. This project is projected to cost            fuel is a nearly perfect replacement when finding an
$200,000 per station to build the stations [7]. Sullivan is not       alternative fuel that is much more environmentally friendly.
the only person who is investing in a future in this industry.        For starters, since hydrogen is so readily available, it is
General Motors is paring with The Gas Company (TGC) in                completely unnecessary to import this fuel from other
Hawaii to set up hydrogen fuel providers across the entire            nations thus drastically decreasing the carbon footprint.
state. Jeffrey Kissel, president and CEO of TGC claimed,              However, a major hurtle still stands in the way of
“We have been delivering as much as 12 percent hydrogen               accomplishing this goal. “(Currently) 95 percent of the
made from renewable sources to our gas customers over the             hydrogen available in the U.S. is either extracted from fossil
last two to three years and expect we can deliver even                fuels or made using…fossil fuels” [5].                 This is
greater quantities of hydrogen as demand increases” [22].             counterproductive to the idea of using a fuel that greatly
This, however, is only a start on what would be a major               decreases the amount of greenhouse gases created in its
overhaul on the entire automotive refueling infrastructure            production, distribution, and usage. According to Stanford
that would cost billions of dollars to accomplish and could           University researchers in 2005, it would be better for the
possibly hinder the economy short term. Currently, there is           environment to drive a gasoline/electric hybrid rather than a
no alternative to make this investment any less costly,               hydrogen fuel cell vehicle if the hydrogen was obtained from
proving that it is the biggest obstacle for the future of HPVs.       coal. However, there is a solution to this problem.
The issue surrounding the ‘Hydrogen Economy’ has been a               Hydrogen can be obtained from water using wind, thus
major subject of debate over the past decade. It is currently         completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the equation.
estimated that in order to construct and maintain a hydrogen          This can be accomplished through wind power such as a
infrastructure, it could cost up to 500 billion dollars [9].          wind mill to power water electrolysis which removes
Former U.S. President George W. Bush proclaimed in his                hydrogen from H2O leaving behind oxygen, thus resulting in
2003 State of the Union, “With a new national commitment,             no harmful byproducts [6]. In addition to this, the process
our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to               involved in extracting the chemical energy from hydrogen
taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the            produces only water vapor and oxygen as a product. This
first car driven by a child born today could be powered by            means in theory that if hydrogen fuel is made and used in the



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                                                                                                                          David McFadien
                                                                                                                            Jack Ozaroff

proper fashion, no fossil fuels will be used in its production.                                     Resources
If wind powered water electrolysis is used, distribution if
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requirements of any future alternative fuel, being that it is         Professional              Engineers.           [Online].         Available:
safe, renewable, and environmentally friendly. By choosing            http://www.nspe.org/Ethics/CodeofEthics/index.html.
to use hydrogen instead of using vehicles that run on                 [19] (2011). “Chemistry in the Environment: Renewable Energy.” In
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would be greatly reduced, thus in turn have a positive effect         [20] (2011, January 27). “Hydrogen Infrastructure Development” United
on the environment. Through using fuel cell technology,               States       Department         of      Energy       [Online].   Available:
particularly polymer exchange membrane fuel cell, the                 http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/fuels/hydrogen_infrastructure.html.
benefits for using hydrogen can be maximized. With the                [21] (2010, May). “Fuel Cell Vehicles: Alternative Fuels, Hydrogen Fuel
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renewable energy can become a reality.                                http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2010/05/the-ultimate-green-
                                                                      machine/index.htm#topPage




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                                                                                David McFadien
                                                                                  Jack Ozaroff

[22] (May 13, 2010). “GM seeks to help Hawaii say ‘Goodbye oil, aloha
hydrogen.”           Greenbang.           [Online].            Available:
http://www.greenbang.com/gm-seeks-to-help-hawaii-say-goodbye-oil-
aloha-hydrogen_14342.html
[23] (2008, December 23). “Fuel Cells.” Department of Energy. [Online].
Available:
http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/fuelcells/fc_parts.html.

                      Additional Resources
(2006). “Hydrogen Fuel Cell.” Department of Energy Hydrogen Program.
[Online].                                                     Available:
http://www.hydrogen.energy.gov/pdfs/doe_h2_fuelcell_factsheet.pdf.
(2009). “Welcome to the Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition.”
Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition. [Online]. Available:
http://www.chfcc.org/.

                         Acknowledgment
We would like to thank Mary Beth Biddle for motivating us
to keep up with deadlines and helping us with any issues we
face. In addition, we would like to thank our parents for
their everlasting support for whatever decisions we make
regarding our future.




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