More than 30 fuel cell companies displayed their latest developments to members of Congress this week as part of the US Fuel Cell Council Fuel Cell Week in DC. The industry association, representing fuel cell developers, manufacturers, suppliers and customers, fosters the commercialization of fuel cells in the United States.

It was a ride and drive show featuring fuel cell vehicles from DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and Nissan.

The Fuel Cell Council arranged for Georgetown University's fuel cell bus to shuttle people to tour the first functional hydrogen and gasoline filling station in the country on Benning Road.

As a special attraction, the SunLine U.S. Army NAC Peterbilt 385 Class 8 tractor was driven from the West Coast to Capitol Hill to participate in the show.

Hydrogen fuel cells produce power by means of an electrochemical reaction. The only end products are electricity, water, and some heat, so the pollution-free reaction can power vehicles.

The electrochemical reactions of a fuel cell begin when hydrogen enters one side of the fuel cell (the anode), where it is separated into an electron and a hydrogen ion, explains the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

In the case of one type of fuel cell- a proton-exhange membrane, the ions move through a membrane (the cathode) to combine with oxygen on the other side, making water.

Meanwhile, since electrons cannot pass through the membrane, they are forced to take an external route through the cathode, creating an electrical circuit that carries them through the electric motor.

As they pass through the motor, the electrons transfer power from the fuel cell to the motor. The motor, in turn, drives the wheels of the car.

The controlled reaction of hydrogen and oxygen that occurs in a fuel cell is much more efficient than the typical combustion process of a standard vehicle engine. As a result, fuel cell vehicles are expected to be two to three times more efficient than conventional cars and light trucks, the UCS says.

Participating in the Capitol Hill show were a wide variety of companies - 3M, Air Products and Chemicals, Ballard Power Systems, BTI/Fuel Cells 2000, Columbian Chemicals Company, Cooperative Research Network, Delphi Corporation, DuPont Fuel Cells, Entegris, FuelCell Energy, General Electric, Graftech, Hydrogenics Corporation, IdaTech, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, Methanol Institute, Millennium Cell, MTI MicroFuel Cells, NexTech Materials, Nuvera Fuel Cells, Plug Power, Proton Energy Systems, ReliOn, Renewable Fuels Association, Siemens Westinghouse, SOFCo - EFS Holdings, Teledyne Energy Systems, UltraCell Corporation, US Navy/USMC Fuel Cell Team, UTC Fuel Cells, and W.L. Gore as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The event enjoyed bi-partisan sponsorship by Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat as well as Representatives Nancy Johnson, a Connecticut Republican and John Larson a Connecticut Democrat.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.