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Tennessee professor visits Oklahoma in cross-country trip driving hydrogen-fueled car

Middle Tennessee State University professor Cliff Rickets stopped in Midwest City on Tuesday on his hydrogen-fueled cross-country trip from Georgia to California.
BY JAY F. MARKS jmarks@opubco.com Modified: March 12, 2013 at 10:08 pm •  Published: March 13, 2013

Ricketts' team uses an electrolysis unit to separate hydrogen from oxygen in purified water, with electricity derived from solar panels at the university in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The gas is compressed as vehicle fuel.

“My goal has always been to create a hydrogen car with the same power as a gas car,” Ricketts said.

The cars modified by Ricketts and his team can get up to 370 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, making a cross-country trip possible.

He said it costs about $4.75 to produce hydrogen equivalent to a gallon of gasoline, so the process is not economical until gasoline reaches about $5 a gallon.

Still Ricketts feels like his research is beneficial since it shows a way to fuel vehicles with hydrogen in case of an emergency, such as another war in the Middle East that causes a spike in oil prices.

He said the system he developed at Middle Tennessee State would cost about $140,000 to duplicate — likely too much for one family, but affordable enough for a group.

Ricketts said he wanted his trip to demonstrate how hydrogen can be used to replace gasoline or other fossil fuels.

He said there have been some mechanical problems along the way, but they appear to unrelated to the hydrogen.

“It's kind of like climbing Mount Everest. Our goal is to get there,” he said. “We knew there'd be some challenges.”