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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 Modified: March 12, 2013 at 10:08 pm •  Published: March 13, 2013

There are a lot of logistics involved for Cliff Ricketts and his team as they drive from Georgia to California in a pair of hydrogen-fueled cars.

Ricketts, an agriculture professor at Middle Tennessee State University with an interest in alternative fuels, said his team packed its own fuel since it is facing a challenge similar to the Wright brothers, who embarked on their maiden flight without an airport.

“We have no fueling stations,” he said.

Ricketts stopped Tuesday in Midwest City on his way to Long Beach, Calif. He expects to arrive by Thursday afternoon after starting the week in Tybee Island, Ga.

He has been interested in alternative fuels since the 1978 gasoline crisis.

Ricketts started working with ethanol as a way to help farmers provide their own fuel. He also has run vehicles over the years on biodiesel, cooking oil and methane from cow manure.

“My goal was always to run an engine off water,” he said.

Ricketts said he started down that path in October 1987, but not without some setbacks. He admits his first attempts with hydrogen proved more explosive than productive.

“I've been working on this for 25 years,” he said. “I'm pretty slow.”

Ricketts is convinced he is on track now, with a 2005 Toyota Prius and 1994 Toyota Tercel that run on hydrogen.

The cars are powered by water and the sun, but he said it's not as simple as people might think.

“It's not solar panels on the car and water in the gas tank,” Ricketts said.

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