Hydrogen/CNG Home Refueling - The Station That Bain Built
NHA HomeNHA News Index

By Debbi Smith, Consultant, National Hydrogen Association

Addison Bain, a retired NASA Hydrogen Program Manager and founding member of the National Hydrogen Association, has long been a hydrogen visionary. As far back as he can remember, Addison Bain has always been interested in things that go—rockets, planes, and automobiles. From the moment he first discovered hydrogen had the potential as a fuel, Bain has been a devotee to enabling hydrogen's fuel use.  His transportation and hydrogen interests were first brought together the day he walked in to Marshall Space Flight Center to work on rockets. In a career that has spanned over 40 years, Addison has had many opportunities to put hydrogen and transportation together. On April 29, 2003, he did it again when he unveiled his hydrogen/CNG home refueling station.

On hand for the unveiling of Addison Bain's home refueling station were, from left to right: H.T. Everett (NASA-KSC), Jack Shye (Precision Group), Neil Rossmeissl (DOE-EERE), Addison Bain, Larry Belnoski (Air Products), Bob Miller (Air Products), David Block (Florida Solar Energy Center), Mike Kerr (Praxair).  Not pictured: Jim Ohio (NREL), Ali Raissi (FSEC).

Addison Bain's desire to have a home refueling station began a few years ago when he rescued his NASA HCNG-hybrid vehicle from a government auction. The Ford Crown Victoria ICE had been hybridized in 1993 to run on gasoline and varying blends of CNG and hydrogen as a demonstration project for NASA. A consortium involving NASA-Kennedy Space Center, Florida Solar Energy Center, City Gas Company, Praxair, and Ford Motor Company, developed the project. While the car was owned and operated at Kennedy Space Center, the alternative fuels were first blended and then the vehicle was refueled, a technique commonly practiced. Addison's plan for his home station was to refuel with hydrogen and CNG independently and let the blending occur in the car's tanks, in situ.

"Getting the natural gas was easy," said Bain. "It was already in the house." By having the concrete pad under his home gas meter extended, he incorporated a compressor and extra pipe. "The hydrogen supply was a little trickier," said Bain. "I could have purchased  K-bottles of hydrogen at a local supplier, but I wanted to make my own hydrogen at home… by electrolysis."

A compressor by Fuel Maker increases gas from less than one to 3,000 psig.

Finding a suitable, affordable electrolyser was a challenge. Proton Energy Systems, Inc., an NHA Small Business Member, had a possible solution.  On a break at the National Hydrogen Association's 13th Annual Conference, Bain wandered through the exhibition area and found Proton Energy's booth. He told Dr. Tom Maloney of Proton his dilemma. A dialog began at that booth which eventually led to a lease/purchase agreement on a Proton HOGEN FC Generator (electrolyser). Proton uses the HOGEN FC model to generate the hydrogen supply for gas chromatographs, but Bain may have uncovered a new niche in the marketplace--adding small amounts of site-produced hydrogen to natural gas-powered vehicles to further reduce emissions.

Addison Bain is currently field-testing Proton's generator for a vehicular application. The electrolyser uses household tap water which must first be de-ionized. Bain has paired an Aqua Solutions Type II de-ionizer with the HOGEN FC, as recommended by Proton Energy Systems. His "balance of plant" includes a leak detector, six hydrogen K-bottles connected to each other by a stainless steel manifold, a fill hose and quick-connect, safety vents in the garage and attic-access doors and a vent stack outside the garage for the natural gas line and hydrogen system.

The Refueling Station.  A control/isolation panel was designed and built by the Precision Group.  Compressed natural gas from the city gas company refills the vehicle by the left valve, while hydrogen, manufactured with Proton's Hogen FC Generator, feeds into the vehicle from the right.

Recent additions to the car are a dashboard-mounted pressure gauge and a performance computer. The pressure gauge is cleverly designed to be less hazardous than typical gauges. Grease instead of fuel moves through the 1/4" line between the transducer and the dash to give the pressure reading in psig. The computer displays rpm, horsepower, torque, acceleration rates and 15 other performance analysis functions. These can be downloaded and analyzed on Addison's personal computer.

Now that the proof of concept has been achieved, Addison plans to continue to work the bugs out of the system and feed the information back to Proton Energy. He will also try different blends and fill techniques, like cascading the hydrogen from the K-bottles. "But that's down the road a little," says Bain.

Addison Bain has achieved notoriety through his work in uncovering the mystery of the Hindenburg. His research and conclusions about the accident have been reported in numerous magazines and journals, and has been featured on television programs on Discovery Channel, History Channel and the BBC. He is currently writing a book about his life with hydrogen under the working title, "The Freedom Element." ©2003. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
This material may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

NHA Home • Return to NHA News Index