Hydrogen-Powered Prius First Step to Cleaner Future

ECD Ovonics converts Toyota Prius gasoline-electric hybrid to run on hydrogen

Published: 12-Mar-2004

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich., March 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- There is no doubt that hydrogen is one of the most promising fuels of the future. The only remaining questions are how and when America's transportation fleet will make the leap to this clean, renewable energy carrier.

Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics) (Nasdaq: ENER) is convinced that the when is soon and the how is by means of a methodical transition from today's fossil-fueled vehicles to cars and trucks engineered for hydrogen propulsion. To take a long stride forward on this path, ECD Ovonics and its partners successfully completed a demonstration project to modify a commercial gasoline/electric hybrid vehicle to run on hydrogen utilizing a new low- pressure, metal hydride hydrogen storage system developed and manufactured by Texaco Ovonic Hydrogen Systems, LLC, a joint venture between a unit of ChevronTexaco Corp and ECD Ovonics.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), hybrid-electric vehicles are the most fuel-efficient autos currently on the road. "Combining the best features of an internal combustion engine with an electric drive system can significantly improve fuel economy without sacrificing performance or driving range," notes the EPA in its 2004 Fuel Economy Guide. A hydrogen- fueled hybrid vehicle builds on this foundation to create an ideal bridge to the future.

Auto industry experts agree that the ultimate goal is hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles. Unfortunately, some of the technology required to reach this end is not yet within reach. However, while the hydrogen hybrid runs on hydrogen just like a fuel-cell vehicle, it can be available much sooner and at a fraction of the cost. Exhaust emissions are reduced below the current SULEV/PZEV standard and no greenhouse gases are produced. It can share the same refueling equipment and follow codes and standards intended for implementation when fuel-cell vehicles arrive, thereby accelerating infrastructure build-up. This vehicle will also heighten consumer awareness of hydrogen's safety.

The demonstration vehicle is a modified Toyota Prius(R). The key change to the Prius(R) is the installation of a proprietary Ovonic(R) Solid Hydrogen Storage System (patent pending) developed and manufactured by Texaco Ovonic Hydrogen Systems. The major components of the Ovonic(R) system are:

Other modifications to the vehicle were: A hybrid hydrogen vehicle with an Ovonic(R) metal hydride onboard hydrogen storage system demonstrates excellent potential for meeting both fuel cost and driving range targets established by the Department of Energy (DOE). Alternative storage methods -- liquid hydrogen inside a super-insulated cryogenic tank and gaseous hydrogen stored at extreme pressures -- show notably less potential of meeting future goals than the ECD Ovonics approach.

ECD Ovonics began efforts to perfect metal-hydride technology many years ago and the company has established a dominant patent position in this field. The Ovonic(R) metal-hydride system engineered by Texaco Ovonic Hydrogen Systems comprises powdered metallic alloys capable of rapidly absorbing hydrogen.

A metal hydride is formed when gaseous H2 molecules dissociate into individual hydrogen atoms and bond with metal atoms in the storage alloy. Removing heat drives this absorption process, while adding heat reverses the chemical reaction, causing the hydrogen atoms to reform as H2 molecules inside the storage vessel.

The metal-hydride system offers several advantages in powering hydrogen- fueled vehicles over other types of systems. Storage density is significantly higher than high-pressure gaseous or liquid alternatives. The technology needed to store hydrogen within metal hydrides has gone through hundreds of refilling cycles with minimal performance degradation. Finally, the metal- hydride system is fully scalable and can be adapted for a variety of mobile tanks as well as larger scale systems for filling-station storage.

The hybrid vehicle modified by ECD Ovonics has a driving range of nearly 150 miles and requires about 10 minutes for refueling using a filling pressure of 1500 psi. Combining two of the installed Ovonic(R) Solid Hydrogen Storage tanks would exceed DOE's 250-mile range target, while a more efficient heat exchanger could be used to shorten refueling time.

About ECD Ovonics
ECD Ovonics is the leader in the synthesis of new materials and the development of advanced production technology and innovative products. It has invented, pioneered and developed enabling technologies in the fields of energy and information leading to new products and production processes based on amorphous, disordered and related materials. ECD Ovonics' proprietary advanced information technologies include Ovonic(TM) phase-change electrical memory, Ovonic(TM) phase-change optical memory and the Ovonic(TM) Threshold Switch. The Company's portfolio of alternative energy solutions includes thin-film amorphous solar cells, modules, panels and systems for generating solar electric power; NiMH batteries; hydride storage materials capable of storing hydrogen in the solid state for use as a feedstock for fuel cells or internal combustion engines or as an enhancement or replacement for any type of hydrocarbon fuel; and fuel cell technology. ECD Ovonics designs and builds manufacturing machinery that incorporates its proprietary production processes, maintains ongoing research and development programs to continually improve its products and develops new applications for its technologies. ECD Ovonics holds the basic patents in its fields. More information on ECD Ovonics is available on http://www.ovonic.com .

This release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Safe Harbor Provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements are based on assumptions which ECD Ovonics, as of the date of this release, believes to be reasonable and appropriate. ECD Ovonics cautions, however, that the actual facts and conditions that may exist in the future could vary materially from the assumed facts and conditions upon which such forward-looking statements are based.

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