Cliff Ricketts, Professor of Agricultural Education at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is attempting to drive across the country on only ten gallons of gas by modifying his car to run on hydrogen. He will start his journey in Savannah, Georgia and drive all the way to Long Beach, California; the mileage for this trip is 2,532 miles, not counting detours for food or motels. That is 253.2 miles or more for every gallon of gas used!
The 63 year old attributes his mission to his concerns about America’s dependance on foreign oil over the past three decades,”In case there was a national emergency now, it wouldn’t be unrealistic for gas to go to $10 or $15 a gallon in the U.S.; if that happens, people will go, ‘What do we do?’ Well, we’ve got a backup plan.”
Predictions about gasoline going up that high could drive anyone to seek other alternatives. With the help of MTSU students and funding from small research grants, Cliff and his team have “refitted three used cars – two Toyota Priuses and a 1994 Toyota Tercel – to run on compressed hydrogen, batteries, or E95, which is mostly ethanol with a little conventional gasoline mixed in.”
The conversions to the Prius were not that expensive considering the amount of gas that they save, “Ricketts said refitting a 2007 Prius to run on hydrogen and battery power cost about $4,000 for hydrogen tanks and $1,500 to convert the car from conventional gasoline. He said those costs would likely go down if gasoline-free vehicles ever went into mass production.”
Cliff’s originally intended to use no gasoline for the trip, “my big goal [was] to go coast to coast on sun and water” – “extracting hydrogen from water in the lab with solar power “- but he had to switch to switched to E95 because he could not get the hydrogen tanks necessary to achieve this process. If he would have been able to attain the tanks then he would not have needed any gasoline whatsoever.
Cliff’s team is already en route and is expected to reach Long Beach by Thursday.