Hydrogen bonds

This morning we got into the queue for tech inspection the moment it opened. If we could make it through in the morning we'd be able to make the afternoon Urban Concept race. As we rolled up, the inspectors waved us through ahead of the queue and parked us next to the hydrogen station - they recognized us.

Getting in line for tech inspection on day 2.

Getting in line for tech inspection on day 2.

We popped off the back of the car, slid the hydrogen tank into the back, and started doing up the ratchet straps to secure it. The problem: they did not like the idea of mounting the tank on its side. The reason being that if one of the purge seals on the hydrogen tank were triggered, it would be exhausted into a wall rather than up and out of the car.

Back to the drawing board.

We finally decided to install two hooks into one of the rear supports in the car that we could use to tie down the tank. We gutted the rear of the car (carbon dust is very conductive), drilled out holes in the carbon fiber, and mounted the rings. Everything was then re-mounted in the car, albeit with a few re-arrangements to accommodate the new position of the hydrogen tank.

The return to tech inspection

We pushed the car back to tech inspection. They were immediately satisfied with the new mounting system, so we proceeded to hook up the hydrogen lines and began testing for hydrogen leaks. And we found them.

The hydrogen tank mounted in the back of the car.

The hydrogen tank mounted in the back of the car.

We pulled out each leaky connector, re-mounted, and re-tightened them, to no avail - as soon as we fixed one leak it seemed another popped up. The most frustrating aspect was that we had very little control over how much our components leaked - our fate was left to the molecular gods. While this continued, we got to know our main competition, the University of Missouri. We had talked before, so we knew that they were running a newer version of the same fuel cell stack, and they had had problems as frustrating as ours. At the same time, it was comforting to know that someone understood our plight: Mizzou knew that if we told them things were going well, there was a very good chance that things would immediately break. You might say we engaged in a little hydrogen bonding.

Work continued like this for a while until we found a leak in the connection between the hydrogen tank and regulator. A bit more debugging and we determined that it was ultimately the tank that was leaking. The tank was replaced, and the connections reset. A few quick tests later and we were given a clean bill of health! An hour later and we had passed the rest of tech inspection. Success!

Steve eying the practice track.

Steve eying the practice track.

 

Steve gets his wings.

Steve gets his wings.

 

Unfortunately we were too late to get a race in today, but a clean bill of health is a huge relief for tomorrow when we'll be able to get out early in the morning.

About Mike Blouin

Michael is the Electrical Team Lead on the University of Alberta Eco-Car team. This is his second year on the team, after taking the position of Sensors Team Lead in summer 2013. He is in his fourth year of Computer Engineering.

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