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Sandia Successfully Completes Hydrogen Storage System for GM

The hydrogen storage system Sandia designed for GM. To the right is the “SmartBed,” featuring a thermal management system with individual control of four identical modules, each of which is a shell and tube heat exchanger. The sodium alanate material used to store the hydrogen resides within the tubes. (Photo by Randy Wong) Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have successfully designed and demonstrated key features of a hydrogen storage system that utilizes a complex metal hydride material—sodium alanate. The system, developed through a multiyear project funded by General Motors Corp., stores 3 kilograms of hydrogen and is large enough to evaluate control strategies suitable for use in vehicle applications. (Earlier post.)

Sandia researchers point out that the system was not meant to fit on board a vehicle, and that sodium alanate will not be the material of choice for onboard storage of hydrogen. But, although it is indeed larger and heavier than a viable automotive storage system requires, the system’s engineered elements address many of the thermal management issues that are necessary for successful vehicular storage of hydrogen.

The design tools developed by Sandia researchers now provide GM with a workable template for future designs, which is expected to significantly save the company costs and time when developing hydrogen storage systems for onboard vehicular applications.

For GM, the enduring value of this project can be found in the design concepts, computational tools, and control strategies that Sandia developed. With this new body of knowledge and information, we will be able to quickly design viable systems as new storage materials emerge.

—Jim Spearot, GM lead executive for hydrogen storage

“We’ve shown that we can engineer vehicle-scale energy storage systems to meet a variety of operating requirements and driving cycles, and our design methods have been validated for relevant materials.”
—Terry Johnson

In addition to its size and storage capacity, the unique features of the Sandia system include an advanced heating system whereby a fraction of the stored hydrogen is used to provide heat to release the remaining hydrogen. This method—the catalytic combustion of hydrogen—is not new, Sandia engineer Terry Johnson said, but is unique to this particular application and the first to be successfully demonstrated. “We chose not to use resistive (electrically driven) heating, because it would have necessarily resulted in a larger and heavier system,” he said.

After considering a number of thermal management options, Sandia selected a “shell and tube” heat exchanger, a heating technique common in many industrial processes. The “SmartBed”—a term coined by Sandia that refers to the method for controlling a modular storage system—consists of four identical modules, each of which contains a shell and tube heat exchanger. The sodium alanate used to store the hydrogen resides within the tubes, which essentially serve as a high-pressure storage vessel. Inside the shell, a heating fluid circulates to transfer heat to and from the sodium alanate.

The modular design of the system means that only a minimum amount of the storage material needs to be heated at any one time. The design also aids in the packaging of the system to fit on board a vehicle.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.



This is spelled "red herring", H2 storage not even for a vehicle and again years away if ever commercialized.

GM stopped large EV scale NiMH batteries, as in the 1997 Toyota EV RAV4(many now with 150,000 miles), by selling the technology to an oil company. By lawsuit, Chevron then closed the Japanese assembly line producing them and refuses to produce or license EV scale batteries.

Thus, EV's have been mostly limited to small cell NiMH battery hybrids.

The EV-2, 3, 4 etc could be economically on the roads by now, were GM seriously interested in economical vehicles and EV customers.

Since vehicles are kept ~ten years, think of gas prices five years from now as 10 mpg trucks go the way of GM.

23 days till GM is Chryslered....


For all you hobbyists out there, I found a source for NiMH D cells with 10 ah rating for around $5 each in quantity.

I plan to use them in a solar charged electric bike and electric lawn mower soon.



I see your not waiting on H2. Please update as project progresses. How many D cell connections will the projects need?


Has anyone tracking NiMH noticed that the wiki entry has been re-written to:
exclude inventor(Stan Ovshinsky) info, exclude the GM-Texaco-Chevron NiMH sale, exclude the Chevron lawsuit that disassembled EV-95 battery assembly lines and cost the Japanese $32 million..



I will need 20 D cells for the mower and 20 for the bike. You can buy them in 8 and 16 piece sets, so I will have a few spares for other uses like flashlights.

Will S

kelly, see;, unless you meant something else.


Will S,

1. Not under NiMH batteries any longer
2. Who would search: Patent_encumbrance_of_large_automotive_NiMH_batteries
w/o any idea such a thing had happen?

It's like comparing: and



I have a 250 watt(12v*7a*2 bat.) electric bike assist(~1/3 hp) with a ~8 mi. level charge range, so 1.2v*10a*20 watts should be OK for a bike, but a 18 inch lawn mower may discharge pretty quick(~1/2 hr).


Ah the sillies are out today I see.

This is just a setup to test the basics of absorbative storage systems so they can start getting good data while they wait for the industry to run through the permutations till they find a realy good material.

Might as well rail at a company developing a battery cooling system or any other basic work that gets done all the time.


Agreed, the article's BS and misleading, at least as far as a greencar tech is concerned. Fortunately, only one comment judges the 'sillies'...


1/2 an hour for the mower is more than enough, I do not have a large lawn. The bike can get about 10 miles range, which is enough for me as well. I like to charge them using solar panels, it just seems like the right thing to do.

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