Hydrogen Powers Family’s Car and Home

  • Mike Strizki demonstrates how a balloon filled with hydrogen can run a fuel cell and power an electric fan for about 45 minutes.

Many homeowners have reduced their fossil fuel consumption by placing solar panels on their rooftops. But one man has gone to a whole new level. He’s created a homemade power plant that runs on solar power and hydrogen fuel cells. Brad Linder reports:


Many homeowners have reduced their fossil fuel consumption by placing solar panels on their rooftops. But one man has gone to a whole new level. He’s created a homemade power plant that runs on solar power and hydrogen fuel cells. Brad Linder reports:

Mike Strizki’s been tinkering with cars his whole life. Over time the 49-year old engineer became convinced that hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were the future of the auto industry. But during his 16 years with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Strizki saw there was a problem with fuel cell cars: nobody was really building them.

“You had the auto makers and you had government pointing fingers. Well, you know, you build the fuel cell cars first and then we’ll provide the infrastructure. And they said, well you provide the infrastructure, and we’ll build the fuel cell cars. And I got tired of hearing that argument. And I said well, one way to solve the problem is to make your infrastructure your home.”

Five years and half a million dollars later, Strizki’s achieved his dream.

Here’s how it works. Strizki’s garage is covered with solar panels. They provide electricity for his house, and when there’s extra power, it’s routed to a device called an electrolizer, which breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen.

During the summer, the hydrogen is stored in fuel tanks on Strizki’s property. And in the winter, he runs the hydrogen through a 6 kilowatt fuel cell to make energy. Strizki, his wife, and three children, are the first family in the country to live in a house powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells and solar power.

And there’s another benefit: Strizki can fuel up his hydrogen fuel cell vehicles at a gas pump near his garage.

(Car accelerating sound on pavement)

“The fuel cells have enough to run the vehicle at about 50mph on fuel cells alone. If you’re going faster than that you’re sipping off the battery pack at a very low rate.”

Strizki helped design this car for Rutgers University 7 years ago. It’s been running ever since. Now that he has a fueling station at his home, he plans to convert his other car, a Toyota Prius, to run on hydrogen as well.

Strizki pulls up to the hydrogen fueling station – a series of converted propane tanks out by his garage. Opening his car’s trunk, Strizki connects a hose from those tanks to a smaller tank in the car.

“That’s how it refuels.”

Strizki’s system runs like a well oiled machine, only without the oil. But it wasn’t always so simple. When he first decided to build his home power plant, Strizki sought government approval from his home town of East Amwell New Jersey.

“I said all right, I’m doing this like anybody else who’s getting a building permit. I walked into the town and I said here, I want to build a solar hydrogen fuel cell home… and well, that… you know, the first place I went was the zoning officer, and he told me it’s an uncustomary use in a residential zone, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I allow this.”

East Amwell Mayor Kurt Hoffman says the zoning officer was known as a stickler. The township had accidentally removed a line in a local zoning law allowing homeowners to use alternative energy.

“So we did an addendum to the zoning ordinance to allow alternative energy usages. These kinds of things, they have to be publicly noticed, you have to have public hearings. That brought out some people’s concern about hydrogen technology and the safety issue.

Hoffman says Strizki brought in a series of experts to testify that his house wasn’t going to blow up. The hydrogen was being stored at a safe pressure in the same type of tank normally used for propane.

Strizki says he’ll probably never make back the half-million dollars it costs to build his system. But he hopes to cut the costs by 90%, by mass producing and selling solar-hydrogen fuel cell systems to other homeowners. He says the future of the planet depends on renewable energy and not fossil fuels that have to be transported halfway across the world.

“At least the fact that I’m using the energy in the same place that I’ve created it, the energy is still zero carbon, and it’s still free, once you’ve paid for the equipment.

The Strizki’s don’t skimp on electricity. They have a big screen TV, a hot tub, and all modern appliances. And Strizki takes great pride in the fact that he can power everything, including his car, using renewable hydrogen power.

“There’s no shelf life, and that’s what powers the sun. When the sun stops shining, we’re all dead. So this is a much better solution than digging big holes in the ground, throwing sulfur up into the air. This is something that’s definitely sustainable. We just have to have the will to do it.”

For the Environment Report, I’m Brad Linder.

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