Professor succeeds in trek across U.S.

An alternative fuels researcher and professor whose passion was to drive across the country using no gasoline fulfilled his dream Thursday. Middle Tennessee University professor Cliff Ricketts, a Mt. Juliet native, and his team drove 2,600 miles from Tybee Island, Ga. and passed through Te...
Mar 15, 2013
 Photo: Photo courtesy of MTSU news and media relations

Co-driver Terry Young, of Woodbury, gives a thumbs-up to those watching Cliff Ricketts drive the final few feet to the edge of the Pacific Ocean on Thursday in Long Beach, Calif. They combined to drive 2,600 miles using no gasoline.

An alternative fuels researcher and professor whose passion was to drive across the country using no gasoline fulfilled his dream Thursday.

Middle Tennessee University professor Cliff Ricketts, a Mt. Juliet native, and his team drove 2,600 miles from Tybee Island, Ga. and passed through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico to end their journet at Huntington Beach, Calif. The entire journey took no gas to fuel a 1994 Toyota Tercel and a 2005 Toyota Prius, but rather were powered by sun and water. They were adapted to run off hydrogen gas Ricketts extracted from water.

It's been a decade-long year quest to accomplish, said Ricketts on Friday

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An alternative fuels researcher and professor whose passion was to drive across the country using no gasoline fulfilled his dream Thursday.

Middle Tennessee University professor Cliff Ricketts, a Mt. Juliet native, and his team drove 2,600 miles from Tybee Island, Ga. and passed through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico to end their journet at Huntington Beach, Calif. The entire journey took no gas to fuel a 1994 Toyota Tercel and a 2005 Toyota Prius, but rather were powered by sun and water. They were adapted to run off hydrogen gas Ricketts extracted from water.

It's been a decade-long year quest to accomplish, said Ricketts on Friday.

"I felt like I climbed Mount Everest," said Ricketts. "It's been very challenging, and I've worked on this for 25 years. I feel like it's my contribution to mankind. I've proven you can run a vehicle on hydrogen alone, which eliminates the United State's dependence on gasoline."

Ricketts, 64, grew up on a farm in Mt. Juliet where he loved to tinker on farm equipment.

"This is really historic," he said.

He made the trek with co-driver Terry Young of Woodbury, Tenn.

"I've got a great support team," he said in a release by MTSU where he's been a professor for 37 years. "I've had probably 50-60 students over the last 25 years working on many components of it."

On Friday, the team was guests of Toyota of Huntington Beach following the journey's end.

Ricketts' trip comes in a time when gas prices rose significantly in February, passing $5 a gallon for regular unleaded in several states. As of Friday, AAA said the national average was $3.69 per gallon of regular unleaded and $3.51 on average in Tennessee. It costs about $4.50 to run on Ricketts’ system. He thinks things will go haywire when gas prices reach more than $5 a gallon.

How it works is somewhat complicated. To produce hydrogen, tap water is de-ionized and then is sent to an electrolysis unit. When that unit is running, it uses solar produced electricity. Then hydrogen comes out and goes into two, 500-gallon storage tanks and then is compressed. The car is then filled with hydrogen in two tanks and then the car is powered.

After this feat, Ricketts would like to relax for six months, and then begin to power his next agenda.  

"I think the project was positive, and people were appreciative of what we are doing," said Ricketts.

He hopes he captures the attention of someone in the U.S. Department of Energy to make his dream a reality.

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