DESCRIPTION: On a Friday afternoon in 2007 a traffic accident occurred at the corner of two urban streets. Two vehicles were involved. Each vehicle contained a single driver (no passengers). Vehicle 1 was a Fuel Cell Vehicle. Vehicle 2 was a conventional Toyota Camry. Vehicle 1 was traveling west, approaching an intersection with a green light, and proceeded into the intersection. Vehicle 2 was traveling north on a cross street. The driver of Vehicle 2 incorrectly perceived a green light and proceeded into the intersection. The vehicles collided in the intersection.
A hydrogen leak and subsequent explosion occurred when tie-downs on a hydrogen transport trailer securing hydrogen cylinder packages failed. The tie-down failure caused the hydrogen cylinder packages to fall off the trailer and eject some cylinders onto the roadway (see Figure 1). The cause of the accident is unknown, but it appears to be unrelated to hydrogen (i.e., likely tie-down strap weakness or error in properly securing tie-downs). The cylinders contained compressed hydrogen gas at 200 bar (2900 psi).
In early afternoon, a northbound tractor-semitrailer with horizontally mounted tubes filled with compressed hydrogen at approximately 2400 psi (166 bar) was struck by a northbound pickup truck that veered into the semitrailer's right rear axle. According to witnesses, the tractor-semitrailer then went out of control and left the roadway, coming to rest approximately 300 feet (91 meters) from the point of impact. As a result of rotational torque and impact, the end of one tube was sheared off at the bulkhead and left the tube bundle.
During the early morning hours on a Tuesday, a university support staff member was preparing for an off-campus community outreach program for high-school-age students in the community. One of the program demonstrations was to show students the reaction energy and properties of the hydrogen + oxygen = water chemical reaction. It was a demonstration that the professor and the staff member overseeing the program had done for over 15 years with no incidents ever occurring.