Thursday, March 21, 2013

[350] MTSU's Ricketts, team pass first-day coast-to-coast tests

News and Media Relations contact: Randy Weiler, 615-785-1196 (cell) or / Follow on Twitter @WeilerRandy

MTSU alternative fuels expert contact: Dr. Cliff Ricketts, 615-308-7605 (cell) or

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — After the first day of a 2,600-mile, coast-to-coast journey of driving on sun and hydrogen from water, Middle Tennessee State University alternative fuels researcher Dr. Cliff Ricketts said he has overcome the first hurdles.

“We had challenges and we were able to deal with them,” the veteran MTSU professor said Sunday during a break in the trip. The journey resumes Monday, March 11, as the team heads to Jackson, Tenn., and Memphis before stopping overnight in the Van Buren and Fort Smith, Ark., area.

Follow Ricketts’ quest on Twitter (@WeilerRandy).

Not long after a 2005 Toyota Prius, the first car being used on March 9, started out from Tybee Island, Ga., Ricketts learned it had a transmission coolant problem. Until it reached Macon, about three hours away, backup driver Terry Young of Woodbury, Tenn., had to stop several times, allowing the car to cool.

“I’m 99 percent sure it was not hydrogen-related,” said Ricketts, referring to part of the fueling source for the two primary vehicles being used in the drive. “That’s our guess. We don’t know for sure (that it was a transmission coolant problem). Toyota doesn’t know.”

By the time the car reached Macon, the problem seemed to have corrected itself.

The Prius and a 1994 Toyota Tercel use hydrogen from water separated by sun (solar), all produced on the MTSU campus, as the fuel sources.

Ricketts switched to the Tercel, nicknamed Forces of Nature, just south of Atlanta. It made it through Atlanta despite some traffic congestion and then the climb up Monteagle Mountain about 60 miles from its overnight destination of Murfreesboro.

“We got those behind us,” Ricketts said of the challenges. “Our next challenge will be Long Beach. As long as we arrive by 3 o’clock (Pacific time), we’ll be OK.” His reference to the challenge of Long Beach is traffic-related. They are expected to arrive there on Thursday, March 14.

Ricketts, who has spent 35 years in alternative fuels research, did add that another test will be made known Monday morning about 7. A 2007 Prius, used as a backup, has been in the shop with a mechanical issue.

The team plans to stop in Jackson, Tenn., and Van Buren and Fort Smith in Arkansas to meet with store officials from the Brentwood, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Company. TSC has been his major sponsor along with the MTSU Office of Research and Louisville, Ky.-based Farm Credit Services of Mid-America.

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