Water Stabilized Hydrogen Fuel
Israeli-Australian company Electriq Global’s new technology stabilizes hydrogen in a recyclable liquid that can be pumped and transported just like gasoline. That’s huge news, because it enables long-range electric driving with fast refueling – and it plugs right into the existing fuel logistics model.
Plenty of people want to move on from gasoline and diesel. Some are environmentalists, some want to stop supporting the geopolitics of oil, some like the lightning-quick performance potential of electric motors. Whatever the reason, the fuel that powered the 20th century seems unlikely to maintain its transport lead through the 21st.
But today’s alternatives to fossil fuels all have their difficulties. EV batteries, for example, are heavy and expensive, they can struggle with heat, and they take an uncomfortably long time to charge, which many consumers aren’t willing to deal with on longer trips.
Mind you, batteries are significantly better than straight-up hydrogen, which is energy-inefficient to produce, difficult to store and transport, and adds explosive potential to crashes. Hydrogen’s main selling point is its ability to fit into current fuel distribution infrastructure; you can pump it into a car like gasoline, so if gas stations started carrying it, you’d be able to fill up anywhere.
But Electriq Global, an Israeli-Australian company, claims it’s invented a new fuel that combines the best aspects of gasoline, hydrogen and batteries into a cheap, green and recyclable liquid that it believes could be the transport fuel of the future.
Electriq says it has worked out a way to stabilize hydrogen in a liquid form that’s around 60 percent water. This makes it simple to transport and store, eliminating the single biggest reason why hydrogen hasn’t taken off at this point.
Using a standard sized fuel tank, the Electriq system would, according to modeling, cost less than half the equivalent gasoline price to fill up, and it would deliver around twice the range, while being completely emissions-free – at least, back to the fuel production plant.
Here’s how it works. Electriq produces the fuel at a production/recycling center. According to Electriq spokesman Michael Simonetti, the recipe is “surprisingly simple,” and doesn’t require any rare or expensive elements. When it’s fully loaded, the fuel contains about three percent hydrogen and 97 percent supporting material.
The fuel is moved via tanker to gas stations, much the same as happens with gasoline, and drivers fill up their cars at a pump.
The fuel tank in the car, which is about the same size as a regular fuel tank, has a separate module called the “Switch,” which releases small amounts of a catalyzing chemical into the fuel tank to release the hydrogen from the fuel.
Once the hydrogen is released, it’s sent directly to a fuel cell to be converted into electric energy, which is then used to power an electric drivetrain. Everything from the fuel cell onwards is standard and already on the road in existing fuel cell vehicles.
“If you picked up a Toyota Mirai today,” says Simonetti, “and took out the hydrogen tank, and switched it out with this fuel tank and the Switch, which is a single set of componentry, you’ve got a working car.”
Once enough of the Switch catalyst has been used to release all, or most, of the hydrogen, it’s time to refill the tank – but one unique feature of the Electriq technology is that the remaining fuel material (comprising some 97 percent of the total volume) is completely recyclable.
Thus, when you go to the gas station to fuel up, it’s a dual process, in which your spent fuel is pumped out, and fresh fuel is pumped in. This two-way fuel process goes all the way back up the chain; the gas station would store a tankful of spent fuel, which an Electriq tanker would pick up after dropping off fresh fuel, and take it back to the production facility where it will have the hydrogen put back in.
December 4, 2018 at 01:49PM