Milan, Italy – Might twenty eighth, 2018: Mercedes-Benz Citaro FuelCell Hybrid bus on the road. This car is likely one of the first gasoline cell, hydrogen buses on the earth. This mannequin is provided in a gasoline cell who generates electrical energy by means of the chemical response between hydrogen and oxygen to energy the motor driving the car. The hydrogen replaces gasoline as gasoline in future. Photograph credit score: GettyGetty

Every week I obtain press releases about “recreation-altering applied sciences” within the power area. The variety of these applied sciences that finally find yourself as recreation-changers is fairly near zero, however I do not instantly disregard such claims until they clearly violate legal guidelines of science.

I’m, however, naturally skeptical till satisfied in any other case.

Such was the case this week once I acquired a press launch from Australian-Israeli startup Electriq~International. The press launch learn partially:

Australian-Israeli firm Electriq~International and Dutch firm Eleqtec have entered into an settlement to launch Electriq~International’s water-based mostly gasoline know-how within the Netherlands. Collectively they plan to launch Electriq~Gasoline’s recycling crops, and introduce eMobility purposes for vans, barges and cellular turbines.

Comprised of 60% water, Electriq~Gasoline is a recreation-changer in zero-emissions power. The revolutionary gasoline is a price-environment friendly various to batteries and compressed hydrogen. When in comparison with inexperienced power storage options like lithium-ion batteries or compressed hydrogen, Electriq~International achieves a higher vary at a decrease value. The power density potential of the know-how is as much as 15 occasions that of electrical batteries presently in use in electrical automobiles.”

When a declare implies that water is getting used as a gasoline, it all the time will increase my skepticism. However, I replied to this specific press launch and advised them I would wish further info earlier than appearing on the press launch:

I would wish to know some particulars they in all probability aren’t prepared to surrender. For instance, water itself cannot be a gasoline. It is a combustion product. The one option to flip it right into a gasoline is so as to add power someplace. I might boil the water and switch it into steam. I might electrolyze the water to make hydrogen. I might add one thing (like sodium metallic) that might react with the water to supply hydrogen. However every of those steps includes power addition into the system.”

That is the catch with any of those techniques that seemingly depend on water as a gasoline. Water cannot be a gasoline, identical to carbon dioxide cannot be a gasoline. These are combustion merchandise. They will each be transformed into fuels, or into power carriers, however that requires further power inputs. And this is the catch. The legal guidelines of thermodynamics require that the power inputs to create a gasoline will all the time be larger than the power you get again when utilizing that gasoline.

For instance, I can create hydrogen from water by passing electrical energy via it. I can then burn that hydrogen for power, however it will all the time be lower than the quantity of power I consumed in producing the hydrogen.

It’d, as an example, require 4 British thermal models (BTUs) of electrical energy to create three BTUs of hydrogen. There are instances the place that is economically justified, however you need to make certain that the 4 preliminary BTUs that have been used could not be used to energy the ultimate software. It is usually extra environment friendly to make use of 4 BTUs of electrical energy to energy a car than to transform that into three BTUs of hydrogen to energy the car.

I did obtain a response, nevertheless it was only a press package that went into a number of extra particulars. The press package did acknowledge that the water “reacts” with a catalyst to supply hydrogen. As a nitpick, a catalyst will increase the speed of a chemical response with out itself being consumed within the response. If the substance is definitely reacting with water it is not a catalyst, it’s a reactant.

For instance, as I discussed in my response, sodium metallic reacts — violently — with water to type sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and hydrogen (H2). The response evolves power so quickly that the hydrogen can explode. Within the course of, the sodium metallic is transformed to sodium ions. Thus, sodium is a reactant and never a catalyst. Additional, it’s extremely power intensive to transform sodium ions again into sodium metallic.

I do not know for a undeniable fact that that is the case with the Electriq~Gasoline, however the press package does say that the “catalyst” is a salt chemical they name BH4. I think it’s a metallic hydride (like sodium hydride, NaH). This class of compounds will produce hydrogen when reacted with water, however are themselves power intensive to supply. 

Thus, a automotive operating on such a system might declare to be a zero carbon emission car, however these emissions do happen the place the salt itself is produced. Very similar to an electrical car operating on coal-fired energy releases zero emissions, however there are emissions related to the manufacturing of its electrical energy.

That is clear from the press package, which says “The footprint of our know-how is zero once we use renewable power to recycle our gasoline. We eat low purity industrial H2 that’s produced as by product of different chemical processes (eg: manufacturing of chlorine or metal).”

That might be true in concept, however far too many applied sciences invoke the magic wand of renewable power to say zero emissions. What we would love to know are the precise required power inputs to supply sufficient salt to propel the car X miles. That approach, we might examine this know-how to the power effectivity of an inner combustion engine or an electrical car.

Additional, in my expertise “low purity industrial H2″ is usually used on website for gasoline, quite than transported elsewhere to an finish consumer. There is not an abundance of such hydrogen out there to customers. 

In conclusion, it was under no circumstances my intention to discredit or disparage the Electriq~Gasoline know-how. As I discussed in my reply to them, I would wish extra particulars earlier than I might make a willpower on whether or not I view this as a “recreation-changer.” My intent right here was somewhat to assist readers perceive the sorts of questions it is best to ask when assessing these types of claims.