(NaturalNews) The Arizona-based company Ecotality has announced plans to produce a device that generates hydrogen on demand for vehicle fuel cells, thus eliminating the many problems associated with hydrogen production and transport and bringing hydrogen cars closer to the realm of the practical.
The Hydratus, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, generates hydrogen from magnesium and water in a chemical reaction that takes place at temperatures between 400 and 600 degrees Celsius. The byproducts of the reaction are water and powdered magnesium oxide.
Ecotality CEO Jonathan Read says that the magnesium oxide powder is 99.8 percent recyclable. According to Read, the used powder could be converted back into magnesium pellets to be used in another Hydratus. He envisions filling stations where consumers will easily pump out used magnesium oxide and pump in new magnesium and water in about three to five minutes. The magnesium oxide, he says, could be recycled on-site at the filling stations.
The big advantage of a hydrogen-on-demand system like the Hydratus is that hydrogen is very expensive to produce, compress, transport and store safely. The Hydratus eliminates the need for all these intermediate steps. According to Ecotality, another key advantage of the Hydratus is its primary fuel source.
"Magnesium is the fourth most common mineral in the world and could be extracted from the sea. It's common and available in almost all countries. The magnesium, once it's put into the system, is a contained system. So there is no need to continue mining," Read said.
Stressing magnesium's advantages over petroleum, Ecotality refers to the metal as "safe, non-toxic, nonexplosive and geopolitically neutral."
"Magnesium oxide systems are certainly viable, but zinc oxide offers an even safer and more economical way to power vehicles via electricity," said Mike Adams, technology innovator and founder of EcoLEDs.com, a manufacturer of eco-friendly LED lighting products. "Zinc is a more common mineral in the Earth's crust than magnesium and can be charged, used and recharged in a closed system just like magnesium. Both technologies offer significant advantages over combustion engines."
Ecotality plans to unveil a prototype Hydratus by the end of the year. A hydrogen-powered bus equipped with such a device would be able to run about 155 miles on one tank of fuel, which would cost approximately $17.50 per gallon. Such a bus would cost about $500,000, in contrast to $300,000 for a bus with a conventional petroleum combustion engine.