Archives – March 26, 2012

Water Powered Hybrids: The Technology of the Future

When people say hybrid, they automatically think of a technology that combines a traditional internal-combustion engine with an electric motor to propel a car. But, the truth is that there are numerous other technologies that can be used in order to create a hybrid car. However fuel efficient and less damaging for the environment the petroleum/electric hybrids may be, they are still using some form of polluting fuel. Some hybrid owners are not entirely concerned about the environmental impact. The truth is that green cars have gained in popularity because fuel costs increased dramatically. The hybrid gained acceptance when they were advertised as eco-friendly solutions.

Nowadays, several technologies have been developed and numerous others are being researched in order to create a new hybrid car, a high mileage vehicle. The current methods include a combination of electricity propulsion and various alternative fuel solutions, such as ethanol, compressed air, or liquid propane. Perhaps the most amazing of all the hybrid vehicles developed is the water-powered hybrid.

Water electrolysis, which is the foundation of this concept, is a process that was researched, documented and demonstrated by William Nicholson and Johann Ritter in 1800. The process would be used to separate chemical components using electricity in numerous applications. In hybrid cars, it is about separating hydrogen from oxygen using a direct current. The product which results from water electrolysis is oxyhydrogen, which is the cleanest fuel ever produced.

When a fuel is assessed to prove its use for propelling a vehicle, there are two main considerations:

  • If the fuel is used for a conventional internal combustion engine, what is the byproduct that results after its combustion?
  • How much energy can be produced using a particular amount of fuel compared to other existing fuels?

The first consideration evaluates environmental impact. When it comes to water, the byproduct of combustion would be steam and that can, by no means, represent a threat to the environment. The second consideration is the financial part. Normally, gasoline is used as a benchmark to compare other fuels as far as energy efficiency. How much energy can be contained in the same amount of hydrogen compared to gasoline? The answers vary from 50 to 70%, but it must also be remembered that this is a technology that is still in its infancy. The best things are yet to be discovered, but the fact is that cars can be propelled using water and that makes water the hybrid technology of the future.

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The Role of Batteries for Hybrid Cars

The fuel efficiency of hybrid cars depends entirely on batteries. Batteries are also the component that allows cars to be eco-friendly. These are two different aspects: one has a cost-saving purpose, while the other is focused on preserving the environment.

Hybrid cars are called hybrids because they do not use a single technology to propel a vehicle. They employ both electricity and another type of fuel.

In most cases, this other type of fuel is combusted in a conventional engine resulting in emissions that are released into the atmosphere. In order for a car to be completely zero emissions, it would have to depend solely on electricity.

The purpose of hybrid technology is to improve battery efficiency. Batteries are sources of energy that is produced by a chemical reaction. Basically, a battery is a tank of energy but, just like all tanks, it needs to be refilled.

Refilling in the case of batteries would be charging, but charging is not always practical. What hybrid manufacturers discovered was that they could use other forms of energy to turn into electrical energy and store it in the battery in order to increase the charging interval. Internal combustion engines produce energy and breaks produce energy, too. A generator takes this energy and makes it electricity that is stored in the car batteries. Another way to maintain the level of energy in a battery is to save energy. So hybrids, turn off the engine when idle, for example.

All of these things allow batteries to be efficient and yet maintain a modest size. The rule for batteries is simple, the larger the battery, the more energy it can store. Currently there are three main types of batteries used on the market:

  • The lead-acid battery is well known and has been used and is still used in conventional cars. These are very toxic and the combination of these batteries and hybrid technology seems to defeat the very purpose of hybrid cars: protecting the environment.
  • The NiMH or the nickel-metal hydride battery is considered less toxic than lead-acid batteries. Numerous hybrid cars have adopted this type of battery including the Toyota Prius.
  • Lithium-ion or the Li-ion batteries are very popular because they are the least toxic. It is also used in hybrid cars although it is mainly employed to charge small electronic devices. However, they seem to represent the future of hybrid cars batteries.

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