Monday, January 14, 2013

Can You Use A Green Energy Source Like Water to Power A Car?

For more than a century, we have relied on oil to fuel our cars. But did you know that the world’s oil production is now in permanent decline, and will eventually dry up completely? While that may not happen tomorrow or next year, or in the next decade, we are getting ever closer because of the increased demand in the world market, as well as the fact that fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource. Why wait for that day when we can rely on a green energy source like water to power our cars?

BMW Hydrogen 7 Engine From the TED Simulcast L...
BMW Hydrogen 7 Engine From the TED Simulcast Lounge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you think that’s impossible, you may be surprised to learn that this innovation is already in the works, but just not yet being made on a commercial scale.

The German automobile company BMW has recently produced the world’s first ever hydrogen powered car. While only 100 of these units were produced, it just goes to show the possibilities that can be achieved in this area.

The initial model, the BMW Hydrogen 7, uses the body of the 760i gasoline model. But once you pop the hood, you will notice that the engine is different since it uses both gas and hydrogen. Obviously we have not yet totally abandoned our dependence on gas. But given more time and money, the current 4.7 miles per gallon the car can travel using water alone could hit double digits in the near future.

The biggest challenge to using water as a green energy source as opposed to oil in vehicles is the engine. While there are cars around like the Prius, which runs on electricity and gas thanks to fuel cell technology, the hydrogen combustion engine is less than 10 years old so you could say we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

To prevent the water from evaporating in this type of engine, it has to be stored in a large, 30-gallon, bi-layered and highly insulated tank so this does not evaporate into compressed gas, which could pose a safety hazard. Another safety mechanism is the valves which are designed to open should the pressure within the tank exceed 5 bars.

With the success of the BMW H7, the company came out with a new car that is also partly powered by water known as the H2R. While we cannot yet put our garden hose into the fuselage to fill it up, this vehicle uses liquid nitrogen as a fuel.

Tests on this vehicle have shown it can achieve 285hp and reach a top cruising speed of 185.5 miles per hour. It can also accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour under 6 seconds.

English: Honda FCX
Honda FCX (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But why use water? The reason is that hydrogen combustion is clean, so it does not emit harmful gases into the atmosphere, unlike cars that run on petrol or diesel that emit carbon monoxide. Studies have shown that it also weighs less than hydrocarbon-based fuels and burns faster and more efficiently than conventional gasoline.

So when can you expect to buy a car that uses water as a green energy source? Hopefully in the next 15 to 20 years. It is really up to the automakers because all we can do is wait until a better and cleaner car hits the market.

Right now, the best option we have are electric cars. Since the electric car's introduction in 1999, more and more people are using them due to increased gasoline costs.  They provide a much cleaner and more efficient alternative to gasoline powered vehicles, and owners have been very satisfied with them. Until the hydro-powered car becomes a viable reality, remember, you may not be able to build your own hydrogen powered car, but you can vote with your wallet for cleaner and more eco-friendly choices!
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