Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hydrogen Fuel Cells: "On Demand" Energy

Here's an alternative energy tidbit for you. Clean, cheap energy remains the Holy Grail of the modern scientific world (unless you rank the cure for cancer higher.) Among other approaches, ambitious companies are working hard on practical ways to make hydrogen fuel our cars. Bill Hobbs, writing yesterday at Ecotalityblog, says that Ecotality’s Hydratus technology combines magnesium and water, and the reaction between them produces hydrogen "on demand," as a vehicle's fuel cell has need of it. On demand sounds good, doesn't it? So does the idea of a fuel whose only byproduct is water, which is one of the lures of hydrogen as a source of energy, and Hobbs says this new technology can power a bus. The Smart People at Ecotality think they're onto something big.

Now, I'm not a chemist, or a physicist or any other kind of "ist," but I still found the short post about the Hydratus interesting. Although, maybe I found it interesting because I'm not an "ist." So far there are several comments from other Smart People in response to the post, explaining why using magnesium is not a net gain in terms of energy output, requiring too much energy to produce the magnesium which produces the hydrogen, and how there are other byproducts to deal with as well when magnesium is involved. Ecotality’s CEO, Jonathan Read, sounds awfully confident, though, claiming, "Hydrogen on-demand is going to be what catapults hydrogen from being a great concept to a great reality." Maybe the company is one or two steps ahead of the commenters. Smart People debates--fine entertainment for your Wednesday morning. I hope Ecotality comes out ahead on this one, though. It would be nice to see more really tangible advances on the alternative energy front.

Hat tip: Instapundit