From: , Private Landowner Network, More from this Affiliate
Published February 8, 2008 09:36 AM

Mechanically Energized: Readily Commercialized

Current conventionally powered vehicles, gasoline-electric hybrids, natural gas vehicles, biofueled vehicles as well as rechargeable battery electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles all have something in common: They’re refueled by way of a “tether” that links them to a stationary energy source. A hose is used to replenish a supply of gaseous or liquid fuels, or a cord is used to supply a flow of electrons.

Yet while that’s how we refuel our vehicles, we refuel, reenergize, other devices quickly and safely by mechanical means. We remove and replace batteries in flashlights and power tools. We mechanically exchange gas filled cylinders for barbecue grilles and tools such as propane torches.

Mechanical reenergizing by batteries and gaseous cylinders use a totally different supply and distribution network that is reliable and ingrained into our economy: brick and mortar retail stores, Internet sales and package delivery services. We buy batteries at stores to bring home to put to work. We exchange spent gas cylinders at home improvement stores. While gas-filled tanks can’t be ordered over the Internet and delivered to our front doors, batteries of all kinds certainly can.

So, if mechanical refueling as well as the distribution supply chain of retail sales and package delivery services are used to keep flashlights lit, power tools operating and grilles fired, why can’t we use this fueling method and reliable distribution network to energize our cars? Business and industry already use mechanical fueling for industrial equipment such as fork lift trucks, why can’t we mechanically refuel our cars and light trucks?

Well, some have been thinking about this. There are at least four, possibly more, plans out there to bring mechanical refueling to our personal vehicles.

--- Power Zinc Electric, of the City of Industry, California and Shanghai, China have a mechanical refueling model where the company’s zinc-air fuel cells are removed, replaced and recycled. The fuel cells provide electricity to drive an electric vehicle. The electricity is generated in the electrochemical reaction of zinc when exposed to air in a electrolytic solution (not unlike that in a disposable flashlight. Spent fuel cells would be recycled at centralized or local plants.

(This zinc-air refueling/recycling scenario was proven in the early 2000’s by Electric-Fuel, now Arotech, in a program which culminated in the development of a zinc-air powered transit bus. In the US federally-assisted program the bus achieved well over 100 miles range in testing. The project is now shelved.)


--- Project Better Place, of California, has a business model for electric cars that would be similar to that used by mobile phone operators. Instead of cell towers to provide a wide area of mobile phone coverage, Project Better Place would establish a network of charging spots and battery remove and replace exchange stations. Already somewhat advanced in this plan, the organization, in partnership with French automaker Renault, has a memorandum of understanding with the state of Israel to begin building a network there.

In this plan the cost of a vehicle’s battery and its recharging and/or exchange would be paid for in a subscription plan like that used by the cell phone industry where the cost of cell phone usage also subsidizes the cost of the phone. With Project Better Place, battery usage by subscription would subsidize the cost of the battery.

Battery replacement would take only a few minutes and within a fully-built network driving range would be unlimited.

--- Hydrogen Power of Seattle, Washington is developing a technology where hydrogen is generated by the reaction of aluminum and water. Hydrogen generated would be used to power a fuel cell or even an internal combustion engine.

Since canisters or cartridges would contain little other than aluminum powder mix they could be sold in retail stores or on the Internet to be delivered to people’s front doors. Presumably the canisters could be recycled.

While the company doesn’t specifically mention the use of its technology in passenger vehicles, the idea seems feasible.

--- Finally, Limnia of San Francisco, California is developing a system where hydrogen is stored in a solid state storage cassette. Cassettes would be removed and replaced in a vehicle they could be recharged with hydrogen with a home based unit or at refilling and/or exchange outlets. The cassettes would be safe to ship by package delivery services thus could be sold over the Internet. Hydrogen would be used to power a fuel cell in the vehicle.

The company says that their cassettes could also be used to power a home.

While the fine details of the solid state hydrogen storage are proprietary; the company has received a US patent on the technology: US. Patent No. 7279222. Further solid state hydrogen storage itself is a proven technology. Well respected Energy Conversion Devices (ECD) has been working with it for a number of years.

Even if solid state hydrogen storage were expensive, a model similar to the Project Better Place (see above) subscription model could be developed.

All of the above have commonalities too. All could be readily commercialized: the sales and distribution network, for the most part, already exists. Further, they all could be considered really disruptive to the status quo, fuel-by-tether model. (Unless of course the existing members of the current energy supply chain chose to get involved with this new way of fueling.)



Power Zinc Electric

Energy Conversion Devices

Electric Fuel (Arotech) Electric Vehicle division

Hydrogen Power

Project Better Place


U.S. Patent No. 7279222

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