February 9th, 2010
03:37 AM GMT
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For years, it's been called the fuel of the future. But I wasn't expecting THIS vision just yet.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology was first embraced a few years back by carmakers eager to go green. The big obstacle? Hydrogen at the pump wasn't available, and was expensive to produce.

But one inventor hope to change that.

Hubbing through Hong Kong, Taras Wankewycz showed me a table-top hydrogen power station that can extract hydrogen from water to be used in fuel cells.

The Hydrofill uses electricity from the outlet (as well as solar panels if you're particularly green), and produces hydrogen that can then be stored in refillable cartridges. The system can pump out 2.5 watts of power.

(And brushing Hindenburg nightmares aside, the company insists the technology is safe.)

No word yet on the cost. Online chatter puts it at about $200 for the whole kit, but Taras himself is mum on giving an exact number because he's still in talks with retailers. He expects to have it on shelves at the end of the year.

Taras' company, Singapore-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, is also pushing out a range of products which can use the cartridges to power up smartphones, lights and other devices including a zippy RC hydrogen fuel cell car.

Taras is confident his invention is the very first step to a so-called hydrogen economy where hydrogen displaces oil as our chief source of energy.

One interesting upside - hydrogen is a compact and relatively light source of power... which is why the US military has been developing hydrogen-powered drones.

Of course, the obvious big upside of hydrogen is that it's clean. Hydrogen fuel cells produce only water vapor as a by-product. But power is still needed to produce the stuff.

My own private... wind turbine? (Hat tip to Constance Cheng, my Eco Solutions producer.)



soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Deniz

    This blog post is misleading:
    1) Plug the hydrogen cell to outlet.
    2) Use the hydrogen cell.
    3) Charge your cell-phone

    How is this any cleaner than just plugging your cellphone to the outlet? If the electricity you are getting from the outlet is provided by a coal power plant, it is not green at all.

    Hydrogen is not a fuel source. It is just a storage vehicle – much like a battery. There is nothing green about adding a hydrogen cell to your house.

    February 9, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  2. Andrew

    First off, can we assume that this "invention" is simply doing hydrolysis of water which any fourth grader can do with a battery, two wires and a glass of water? That's fine, simple is good but I'd like to see the energy breakdown of this. First we burn fuel in a power plant (usually coal in the US) with resulting losses, then we send it through transmission lines (with losses), then we produce hydrogen (with losses), then we run it through our fuel cell (with losses). I could understand using solar or wind to create liquid fuel, but to turn fuel into electricity to create fuel to create electricity? Wouldn't we be better off turning coal directly into liquid fuel at an industrial scale? More to the point, is creating hydrogen by hydrolysis for a fuel-cell more efficient than charging a battery for an EV?

    February 9, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  3. toccata

    This is the most stupid idea around.
    1) It's not a novel Idea using electrolysis to produce Hydrogen from water is older than Edison
    2) The round trip electrical power plant=>Power grid=>electrolysis=>hydrogen fueled electrical cell is the most fuel un-efficient way to use energy.

    A mere sufuric acid/lead car battery would store more energy with a better ecological result

    February 9, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  4. W. Rivera

    Outstanding technology. Now all we need are the products that can use this. Lets hope it doesn't die on the vine.

    February 9, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  5. Calvin Smith

    Water vapor is worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

    February 9, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  6. Andreas Stockholm

    This is not the way to go – extracting hydrogen through electrolysis using household outlet current. The reason is that the efficiency of this process is so low it raises the question whether the total effect on the environment is a net positive or negative even when compared to hydrocarbon combustion engines. Having electric vehicles is a very good thing as there is way less spillage and no direct exhaust of greenhouse gasses 'but' the way these vehicles are charged is very much at the heart of the question. There are alternative ways to produce hydrogen at high rates using different methods, one was pioneered by the late US inventor Stanley Meyer. He found an alternative electrolysis process that works not by forcing current through water but high pulsed voltage and almost no current. That combined with standard fuel cells would be a very good solution since the total power usage would be less than what the engine could put out to power the vehicle. Yes you read that correctly, there would be a net power gain using his invention. Before everyone starts yelling foul and claiming basic thermodynamic laws to claim this is false, please review the efficiencies of modern heatexchangers which all have net power positive efficiencies (the whole point of them actually).

    February 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  7. Serge d'Arnault

    Although I understand the comments from most everyone (other then Adreas) regarding the preference of battery powered vehicles over hydrogen powered vehicles, but is that taking into consideration the cost on the environment of mass creating these batteries and considering where the resources for these batteries would come from (Lithium is predominantly found in Bolivia and Chile and although I wish these countries all the best, is it in the worlds interest to re-create the monopoly that OPEC has on oil and the effect that this has had on the OPEC country societies).

    If the concern of hydrogen as such is energy loss (again, Andreas column points to a potential solution there) then it still might be preferable then the host of potential negative effects a global Lithium based economy would have.

    February 10, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  8. Koos Rasser

    Even if hydrogen is generated using solar power, how "green" is it in that case? As the article says, the only by-product of a fuel cell is water. But ... water in vapor form is a greenhouse gas; in fact, water vapor is more effective in capturing heat than is carbon dioxide. We all know this from experience. When the air is very dry, as in thedesert, the temperature drops very quickly after sunset. But when the air is humid the heat of the day stays around for hours after sunset, often all night.
    Water vapor is generally omitted from climate models, in part because it's too complex to deal with. Ultimately it disappears from the air in the form of rain or dew. But if the use of fuel cells increases the average humidity levels, as I think it will, global warming will get worse.

    February 10, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  9. dk2009

    Wow. The narrow-mindedness of the posters here astounds me. First, the energy to power electrolysis can come from solar panels. Second, the water vapor can AND SHOULD be trapped so that the water can be recycled in the system to re-create the hydrogen. Third, to Serge's point, who said anything about batteries? Besides we mass produce many things so attaining resources will always be somewhat of an issue. The difference is that once renewable resources are developed they require little to keep producing energy – hence the name "renewable"! For instance, once a solar panel is built and begins producing energy the materials used to build that panel no longer need to be mined to keep that one panel working. Sure it will need to be cleaned once in a while but that is a far cry from having to refill a gas tank or mine more coal. I'm an American and I value independence, why wouldn't any of you want energy independence?

    February 11, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  10. Jack Singleton

    To get the 2.5 watts out it will probably require 10 watts or more from the DC outlet. Yes, DC because electrolysis requires DC to work.

    February 15, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  11. Ryan

    since when has hydrogen been a compact source of energy? Last time I checked it was one of the least energy dense substances (volumetrically). Powering a car or airplane off of hydrogen would mean drastically increasing the size of the fuel tank as well as potentially turning an accident into a bomb capable of taking out a few city blocks...

    February 19, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  12. plobre

    You do have a point here. I have read a lot about this on other articles written by other people, but I must admit that you have proved your point here! Will be back to read more of your quality information!

    April 10, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  13. Gabriel Walker

    Hydrogen Fuel is very promising, i only hope that we can mass produce soon enough.,,-

    May 20, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  14. milhomem

    This is most "prodigy invention-We need know more about this workApologize indiscreet words;I remembered my boyhood day twelve old year,when we made hydrogen boat"we use two tubes where keepe metamnol caldrdrun stean"vapour ,and the little boat start race making bubble in the water.Olso uw use eletrict bobbin,we make manipulator for transmission "code morse" ,nothing originate,all imitation ,how said Mr .Gabriel Tarde, i like so much anchor's cnn dialogue cnn work wander,under my point view "key under review"

    May 27, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  15. Abbie Hunt

    hydrogen fuel is not yet very practical and cost effective today*,:

    September 9, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  16. Melatonin Side Effects :

    hydrogen fuel is definitely the best way to go, it is 100% non-polluting and reneweable:;*

    October 24, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  17. geoffrey otieno onyonge(siir jeff aka goldcase)

    One thing we have to appreciate is the idea behind it for a good idea always gives rise to a better idea...when one takes into consideration the total cost of the whole project verses the current day to day production of energy its more viable..yes we might not agree with the modality or workability but one thing we all must nod our heads to in agreement is that its better than what we have and that is development

    November 6, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  18. Chinese Girls

    i would love to use hydrogen fuel on my car, this fuel is really nonpolluting but is not yet very available ;;*

    December 16, 2010 at 4:53 am |
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