Do car makers care about the environment?
Until now, hydrogen required too much room. A hydrogen tank is more than 5 times larger than a gasoline tank. Car makers had to avoid on-board volatile gases and tiny trunks. But now there is a small, safe and renewable alternative, which is cleaner than gasoline, and will fuel a revolution in energy storage and the automobile industry.
The recent discovery of optically enhanced metal hydrides (“laser hydrides”) has spawned a new science for storing, transporting, and releasing hydrogen. Rapid refueling and instantaneous delivery are now possible without high pressure, loss of space, or additional weight. Laser Hydride fuel cell vehicles produce zero emissions and can weigh less than conventionally equipped gasoline cars and trucks. Laser hydride systems are also lighter and can travel further than existing and planned battery systems.
How does it work?
Laser Hydrides are fabricated into compact disks which share similar properties with audio CDs. They react when exposed to laser light by changes at the molecular level. These changes allow hydrogen trapped within the disk to be set free. The hydrogen is then delivered to a fuel cell which powers an electric motor. The only exhaust is pure clean water.
How will the vehicle refuel?
Low pressure hydrogen is pumped from a nozzle like a conventional gasoline pump. The hydrogen is ionized by a microwave and pulled into the disks. The whole process takes only minutes and is equivalent to popping a few bags of popcorn in the microwave. The hydrogen can be generated with water and electricity from windmills or solar cells. The disks can also be recharged with a system similar to a pressure cooker which "bakes" in the hydrogen. These disks can be quickly exchanged, even at home, and do not require pumps or an expensive infrastructure.
What does it cost?
Recent advancements have made fuel cells nearly cost competitive with gasoline engines and batteries. This presents an opportunity for vehicles which can safely store hydrogen. It is possible to envision sustainable laser hydride fuel cell systems that are less expensive than conventional powertrains. The cost of hydrogen fuel is more than gasoline today, but with scaled production, it will soon cost less per fill-up, and there will be no cost to the environment.
When will it be available?
Plasma Kinetics continues to advance laser hydride science. Sustainability, safety and economy are at the forefront of these efforts. Prototype demonstration vehicles are under consideration, and efforts to move from the laboratory to the street are proceeding. We may see laser hydride storage systems, and over-land vehicles on the road as early as 2015.