Before looking at solutions, I propose we have a better understanding of the problems resulted from this soon to be obsolete energy source, petroleum. This is a very vast subject, but having at least a basic understanding of it’s both morally and socially important for us, as inhabitants of this planet.
- Toxicity – crude oil (from which you get gasoline or benzine) is known to be very toxic to humans and animals. For humans it is directly linked to lowering the white blood cell count, thus making people more susceptible to infections. It is also a known cause for cancer like leukemia. Oil is also “acutely lethal” to fish – that is, it kills fish quickly in relatively small concentrations.
- Exhaust – when oil or petroleum derivatives are burned, usually the combustion is not complete. Incompletely burned compounds of oil are very toxic in high concentration. Examples are carbon monoxide, methanol, fine particulates of soot which prove to be carcinogens. These compounds blacken our lungs and cause heart problems or death.
- Acid rain – is created due to high temperatures by the combustion of petroleum and a chemical reaction created in the atmosphere. Acid rain causes many problems like: killing trees, acidifies rivers, lakes, sees and oceans thus killing fish and coral. Acid rain also causes corrosion in structures or machinery. Archaeological structures are especially damaged.
- Oil spills – either accidental or on purpose (for financial profit), release liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, but not limited to land areas. Aside from killing all fish, oil penetrates into the structure of the plumage of birds and the fur of mammals, reducing its insulating ability, and making them more vulnerable. Clean-ups are very difficult and may take weeks, months or even years. This is one of the worst types of man made pollution.
- Volatile organic compounds – are gases or vapours emitted by various solids and liquids, many of which have short- and long-term adverse effects on human health and the environment.
- Waste oil – is used oil containing not only breakdown products but also impurities from use. Some examples of waste oil are used oils such as hydraulic oil, transmission oil, brake fluids, motor oil, crankcase oil, gear box oil and synthetic oil. When waste oil from vehicles drips out engines over streets and roads, the oil travels into the water table. Runoff from storms carries waste oil into rivers and oceans, poisoning them as well.
- Oil wars – a term that describes a conflict about petroleum resources, or their transportation, consumption, or regulation. It generally happens in regions that contain oil reserves or that are geographically positioned in a location where an entity produces or transports infrastructure for petroleum products. Historically a lot of people died and still die from interests related to oil reserves (see list of oil wars).
- Climate change – (last but not least) is strongly linked to burning large amounts of petroleum that in turn creates large amounts of CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.
So now you know and you have a better understanding why the era of petroleum must become obsolete. It has done it’s part in our evolution as a species, it enabled many technological advancements and opened many possibilities for us. However, nowadays, strong side-effects are showing, due to the way we abused it, and due to our massive increase in population and how we all depend upon it.
Many other bright minds have foreseen all the above, and some of them already developed and are still in continuous development of engines that are powered by alternative energy sources that may or may not cater to our ever growing needs for energy. Engineers are trying to harvest nature’s cleanest energy sources like solar, wind, tidal or water. The aim is to avoid the mistakes of the past and tap into theunlimited and clean energies of the earth.
Looking at one of the most important areas of today’s society, which is transportation, engineers have come up with electrical engines that are soon going to be more efficient and powerful than the ones running on gas. The most popular achievements in this area are electric cars, which have now reached a big milestone with flagship products like the Tesla Model S. The main disadvantage is that electric cars rely on batteries that need to be charged more often than you would normally stop for gas. Another disadvantage is the coverage of electric charge stations, which is in a very early stage of development. Due to these reasons, many people will still prefer the gas alternative.
But what about water powered cars?
This is not such a popular subject, which a lot of people avoid and/or dismiss due to the large amount of phony claims or conspiracy related content. Like you, I am not interested in all that, although looking the high stake interests in the petrol area and how many lives have been lost because of that, I can understand why it’s surrounded by so many conspiracy stories and theories.
I myself was very skeptical when first hearing about this, but it is not in my nature to dismiss an idea just because it sounds unrealistic at first. Of course a lot of other people have done a good job at discrediting this so far, so it’s understandable why this isn’t as popular as electric cars. Another reason could be the fact that water is much more abundant and accessible to people, than electricity or petrol for example, which is privately owned. Usually technologies that do not bring at least equal amounts of profit as earlier ones, are very likely to be pushed back by those in power. Ironically enough, even those who push back on this are slowly realizing that necessity will bring us to this change, weather they like it or not. The change is going to happen at some point, and it is up to us to make it either a smooth or bumpy ride.
If you do a search on Google for “water powered engines” or “water powered cars” you will curiously get some amounts of relevant results. Of course, as usual, your common sense would have to filter out all the garbage, but if you are a curious person you will surely find your way.
So what is a water powered car and how do water powered cars work (“in theory”)?
A water-fueled car is an automobile that hypothetically derives its energy directly from water. Most concept vehicles may be claimed to produce fuel from water on board with no other energy input, or may be a hybrid claiming to derive some of its energy from water in addition to a conventional source (such as gasoline). In simple words, the process sounds simple, the hydrogen from water is turned into oxygen which is turned into electricity propulsion.
However, as it turn out, many of these claims are fake, and have been found to be pseudoscience and some were found to be tied to investment frauds. It takes exactly the same amount of energy to pry those hydrogen and oxygen atoms apart inside the electrolysis cell as you get back when they recombine inside the fuel cell. The laws of thermodynamics haven’t changed, in spite of any hype on some blogs or news. Subtract the losses to heat in the engine and alternator and electrolysis cell, and the engine is basically losing energy, not gaining it.
Separating facts from myth?
Of course, out of all that nonsense, you also find concepts that actually work. To prove it, I will share a couple of examples that I found in my research.
A promising example is a concept that runs on bacterial spores that are activated by water. Although this is far from mass production, only the idea of having such a concept work is amazing. See here the full article (link).
To save the best for last, and to answer the big question: Yes, there is a car that actually runs on water. Salt water to be exact. It works just like a hydrogen fuel cell except that the liquid used for storing energy is saltwater. Even more promising after making its debut at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show (pictured) in March, the saltwater technology has now been certified for use on European roads. The main downside for now it’s the price-tag, Nanoflowcell AG is the company behind the design, and they are currently preparing the technology for mass production, and which some experts suggest it could cost more than £1 million ($1.7 million).
The QUANT e-Sportlimousine carries the water in two 200-litre tanks, which in one sitting will allow drivers to travel up to 373 miles (600km). Overall, the four-seater is 5.25 metres (0.4ft) long, 2.2 metres wide (7.2ft), the 1.35 metre (4.4ft).
So, in conclusion although we may not be fueling our cars from the kitchen tap anytime soon, the fact that the “first step on the moon” – in terms of water powered cars – is actually real opens up new interesting possibilities for the future of transportation or even in a greater scheme of things, the future of humanity.
Author: Alexandru Cojocaru