Vehicle engine that consumes only water is more like a gimmick: experts

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/24 12:49:10

Nanyang govt says controversial engine has not been approved

The government of Nanyang, Central China's Henan Province said Friday morning that a controversial water-hydrogen engine produced by a local company has not been approved yet, after news of the engine stirred widespread suspicion.

A vehicle producer in Nanyang claimed it successfully produced an engine that can be powered by water and hydrogen fuel, the Nanyang Daily reported.

The report said that Zhang Wenshen, the secretary of the Party Committee of Nanyang and Huo Haosheng, the mayor of Nanyang, visited the factory on Wednesday, saying the project would further boost the local hydrogen fuel vehicle industry. However, on Friday morning, the Industry and Information Technology Bureau in Nanyang told The Beijing News that the news was mistakenly reported.

The engine producer, China Youngman Automobile Group Co., signed a deal in September 2018 with the Nanyang government for research and production in Nanyang.

According to the original reports, such an engine would run a vehicle with water. The "magical" engine stirred wide speculation on Chinese social media, and analysts said the hydrogen fuel engine is more like a gimmick. 

China Youngman Automobile Group Co told the Global Times on Friday that the engine was successfully completed on Wednesday, using hydrogen as a fuel generated by hydrolysis. 

The Youngman company claimed Mercedes-Benz also has the same technology and has applied it on its hydrogen-powered Ener-G-force. 

Mercedes-Benz has not confirmed as of press time.

The special conversion settings in the vehicle of the Youngman convert water into hydrogen with the reaction of the catalyst and use a hydrogen-fuel engine to generate electricity, which powers the vehicle. The reactant and catalyst are recyclable, the statement says. 

The biggest secret of water-hydrogen fuel vehicles is a special catalyst. Through a chemical reaction of the catalyst, water can be converted into hydrogen, Pang Qingnian, the president of the company told the media. Such a vehicle can travel between 500 to 1,000 kilometers without refueling or charging, he was quoted by the Shangyou News. 

The company said they are still testing the reliability and service life of such an engine.

A member of the staff at the company headquarters in Zhejiang Province told the Global Times on Friday that the engine depends on the catalyst, a metal catalyst, without further elaborating.

This sparked wide suspicion among analysts. Song Jian, a research fellow at the Department of Automotive Engineering of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that a perpetual motion machine is not possible. The key to the water-hydrogen fuel vehicle is the process of electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen, and then using the fuel cell to generate electricity. This process is definitely not worth the cost, because there will be a lot of energy loss in the process, Song said. Even in the most efficient platinum electrodes, energy losses can reach 50 percent, he said. 

Due to the high cost, there is almost no market for water-hydrogen fuel vehicles. A hydrogen fuel cell car is twice as expensive as an electric car, and hydrogen fuel itself is three times more expensive than gasoline, Song said.

Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, shared a similar opinion. He told the Global Times on Friday that the vehicle seems like a gimmick, which is of high risk and unlikely to be commercialized. The most reliable hydrogen-powered engine is using new energy such as solar power to generate hydrogen, and then uses the stored hydrogen to power a vehicle, Lin said.

Hydrogen energy is considered an "absolutely clean" energy as water is the only by-product being produced and consumed.


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