Cars could increase their fuel efficiency by producing their own hydrogen and burning it with normal petrol or diesel.
So believe the backers of Electro Hydrogen Generator (EHG) technology – an idea originally devised by OM Energy, which recently joined Brighton-based Ultra Green in a joint venture to bring the product to market.
Don Smith, Ultra Green design engineer, said the EHG is powered by the heat and gas energy from the vehicle exhaust. The key aspect of the technology is its ability to convert water, which can be contained in a tank in the boot of a car, into hydrogen.
This conversion is done by adding an electrolyte to the water to turn the hydrogen and oxygen molecules into charged ions, which are then separated inside the EHG using centrifugal force and strong magnets.
Smith said: ‘These forces cause the oxygen ions to move to the outside of the EHG, while the hydrogen moves to the inside. An electrical current, generated by the ionic separation, is then used to remove the charge from the ions, turning the hydrogen and oxygen into separate gases.’
The hydrogen is then collected and added to the vehicle’s fuel supply. Smith said the EHG is forecast to generate about 20 per cent of the fuel requirements of the vehicle.
He added that hydrogen will also improve the combustion efficiency of the engine.
He said: ‘Hydrogen burns far more quickly than either gasoline or diesel. When small amounts of hydrogen are mixed with conventional fuel, the flame spreads throughout the combustion chamber far more rapidly. The engine can therefore obtain more miles per gallon from the conventional fuel.’
OM Energy and Ultra Green plan to demonstrate a military vehicle retrofitted with EHG technology later this year. The team then plans to commercialise the technology, under the brand Ultra Green OM, in markets including private and public transport, generators and industrial engines.