In 1874, Jules Verne wrote that “water will be the coal of the future!” So why can’t we use water for the automobile? It was a beautiful vision, and he ran into some legal trouble. In the late 2000s, the internet was inundated by simple kits that promised to transform your car into a “water-burning hybrid” and increase your fuel economy by 300 percent. That same year, a company called Genepax began marketing a water-powered car they claimed would save the world from global warming.
However, these prototypes ran into a teensy-tiny problem: the first law of thermodynamics- energy cannot be created or destroyed. So what’s the problem with water-powered cars?
Why don’t we use water powered cars? (Scientific explanation)
Water on its own is not a fuel, similar to CO2, and it’s only the product of a natural fuel combusting. But water still carries energy locked up in its bonds, and Mayer’s invention, like many others, is based on splitting these bonds in a process called electrolysis. By separating the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water, the hydrogen can be used as fuel and fed back into the engine or the fuel cell if it’s an electric car.
Even better, this consumed hydrogen only produces water as waste. A super clean, zero-emissions fuel attached to zero guilt. Because water is very stable, splitting it up requires more work than it’s worth, like climbing up a steep slide.
Mayer thought he’d figured out an easy way to do it, with far less energy wasted than a standard electrolytic cell, but what he created consumed more energy than it produced. That is the main reason for hydrogen cars flopped. There are 3 main reasons to avoid water-powered cars:
- Less efficiency: Water-powered cars consumed more energy than they produced.
- Water-powered cars are not green energy or have many side effects on the environment.
- The water-powered engine is costly.
After decades of research, water electrolysis has yet to prove a viable way to produce hydrogen fuel. If we can’t get hydrogen fuel from water, it’s not clean energy. Currently, only 4% of all hydrogen produced comes from water electrolysis, some of which is generated by renewable electricity. The rest mostly comes from fossil fuels.
Still, some scientists are desperate to make hydrogen energy sustainable. In recent years, efforts have more than doubled the efficiency of water electrolysis. In turn, researchers at Stanford claim they’ve figured out a way to generate hydrogen fuel using solar power and saltwater.
So who knows, maybe there’ll come a day when you can only pull over to the side of the road and fuel up on the ocean. But until then, maybe try and ride your bike or take the bus as much as you can!
If you could power your car on anything imaginable, what would it be? Let me know in the comment section below, or tell me what I should talk about next.
Read more similar topics:
Edwards, Tony. “End of road for car that ran on Water.” The Sunday Times. Times Newspapers Limited.
State of New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.
“Sri Lanka – Water car story didn’t hold water.” Daily Mirror.
“The Truth About Water-Powered Cars: Mechanic’s Diary.” Popular Mechanics.