Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | February 18, 2009

Some Hopeful News?

UPDATE: If you don’t want to run your car on water, run it on air: see here. Sometimes the problems we face seem insurmountable, so it’s good to be reminded of potential solutions from time to time. From Another Blog: We’ve seen plenty of promises about water-powered cars (among other things), but it looks like Japan’s Genepax has now made some real progress on that front, with it recently taking the wraps off its Water Energy System fuel cell prototype. The key to that system, it seems, is its membrane electrode assembly, which contains a material that’s capable of breaking down water into hydrogen and oxygen through a chemical reaction. Not surprisingly, the company isn’t getting much more specific than that, with it only saying that it’s adopted a “well-known process to produce hydrogen from water to the MEA.” Currently, that system costs on the order of  $18,700 – not including the car, but the company says that if it can get it into mass production that could be cut to just under $5,000.


  1. Hi, sorry to `burst your bubble,’ but I think a little reality check is necessary. With the exception of nuclear fusion (which this car does not claim to use), there is simply no way to make any kind of engine that runs only on water.

    If this device that they claimed to have made splits water into hydrogen and oxygen, it must use energy to do so. The hydrogen is then burned with oxygen in an engine to make water, releasing energy. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, such a cyclical process can never generate any useful energy: there must be an external energy input.

    There are several ways in which a device such as this can appear to work, all of which rely on some external energy source. One such way is to use incoming light, creating a solar-powered steam engine. Another way (which I think is the case here) is that there some solid fuel hidden inside the device. Calcium carbide works quite nicely for this purpose and used to be used as a fuel for portable torches since the production of gas could be controlled by the slow addition of water. In this engine, the fuel is probably the membranes of the MEA, which get used up just just petrol does.

    I’m pretty sure that this thing does not actually run on water. It is probably yet another `perpetual motion’ scam. Don’t believe it.

  2. Thank you Andeg,
    It does seem a little unbelievable doesn’t it? I guess we shall soon find out…
    A few years ago I was pleased to see that a car that ran on compressed air had been invented in Belgium. Its emissions were totally clean. I was sceptical, but then I saw it demonstrated on TV (‘Tomorrow’s World’) Mexico City ordered a thousand taxis that used this engine, and the company’s website announced that factories were going to be built in many countries, including New Zealand. And then it all disappeared without trace. Do you happen to know what happened to it? Was it bought up by an oil company and then ‘killed’?

  3. Hi Philip,
    Thanks for your reply.

    Although the water-powered may not be real, it is quite a good piece of stage magic. It does seem to have fooled many people who do not suspect that the engine could be made of fuel. You can find a good explanation of the trick here.

    This air powered car seems like it might actually work, although it still requires an external energy source. Energy is required to pump the air into the car. The compressed air stores this energy and acts as a spring, which `unwinds’ as the air expands in the engine, providing power. This device does not create energy form air, but simply stores it, similar to a clockwork motor. After a certain amount of driving, the pressure in the tank gets low and the car needs to be `wound up’ again by using a powered compressor, requiring you to put back all the energy you used driving.

    This type of engine is nothing new. It has been used in machinery for quite a while as a means of energy storage, although it is impractical for use in cars because the tank is quite bulky. It is useful however, for devices which use energy in short, intense bursts, such as jackhammers, because some types of air engines can release energy very quickly, giving short pulses of very high power. The air tank can be filled by a compressor running continuously, evening out the power draw so that a normal engine or electric motor can be used to power the device, which would otherwise need a more specialized means of providing power.

    I hope this clears things up a bit.
    – Andeg

  4. Thank you so much Andeg!
    Although your comments clarify the fact that neither of these cars creates energy for free/from nothing, the question still remains: Do they pollute less than normal cars even when the pollution caused by the source of their energy (say electricity) is taken into account?
    Take the air car. I read that the air it pumps out from its exhaust is cleaner than the air it took in/ the surrounding air. If it produces no pollution itself or even ‘cleans up’ the surrounding atmosphere, we then need to ask how much pollution was caused by making the electricity needed to compress the air. Then it’s just maths to see whether it is helpful.
    Do you happen to know?

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