Courtesy of David at Phil's Stock World
Last week, we began an investigation into alternative fuels and their opportunities for cars and for investments. We covered the fuel cell and the biofuel made of whiskey. Today, we are delving into the world of water and sun. Can water actually power our favorite vehicles or the sun? We will attempt to uncover those answers.
To start the day, we take a look at water. Yes, the clear liquid that comes out of your sink, grows your grass, and makes up a significant amount of the human body could be an alternative fuel to gasoline. I originally got interested in water when I saw a Japanese car that was "supposedly" ran on water on YouTube! Yet, despite what seems to be out of mind outlandish, water actually holds some ground. One can actually run his/her car on water. It starts by using an electrolysis cell or water burner.
According to Popular Mechanics, "The key is to take electricity from the car’s electrical system to electrolyze water into a gaseous mixture of hydrogen and oxygen, often referred to as Brown’s Gas or HHO or oxyhydrogen. Typically, the mixture is in a ratio of 2:1 hydrogen atoms to oxygen atoms. This is then immediately piped into the intake manifold to replace some…expensive gasoline."
Water has energy that can create power and can move a car. The issue with water is that it takes a 1:1 amount of energy to separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms inside of a electrolysis cell then put them back together. So, with heat losses, one is actually losing energy as they pump water into the car. So, water alone cannot fuel a car. There is some talk, however, that water when mixed with gasoline can cause gasoline to burn more efficiently by slight levels because it helps change combustion characteristics.
The only company that is truly behind water as a source is Genepax in Japan, but the company does not appear to be much of an answer to anything. The company has not been able to sustain any solid business and is privately traded. While there does appear to be some ground for energy for water, the technology is still in such a way that the energy used to break down water to get its energy is 1:1…the typical problem with the technology with all of our alternative fuels - it takes too much energy to break down alternative fuels.
So, how about solar-powered cars? Can they be the answer?
There are two different looks at the solar-powered vehicle. There is the solar panel car that actually has panels on the car that are solar powered. The other look at the solar-powered vehicle is taking a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV), a la Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, that is electrified by a solar powered panel home or electricity source. Moving forward, the latter idea seems much more efficient and probable than the latter, which is a definite plus for any PV cell maker out there.
The solar vehicle require PV cells to be placed on vehicles that absorb thermal energy and convert it into electricity. The solar array on a car, typically, has about 15-20% solar efficiency. Sunlight hits the PV cells that excites electrons that are used to run a motor. Another part of the cells can then be funneled into batteries that can be used to power a car on more cloudy days and nighttime.
Solar-powered cars are typically simply just concept cars or used in solar-powered car races that take place in Australia. A wholly solar-powered car typically have very light frames, get hot, and cannot seat a large number of people. At their currentmodels, solar-powered cars are not feasible. Yet, unlike fuel cells, water, ethanol, and other alternative fuels. There is no knock on using energy to make energy since the solar powered panel once made have a lifetime of usage.
Solar-powered cars may have a more robust market as powering PEVs and having small parts of the car with solar panels, such as a solar spoiler or other part of the car to give some independence from gasoline. In San Jose, CA, SunPods is a company that makes PEV-refilling stations that are completely solar-powered. The energy is clean from the sun and renewable, and then put into a PEV that runs on that solar energy.
The solar-powered PEV is a very viable option and is something that is definitely in our current technology capabilities. As I have mentioned before, solar powered companies have a lot of upside. From powering homes to cars, solar companies are the wave of the future. My favorites are Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) and SunPower (SPWRA). Other top companies are Yingli Green (NYSE:YGE), First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), and LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK).The sun is definitely a better option than the water we drink right now, but the solar-powered car is definitely a wild and feasible option in the future.