However, the diesel particulate filters (DPFs) that screen out particulates are costly, inconvenient to maintain, and must be updated on a regular basis. Furthermore, the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) fluids used to remove NOx from exhaust are pollutants in and of themselves, and must be replaced on a regular basis.
In summary, there are a lot of diesel engines, they’re filthy (they’re responsible for up to 50% of urban air pollution in the winter), and a lot of people are spending a lot of money to clean them up. That is a sizable market.
HyTech’s offer to that market is quite impressive: it claims that their ICA can enhance a diesel engine’s fuel efficiency by 20-30%, reduce particulate matter by 85 percent, and reduce NOx by 50-90 percent. It can produce a diesel engine that fulfills official California criteria for an emissions reduction when combined with a DPF and some SCR “Vehicle with ultra-low emissions.”
The cost of converting a dirty diesel engine to a somewhat clean one is roughly $10,000 installed, according to HyTech, which will pay for itself in nine months through reduced fuel and maintenance costs.
HyTech isn’t the first or only business to design an HHO additive system, but nothing else on the market can match those numbers.
The ICA achieves this efficiency thanks to a computerized timing controller that detects and analyzes the crankshaft and camshaft rotation to calculate the precise time and size of the HHO injection. Previous HHO systems flooded the engine with HHO through the air intake, but HyTech uses a different approach “Port injection,” which uses a timer to operate a separate injector at each cylinder’s intake valve. Each injector squirts tiny, precisely measured jets of HHO into the cylinder just when it’s needed (about the size of a human hair).
This level of precision allows the ICA to consume far less hydrogen and do so more effectively than its competitors. More than enough is produced by a modest onboard electrolyzer.
These are bold claims, but they have held up thus far. The ICA has been listed by the EPA as a candidate for emissions-reduction technology; SGS found that the ICA increased the fuel efficiency of a FedEx delivery truck by 27.4 percent; FedEx is currently road testing the ICA on a fleet of trucks and finding 20 to 30% better fuel economy and significantly lower DPF maintenance costs. The ICA has functioned as expected in third-party testing and limited local sales around Redmond.
If it can reliably enhance fuel economy by a third while reducing pollutants to nearly nothing with a nine-month payback as HyTech scales, the possibilities are endless. Clean-up is a $100 billion business, according to the corporation, because of drayage (port) trucks, freight ships, refrigeration trailers, long-haul trucks, buses, generators, and all the other dirty diesel engines out there.
The ICA does not rely on new infrastructure or government funding. It’s a way to tap into a large market, lower emissions right away, and save money for longer-term initiatives to completely replace diesel.
HyTech also wants to clean up existing cars
HyTech will launch its second product line later this year: pure hydrogen retrofits for ICE automobiles. Simply put, it will convert any engine that runs on diesel, gasoline, propane, or compressed natural gas to run entirely on hydrogen. (The company is currently working with the California Air Resources Board to get its retrofit product certified as zero-emissions.) This would allow any driver to purchase a zero-emission vehicle for a fraction of the price of a new electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
Johnson admits that if he were constructing a vehicle from the ground up, he would base it on a hydrogen fuel cell with no combustion, but he adds that “we have no interest in becoming a car company.” HyTech, on the other hand, seeks to clean up existing automobiles.
The electrolyzer is slightly different for a pure-hydrogen (as opposed to mixed HHO) application like this. The hydrogen is transported through a membrane, which removes any remaining oxygen or nitrogen, leaving just pure hydrogen to fuel the vehicle. (This designates the electrolyzer as a proton exchange membrane, or PEM, electrolyzer, a popular hydrogen-related variation.)
Johnson, as is his way, created his own membrane by repurposing raw materials to make a product that is more efficient and less expensive than other PEM solutions on the market.
There’s another distinction, which marks another of Johnson’s key technological advancements.
Because the power demands of a car engine are varied and can ramp up and down quickly, the system must have a small amount of hydrogen on hand as a buffer in case the electrolyzer cannot keep up.
Hydrogen is stored in conventional hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (such as the Toyota Mirai) as a highly compressed gas at roughly 8,000 psi. Compressed gas, on the other hand, brings with it a slew of problems. Compressing the gas consumes a lot of energy, it necessitates its own infrastructure, compressed-gas fueling stations are extremely expensive to construct, and compressed hydrogen is, well, explosive, so every tank full of it is a potential bomb.
Johnson is adamantly opposed to it. As a result, he’s adopted a different path. His technique stores hydrogen in an inert, non-pressurized (200 psi) liquid solution that is weakly bound to metals as “hydrides.”
The problem with hydrides has been twofold: a) generating a weak enough connection that the hydrogen can be released without expending too much energy, and b) increasing the energy density of the resultant fluid. (Until now, most hydride fluids were less energy dense than compressed hydrogen and pale in comparison to fossil fuels.) They’re too heavy for the amount of energy they provide.)
Johnson believes he has solved both issues. He won’t say what kind of hydrides he’s using, but he’s got a high enough power-to-weight ratio to beat lithium-ion batteries (which are very heavy) and a weak enough hydride bond that it can be broken using only the engine’s waste heat (no added heat or pressure required).
Furthermore, he’s been working with a team on nano-materials for hydrides, and he expects a “huge leapfrog” in power-to-weight in the next years; eventually, he wants energy density to be comparable to fossil fuels, he says.
Hy-retrofit Tech’s will provide a zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) with an average range of 300 miles, equivalent to high-end electric vehicles but able to function in any existing vehicle, thanks to efficient electrolysis and efficient hydride storage. Johnson transported me to lunch in a massive hydrogen-powered Ford Raptor pickup truck when I visited HyTech’s Redmond campus.
The vehicle can be “filled up” in two ways. The slow method is to leave it plugged in overnight, allowing the electrolyzer to fill the tank. The quickest way is to fill it with hydride solution, which can be made on site with just an electrolyzer, distilled water, and a tank, whether at home or at a filling station.
There is currently no infrastructure in place to handle such rapid refueling, although Johnson emphasizes that it is not the same as high-pressure compressed hydrogen. It’s not harmful; it creates no poisonous byproducts; it doesn’t necessitate a slew of government safety regulations; and, in principle, mom-and-pop gas stations could get a pump up and operating for very little money.
Johnson’s rather utopian idea is that, in the future, every home and company will have an electrolyzer and a full tank of bonded hydrogen, which may be used to generate power for the building or to fuel hydrogen cars (more on that in phase three).
The goal, according to Johnson, is to eliminate internal combustion engines, but “it’s like quitting smoking – everyone wants to go cold turkey.” It’s simply not going to work.” The corporation will be able to reduce transportation emissions quickly by retrofitting current vehicles for a fraction of the cost of a new zero-emission vehicle.
HyTech’s holy grail: long-term, affordable energy storage
Finally, HyTech will enter the energy storage market, backed by its retrofit products. Its Scaleable Energy Storage (SES) product is aimed at competing with massive batteries such as Tesla’s Powerwall, either as on-site storage for homes and businesses or as grid-scale storage for large solar and wind farms.
The idea behind hydrogen energy storage is that, in the not-too-distant future, there will be frequent periods when wind and solar generate far more electricity than is required. We’ll be looking for methods not to waste that surplus energy because it will be dirt cheap.
One concept that is becoming increasingly popular is “Converting extra energy to hydrogen and storing it is known as “power to gas.” “When electricity prices are low, hydrogen is probably the simplest thing you can create,” Weber explains.
Some of the hydrogen might be put into existing natural gas pipes, lowering gas’s carbon intensity. Other liquid fuels could be made by combining some of them with carbon dioxide. And some of it might be immediately transformed to energy using fuel cells. “According to Levi Thompson, head of the University of Michigan’s Hydrogen Energy Technology Laboratory, “stationary storage offers a tremendous prospective option for hydrogen fuel cells.”
The issue has been that electrolysis-based hydrogen energy storage has typically had an end-to-end efficiency of less than half that of a lithium ion battery.
The SES at HyTech works like this: The electrolyzer is powered by electricity (preferably from solar panels or wind turbines). The hydrogen is either used in a fuel cell (which Johnson built himself) or bound as hydrides and stored in a tank. When electricity is required, waste heat from the system is used to break the hydride bonds, releasing more hydrogen for the fuel cell.
Johnson has significantly increased efficiency by avoiding compression and found a hydride bond that is weak enough to be broken by waste heat. With another ingenious trick, he’s increased his efficiency even more. The majority of hydrogen storage is done with massive electrolyzers and fuel cells that can’t precisely scale energy production to demand. Johnson’s system is modular, with stacks of smaller electrolyzers and fuel cells that can be turned on one at a time as need grows. “With a smile, he says, “Stupid simple.”
The SES appears to behave similarly to a large battery from the outside, however there are certain distinctions and drawbacks.
On the flipside, while Johnson has significantly improved end-to-end efficiency in comparison to his competition, he still falls short of battery efficiency. At this stage, he claims the SES is around 80% efficient. Traditional lead-acid batteries are roughly 90% efficient when new, whereas lithium-ion batteries are around 98 percent efficient or greater, though all batteries degrade over time. (As Johnson develops new materials for his electrolyzers and fuel cells, he expects SES efficiency to continue to rise he believes 85 or 90 percent is within reach.)
On the plus side, the SES will outlast a battery by more than 10,000 charge-discharge cycles, compared to roughly 1,000 for a lithium-ion battery. That would bring its lifespan closer to that of a standard solar panel, allowing the two to be used together more easily.
Unlike batteries, which can’t be fully charged or discharged without degrading, the SES can go from 100 percent capacity to zero and back without harm.
And, unlike batteries, the SES is completely recyclable when it wears out. The metals are melted, reground, and reused, and the water is distilled again.
The best part is that a hydride solution can be kept eternally without needing to be maintained or losing its potential. Like compressed hydrogen, it doesn’t need to be pressurized or chilled. It does not decay in the same way that electrochemical charge does in batteries. Hydrides can be kept for as long as is required.
As a result, the SES is an excellent candidate for long-term energy storage, which is the holy grail of truly sustainable energy systems. If the electricity coming in is cheap and plentiful, the amount of reserve energy that can be stored is theoretically unlimited.
It also means that the SES is ideal for use in a distributed energy system. It would be a dead-simple way for anyone with some solar panels to attain a degree of energy independence, with no moving parts, sturdy components resistant to temperature and weather extremes, and 98 percent recyclability. It could be very beneficial to off-grid areas.
Whatever HyTech’s fate, the need for hydrogen will elicit innovation
Johnson thinks about a distributed, carbon-free hydrogen economy when he has the leisure to think about it. However, the task at hand these days is more pressing: getting HyTech up and operating.
None of the hydrogen experts I spoke with saw any major flaws in HyTech’s technical claims, but they all expressed a hard-won show-don’t-tell mistrust. Many a Next Big Thing has come and gone in the hydrogen world. History is littered with the skeletons of promising firms that failed to turn their ideas into marketable products.
Hytech, on the other hand, appears to be well-positioned, with a strong leadership team, some early finance, promising testing results, relationships with major companies like FedEx and Caterpillar, and a target market with demonstrable need for its product. We’ll probably find out in a year or two whether they succeeded.
In any case, as the movement toward a more sustainable energy system gains traction, the demand for hydrogen will only increase. We require carbon-free fuels as well as long-term energy storage. Hydrogen fulfills both requirements.
People become brilliant when there is a major social need and money to be made. It won’t be long until others follow Johnson’s lead and make multiple stepwise breakthroughs in hydrogen technology by shopping online and tinkering in his lab. And, just as with wind and solar power, once goods reach market, economies of scale will drive costs down.
In many respects, inexpensive hydrogen is the final piece of the sustainable-energy puzzle, an energy carrier that can fill in the gaps in a system that is predominantly powered by wind and solar. Hydrogen has been written off countless times over the years, but as the world becomes more serious about decarbonization, it may finally see the light of day.
Can diesel engines be converted to run on hydrogen?
Yes, you may convert your diesel vehicle to hydrogen, which has a number of advantages. This involves a decrease in carbon emissions as well as a cost-effective Induction. The Induction itself must be completed by a fully competent and trained professional.
Hydrogen refueling facilities are becoming more prevalent, and they require very little time. It’s a far more environmentally friendly way to drive, and once the hydrogen runs out, the car will continue to run on diesel until you refuel.
What fuels can a diesel engine run on?
My car can run on diesel (the fossil fuel version), SVO (straight vegetable oil), biodiesel (modified SVO), or any mix of the three. That’s not unusual: anything with a diesel engine can run on diesel, SVO, or biodiesel, including planes, boats, and motorcycles. SVO is a broad word that encompasses a variety of materials other than vegetable oil, such as animal fats (chicken, tallow, lard, and omega-3 fatty acid leftovers from fish oil) and algae. SVO can come from either virgin feedstock (crops planted expressly for fuel) or recycled feedstock (spent cooking oils) (WVO for waste vegetable oil).
Can an engine run on hydrogen?
In comparison to all other fuels, hydrogen has a wide spectrum of flammability. As a result, hydrogen can be burned in a variety of fuel-air mixtures in an internal combustion engine. The fact that hydrogen can run on a lean mixture is a big benefit.
Can you convert a diesel engine to electric?
The engine, as well as any fuel-related components such as the fuel tank, exhaust, starter motor, radiator, coolant tank, and fuel lines, must all be removed before converting a petrol or diesel car to run on electricity.
What will replace internal combustion engines?
A hybrid-electric engine or a hydrogen-fueled fuel cell could be used as an alternative to the traditional internal combustion engine if one exists. Only a few hybrid-electric automobiles are now accessible, and hydrogen-powered vehicles will only be available in a few years.
Can you run a diesel engine on gasoline?
The fuel used by both types of engines is incompatible. That is, a diesel engine cannot run on gasoline, and a gasoline engine cannot run on diesel. Diesel is too thick for the fuel pump system of a gasoline engine, and gasoline produces too much of an explosion for the diesel engine to handle.
Can diesel run on vegetable oil?
In diesel engines and heating oil burners, vegetable oil can be utilized as an alternative fuel. Straight vegetable oil (SVO) or pure plant oil is the term used when vegetable oil is utilized directly as a fuel in modified or unmodified equipment (PPO). Traditional diesel engines can be changed to guarantee that the viscosity of the vegetable oil is low enough for proper fuel atomization. This avoids incomplete combustion, which can harm the engine by creating carbon build-up. For use in a wider range of settings, straight vegetable oil can be combined with conventional diesel or processed into biodiesel, HVO, or bioliquids.
What engines run on hydrogen?
3 Vehicles that employ combustion. Hydrogen can be utilized as a fuel in traditional spark-ignition engines as automobile Otto and diesel engines, as well as gas turbines in conventional power plants.
Can a piston engine run on hydrogen?
If only it were that simple. You could create a piston engine to run on hydrogen, as Engineering Explained’s Jason Fenske explains. It would just not be acceptable.
Hydrogen is an enticing alternative to gasoline. The only thing it emits when burned properly is water vapor. Fenske has already explored the possibilities of hydrogen as a fuel for piston and rotary engines in many videos this month.
A hydrogen internal combustion engine has two primary drawbacks. To begin with, hydrogen is not as energy dense as other fuels, which means you’ll need a lot of it to do a small amount of work. When you combine it with a piston engine’s intrinsic inefficiency (at most, you’re only converting around 30% of the fuel’s energy into forward motion), you’ve got a formula for disappointment.
What about the second issue? Aside from water vapor, there are various emissions produced when hydrogen is burned. The harmful pollutant at the center of the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal is NOx. Hydrogen’s NOx emissions rule it out as a clean alternative to gasoline if you’re seeking for one.
What is the solution? To generate power, use hydrogen in a fuel cell. Internal combustion engines are significantly less efficient than fuel cells, and a hydrogen fuel cell emits far fewer pollutants than an internal-combustion hydrogen engine. Check out Fenske’s entire video below to discover more.