Just off the newswire is the notion of "aluminum powered cars" - a headline that when first read does not even make sense. However, being one interested in technology I thought it was worth taking a look to see what this was all about. An Israeli company named Alchemy Research has developed a technology for using alumimum as a "fuel" and using electric power to "recharge" the aluminum. Given today's shrinking oil reserves and drive for alternative energy, a new technology such as this is a welcome entry into the mix with great potential. It's worth spending a few minutes discussing the technology which could have an positive impact on the future of driving.
The basic idea is to utilize aluminum's unique chemical properties as a rechargeable fuel. It has been know for a long time that aluminum has a high energy content which can be released via oxidation but there have been major technical issues blocking its use as a power source. The basis of the technology is that aluminum + water are combined in a reaction chamber to proude hydrogen + aluminum oxide + heat. The most interesting output from the reaction, hydrogen, can be used to power a microturbine which in turn produces electricity powering the automobile's wheels. All of this can be packaged to fit comfortably within the confines of current constraints of an automobile structure. There is a good presentation on the Alchemy Research web site providing information about the technology and its potential uses
According to this excerpt from the Alchemy Research presentation, there are a number of significant benefits from the use of this technology. By the way, the uses go far beyond just transportation, but since our focus is drivers education and driving in general, we'll stick with transportation for now.
As can be seen from the chart, the Alydro process is a truly "clean" technology which is essentially non-polluting. Given our current "green" mindset, this is a particularly appealing aspect of the technogy. Another aspect is that the output from the reaction, aluminum oxide, can be recycled back into aluminum fuel making this Alydro a renewable and recycleable technology as well.
The drawback to the technology, which is true with most new technologies, is the current cost is somewhat high. However, once adopted in mass the costs could quickly become less than petroleum which is the cost leader today - believe it or not...
One final note is that the Alydro technology can easily fit into current transportation concepts. In other words, everthing can be bundled into current size concepts without having to substantially change our current concepts of a "vehicle".
The bottom line is that Alchemy Research believes aluminum powered cars can be a reality in the 4-5 year timeframe. The results of adopting this technology will be less negative impact on the environment, greater driving range, and less expensive than either lithium batteries or hydrogen. Given the great potential for aluminum power technology this is something to keep a close eye on in the future.