An Untapped Transit Solution: Water-fueled Cars
Air-fueled Cars on Sale Soon?
Bejing's Luxury Electric Buses

July 31, 2004

CREDIT: Edge montage
An Untapped Transit Solution:
Water-fueled Cars

Gar Smith / The-Edge

You say you have a proven way to cut your gasoline use in half? I'll drink to that.

A Nevada inventor named Rudolf Gunnerman has shown that he can cut the costs of filling a gas tank by mixing petrol with tap water.

The technology is really not new. During WWII, US fighter planes were routinely flown with watered-down fuels. University of Michigan mechanical engineering professor David B. Kittelson, notes that engines were run on 50% water fuels as early as the 1940s. The water makes it possible for the engines to run cooler. Without their water-injection turbochargers, Kittelson notes, the lumbering bombers of WWII wouldn't have made it to the end of the runway without their engines melting down.

How does this automotive alchemy work? Apparently, the water molecules separate into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which increases the fuel's combustability. In order to initiate the "disassociation" of the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, a tiny patch of nickel is added to the top of each piston or cylinder head.

Gunnerman has dubbed his mix "A-21" for Aqueous fuel for the 21st century. It combines water with naptha, an early by-product of the refining process used to produce gasoline. Once a chemical agent is added to prevent the naphtha and water from separating, the fuel's vapor pressure drops to one-fifth that of ordinary gasoline. The lower vapor pressure is a good thing since it renders the fuel practically inflammable and won't require the use of vapor-recovery systems on fuel pumps.

'Cleaner, Cheaper, Safer'
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the fuel "tops conventional gasoline and diesel as a clean, cheap and safe fuel that can be used in almost any combustion engine." A-21 can be used in any diesel powered or spark-ignition motor to drive cars, trucks, aircraft, even locomotives.

Nevada certified the "clean alternative fuel" in November 1995. During emission trials in Nevada, the fuel exceeded the EPA's tailpipe standards and the tougher hurdles of the California Air Resources Board. The EPA-monitored tests recorded a 60 percent drop in hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide (a major ingredient of smog).

It took Gunnerman eight years to perfect his blend. In 1994 his firm, A-55 Limited Partnership linked up with Caterpillar's Engine Division to form Advanced Fuels LLC, a joint venture to test and promote the new fuel. Caterpillar saw the new fuel as an opportunity to win back some of its traditional diesel market that it had lost to automakers in Detroit.

Caterpillar's Marsha Hausser told the Salt Lake Tribune that A-21 was "one of the most promising alternative fuels that's out there today. Anytime you have an alternative that is cleaner-burning, less flammable, and allows you to operate an engine more efficiently, that's a significant advantage."

A fuel packed with so much water is more susceptible to freezing when the temperature drops below 40 F, but this problem is overcome with the addition of a dose of ethanol antifreeze.

A-21 was not only used to power Caterpiller's trucks and tractors, it also proved that it could run a city bus in Reno and the generator that supplies the city's electric grid. Reno's city bus N. 405 started running on Gunnerman's gumbo on October 5, 1993. On February 22, 1996, after 11,292 miles of city use -- the engine was shipped to Caterpillar for inspection. Reno's Regional Transportation Commission maintenance supervisor Bruce Anderson reported a 29% increase in mpg for the bus.

'The Cleanest Exhaust I've ever Seen'
Minnesota's Transportation Dept was originally so skeptical of Gunnerman's claims that it challenged Gunnerman to fly in and mix up a batch of fuel on-the-spot, using local tap water and diesel fuel. MTD's chief operations engineer was one of the chief doubters but when the mix was poured into the engine of an MTD vehicle, Felt told reporters, "it had the cleanest exhaust I've even seen coming out of a diesel. If this really does what it seems, this is big!"

The US Air Force has run vehicles through a 14-week obstacle course at the Elmendort Airbase in Alaska. In December 1995, the Minnesota Transportation Department welcomed five water-fueled vehicles that dropped by after driving 2,000 miles from Reno.

What would it cost to convert your car to run on A-55? In 1996, Gunnerman estimated the change-over would run less than $500. A fuel-injection control chip would automatically adjust the engine to run on standard or waterized fuel.

Gunnerman conceded that it would take more that Caterpiller's clout to turn his water-fueled dream into a commercially successful butterfly. "How fast we'll do it will not depend alone on Cat and us," he said. "It will also depend on DOE and EPA and how fast we can push it."

The DOE and EPA didn't provide the necessary push and the long-awaited alternative to Exxon, ChevronTexaco and Shell never made it out the driveway. A 40,000 gallon-a-day "automated blending facility" was supposed to start up by 1996. It never happened.

Gunnerman subsequently began work on an even more radical alternative: a water-nahptha blend called "X-fuel" that would completely by-pass gasoline.

Why didn't Gunnerman's radical water-based fuels make a big splash in the marketplace? In these days of peaking oil production and rising gas prices, that's a question well worth asking.

Air-fueled Cars on Sale Soon
Press Announcement from MDI

(July 17, 2004) -- The recent presentation of the Air Car at the European Fuel Cell Forum in Switzerland and the sale of a number of licenses in Spain and Italy allow a glimpse of an imminent entry to market for the eagerly awaited ecological vehicle.

On June 30, MDI, the company which invented the Air Car, presented its CityCats vehicle at the European Fuel Cell Forum in Lucerne, Switzerland. This forum, dedicated to another transport alternative (hydrogen), gave MDI the recognition of the automotive industry, presenting the invention as "Compressed Air: The Most Sustainable Energy Carrier for Commuting Vehicles."

The vehicle drove around the roads in Lucerne, driven by Dr Rudolf Rechsteiner, member of Swiss Parliament, who demonstrated his keen interest in a technology that could cause a paradigm shift in automobiles.

The meeting was of primary importance if we take into account the range of vehicles on offer today. The transport sector has reached a crucial stage. The Bush administration has cancelled proposals to investigate regular engines and meanwhile the manufacturers of electric cars have thrown in the towel due to the high production costs and the difficulty in maintenance associated with low mileage.

In terms of a hydrogen-car proposal, reliable sources do not expect one to reach market before 10 or 15 years, leaving the public with no real alternative. In this context, the MDI technology is the only viable proposal in the short and medium term and that is why the Fuel Cell Forum organizers presented MDI as the best existing solution for transport.

But the MDI compressed air engine is not only applicable to the automotive sector. Its technology is opening a new path of choice in other areas, such as buses, electric co-generation, compressor groups and marine applications. On July 1 in Madrid, the signing took place for the sale of licenses for co-generation and buses in Spain. The investing company has signed an agreement worth 24 million Euros that will focus on a first phase of production of co-generation groups. MDI is also in talks with a Spanish company to reach a similar deal for Portugal.

Spain and Italy are the first countries to sign the agreement for the manufacture of electricity production groups. These systems allow a big saving while offering a solution to a recurring problem: how to produce energy locally according to the production and necessities of consumption. The MDI groups can also be installed in racks, offering an expandable solution which can be applied to a group of houses as well as to an isolated home or without connection to the network.

The MDI proximity groups are the solution for providing electricity in developing countries where electricity cables and pylons cannot be installed due to the high cost involved. All these proposals are in pre-commercialization phase, bringing to an end a long investigation that has resulted in a clean, ecological solution applicable from transport to energy production. MDI is now offering manufacturing licenses for each of these products for the different countries of the world.

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    China's revolutionary buses are running on electrons. CREDIT: Xinhua News
    Bejing's Luxury Electric Buses
    ChinaView /

    BEJING, May 29, 2004 -- New EV bus developed by Tsinghua University in Beijing is named "No. 863" because it has been supported by the state "High-Tech 863 Program." The bus, which uses hydrogen batteries as its energy, is more environment-friendly and more efficient. Instructor Qiu Bin from Tsinghua University points at bus which uses hydrogen batteries as its energy source.

    Meanwhile, a luxury double-decker electric bus capable of running at least 150 kilometers on one charge also has been developed in Beijing. The bus is one of the seven types of electric buses developed by Beijing BIT Clean EV Co., Ltd., which has been commissioned by the government to develop environment-friendly electric vehicles for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

    The seven buses developed by the company have all passed appraisals and acceptance checks of the state. These vehicles boast top speeds ranging from 80 kilometers to 95 kilometers and running distances of 150 kilometers to 300 kilometers on one charge. China plans to serve the coming Olympic Games with more than 1,000 Chinese-made electric vehicles. Prior to that, 20 electric buses will soon hit the roads in Beijing.

    According to the Shanghai Daily, Shanghai is considering installing solar batteries in newly built residential buildings to supply power for daily use, the Shanghai House and Land Administration said yesterday. The batteries will be on the roof of buildings and connected to apartments with power lines. "The system will supply sufficient power generated from the sun to families in the day time while the grid will provide electricity at night," said Zhang Lixin, an administration official. The extra power produced by the batteries could also be sent to the grid, making each apartment with the equipment a small "powerhouse."

    Cooperation from grid operators is needed, who would be required to buy the battery's extra supply, but also sell their own supply back to apartment owners at night. The system would be ideal for low-rise buildings less than five stories. High-rises have too many apartments to provide enough solar electricity. The system would also be too expensive for many.

    Each set of batteries would cost around 6,000 yuan ($725) per family. The system has been tested successfully at Jiao Tong University. It has yet to be tried on residential buildings. Similar systems used to heat water are already in operation in five residential areas, according to the administration.

    Cui Rongqiang, chief secretary of the Shanghai Solar Energy Society said: "The system is good. Solar energy should be used to replace fossil energy." But power grid operators are indifferent. "The supply is too limited, and I believe it would cost more than big coal-fired generators," said an official, surnamed Chen, with the Shanghai Electric Power Dispatching Center.

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