• Jan 5, 2010
You can't fill your fuel cell Equinox with it, but the Horizon HydroFill will soon allow people to generate hydrogen at home with water and electricity and use it to power USB devices. The HydroFILL comes from Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, makers of little hydrogen cars, and will be unveiled at CES this week.
The HydroFILL puts the H2 into battery-like solid-state HydroSTIKs that can then be used in the company's MiniPaks, which send power out through a USB port. HydroFILL uses 60W DC per hour to make 10 liters (0.001 kg) of hydrogen. The MiniPak outputs 2.5W (5V, 400mA) of DC power. Sound unnecessarily complicated? It is. What's wrong with simply using the grid power to recharge the batteries?

While the system can be used to recharge the batteries in cell phones, GPS units and the like today, Horizon says that powering vehicles might one day be on the, well, horizon.

[Source: Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies via Green Car Congress, Engadget]


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  • 54 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Bashing government for every perceived ill in the world, including poorly-conceived private enterprise adventures like this one, is getting oh so tired. Give it a break. If you're not grateful for public services provided to you by government offices, then move to Somalia. There you'll find your hearts delight, full of freedom from government intervention, contact.
        • 5 Years Ago
        get your head out of your ass. I was making a crack about the DMV, post office, IRS, you know....poorly run gov't agencies where efficiency isn't a concern.

        The internet is lost on you. As is humor it seems.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, good government requires an informed and active citizenry that demands transparency, accountability, and professional public services (police, fire, schools, medicare, scientific research, etc.). We could definitely do better, no doubt. Agreed, Throwback. Being so cynical about government and asserting that it never does anything right, though, is an ignorant step in the wrong direction. In fact, its a self-realizing prophecy.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree blaming government for every ill is ridiculous, especially a dumb invention. However, the notion that we should be "thankful" for the government taking care of us is just insane. Our government is supposed to represent the people and uphold the constitution. When that does not happen that last thing we should be is thankful.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "However, the notion that we should be "thankful" for the government taking care of us is just insane. Our government is supposed to represent the people and uphold the constitution."

        I suppose that's true in America with its super conservative right wing ideology but in other more socialist countries (basically, every other industrialized western nation), the government does a better and less expensive job of protecting its people than the free market does.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm no rocket scientist but someone who is on the Hydrogen bandwagon explain to me how this is efficient?

      You have to USE 60w to make 2.5w?? Is this being thought up by the government. Usually you don't see something so horribly thought out unless it is in a gov't office.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, it does avoid the compression losses inherent in the 10,000 psi compressed H2 tanks and the cryogenic refrigeration losses inherent to liquid H2, so the efficiency would be somewhat better, around 30% instead of 24% or less.

        So, 60 watts for 1 hour would be 60 watthours in, at 30% efficiency we'd get 18 watthours out, at a rate of 2.5 watts that would run for 7.2 hours. Nice, but only useful for very low power devices. Batteries can achieve similar run-times with much higher efficiency.

        There was no mention of cost on their website, but it did mention their somewhat larger "hydropak" unit that produces 30 watts at a cost of $650, or $21.66 per watt - photovoltaics are considered "expensive" at $5.00 per watt! The H2 supply cartridges for that unit cost $40 for 220 watt-hours, or $181.82 per Kilowatt-hour! If their "mini-pak" has a similar cost per watt, it would cost $54.15 plus the cost of the H2 storage cartridges plus the cost of the H2 generator unit. I suspect regular LiIon batteries will be cheaper and this gadget will have a hard time competing.

        BTW, this is the company that plans to provide the H2 fuel cells for the "Riversimple H2-NEV".
        • 5 Years Ago
        Jaartsgroup

        "At 5v and 400mA...."

        I think you're confused about what does what in the article.

        The HydroFill makes enough hydrogen from DC power to fill a HydroStik to capacity in 1 hour.

        The MiniPak is a micro fuel cell that uses a HydroStik, and is rated at 2.5W, with output of 5V @0.4A, with a capacity of 12 Wh.

        Granted, it's not the most efficient, and it is a bit convoluted, but it's a heck of a lot faster than the charger I use to charge my Li-ion AA's for my bike lamps (8 hours). For a person who needs quick charger - say someone who has an RC car or portable electronic device (like a camera or a GPS which this is intended for), playtime may be worth the extra cost.

        The HydroStik is most definitely not intended to charge a full-size EV motorcycle. Wrong application.
        • 5 Years Ago
        To be fair, you could use 60W for an hour to charge the battery, then get out 2.5W for 20 hours during discharge, which would be a round-trip efficiency of (50/60=) 83%, which would be mediocre for batteries, but literally unachievable for hydrogen.
        Julian
        • 5 Years Ago
        At 5v and 400mA....

        not only would this be physically unable to charge my electric motorcycle...but ignoring the very important voltage difference of 43v, this would take me 52 hours to charge.


        ludicrous.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think you're overlooking the fact that this can be run completely off grid with the use of the solar panel from Horizon! Agreed this is not intended for large capacity applications such as cars and motorcycles but simply having full recharging capability with no grid availability using hyrdrogen is a great step in the right direction!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well the Obama administration has seen through the hydrogen scam, so they aren't supporting it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        ...and the ability to charge quickly is vital when you only have a few hours of sunlight each day to use that solar panel - especially if you're counting on using that stored power all night long.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Based on Horizon's numbers, here how it works out.

      It takes 60 W-hr to produce 0.001 kg of H2. Using the LHV of H2 (33,000 W-hr/kg), 1 kg of H2 has 33 W-hr of potential energy storage. Thus the efficiency is ~ 33/60 = 0.55 which seems about right. However, they claim that it takes 1 hour to charge the Hydrostik (12 W-hr) so we assume that further losses in getting the H2 to absorb into the walls of the sodium borohydride tank result in an overall charging efficiency of 12/60 = 0.2.

      There is no clear case for efficiency as you are much better just charging batteries from the grid as batteries will charge at ~90% efficiency.

      But what about recharge time? Horizon's fuel cells are typically about 45% efficient, so operating at 2.5W with a 12 W-hr energy supply means that you'll get 2.16 hours of operation. (12*0.45/2.5 = 2.16)

      With Sanyo NiMH eneloop AA batteries ( http://us.sanyo.com/eneloop/FAQs), it would take 2 AA batteries in series pulling 1.04 A to create 2.5 W of power (2.5 W / 1.2 V/cell / 2 cells = 1.04 A). Since these batteries are rated at 2 A-hr, you would get 1.92 hours of operation at 2.5W. Sanyo says that recharge time is 2-4 hrs for these batteries.

      So the big advantage is recharge time. You'll get 1.125 longer run time at 2.5W (2.16 hr / 1.92 hr) and you'll be able to recharge in 1/4~1/2 the time as a battery pack.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hurray! The hydrogen infrastructure has arrived!

      (Now we can refuel our (mini) hydrogen cars at home)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Chris M

        You know EVs aren't about horsepower, it's about torque. Even when they're toy RC cars. Which is a specific application for this home fueling station.

        "In 2007 Horizon introduced a first version fuel cell system compatible with the TT-01 from Tamiya. Earlier this year we decided to begin work on a dramatically improved new version with much higher performance, as well as a home refueling station option able to refill the car's solid hydrogen tanks automatically. The home refueling station to be released in July will create the possibility for users to draw hydrogen from water using a device called HydroFILL. Hydrogen is extracted from water and stored automatically in solid form in small battery-shaped devices called HydroSTIK. The HydroFILL can connect to optional solar panels or wind-turbines to produce 100% renewable fuel."

        http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/hobby_rc.htm
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mini indeed! At that 2.5 watt power output, you'd have an amazing 0.003 horsepower! Whee! Great for drag racing snails!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder if you filled it with pee (urine) if it would put out 6X as much hydrogen? (This is supposed to take half the power and yield 3X the hydrogen.)

      Neil
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is worth a try. I always see those signs on PU trucks back windows of a Ford peeing on a Chevy. Now there can be a sticker of a bad boy peeing on a hydrogen car. This would not have a negative connotation just refueling the vehicle.
        • 5 Years Ago
        LOL. There are certainly a few posters here who would like to take a piss on hydrogen research...
      • 5 Years Ago
      I guess if you were in the middle of no where you could fix up a super cheap wind turbine with PVC pipes/ wood and an old alternator and use that to create hydrogen for mobile devices, but batteries do the job much better.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "HydroFILL uses 60W DC per hour to make 10 liters (0.001 kg) of hydrogen".

      Hmmm, ignoring small losses of converting AC to DC that means it uses 60Wh of electricity to produce 30Wh of stored energy in the form of hydrogen (.001kg H2= .120MJ = .03kWh).

      Seems like it would be more efficient (and cheaper I assume) to carry a spare battery? What problem is this targeted to solve? I must be missing something.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not opinion, but reality.

        After over a decade of development, PEM fuel cells large enough to move even a small vehicle still cost thousands of dollars per kW.

        They require a 100-fold decrease in cost to become competitive to ICE-based range extenders.

        That simply won't happen over even the next decade.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The HydroStik is meant as a USB charger for phones, GPS, and other small electronics. Sure, you could carry around spare batteries, but they take several hours to recharge, while the HydroStik can be refilled more quickly, in just one hour. As for cost, well, that's what we'll find out at CES:

        "Unlike conventional batteries, these cartridges carry more energy capacity,are cheaper, and do not contain any environmentally-harmful heavy metals."

        http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/files/CES2010.pdf

        • 5 Years Ago
        "Nobody but oil companies and their stock holders are interested in blending the two."

        That's your opinion, which happens to be misinformed.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "You assume that hydrogen supporters want to kill off the BEV."

        That is a very logical assumption, that would probably only be disputed by the occasional roving hydroscam enthusiast such as yourself.

        "That is not the case; batteries are complementary tech to fuel cells."

        An EV with good range cost will cost anywhere from $25K to $49K. Hydrogen cars are 10x's that. In the next 4-7 years mainstream BEVs will be cheaper and at the same time range-competitive with gas or hydrogen powered cars. Nobody but oil companies and their stock holders are interested in blending the two.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Yup. Hydrogen is best thought of as an energy storage system. Just not a particularly useful one in many ways (although more convenient than gasoline, other than the fact that we have a mammoth existing gasoline storage and distribution system already in place). But far less useful for transmission than electricity.
        • 5 Years Ago
        In the US, electric rates are set by the local Public Utilities Comission, so they can't jack up rates on a whim. Like other utilities, they must get approval from the Government for any rate increase, that is the price they must pay for being granted a local monopoly.

        Oil companies and H2 supply companies, on the other hand, have no such restriction and can raise prices whenever they want, by however much they want - but they aren't granted a monopoly and are subject to competition.
        • 5 Years Ago
        More hydrogen products translates into more products that allow us to get off the grid.

        The more alternatives we have to our local utility company, the less they can jack up our rates.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "HydroFILL uses 60W DC per hour"

      Are you f&(%ing kidding me Blanco? After all this time you still spew out nonsense like that?

      And by nonsense I mean that 'Watts per hour' is not a unit of anything that has any meaning. Get your bloody physics straight before you repeat marketing gibberish.

      PLEASE!!!

      Also "outputs 2.5W (5V, 400mA)"
      Um... math much? 5V @ 400mA = 2.0 W. It's not like this is college level or anything.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I assume "HydroFILL uses 60W DC per hour to make 10 liters"
        actually means: HydroFILL uses 60W DC to make 10 liters per hour
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think DMFCs will fill the home application rather than hydrogen.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I suspect you're right. Direct Methanol Fuel Cells are likely to be similar in price per watt, but methanol is easier to handle than H2 and methanol storage bottles will be a lot less expensive than the HydroSTIKs this thing uses.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Sound unnecessarily complicated? It is. What's wrong with simply using the grid power to recharge the batteries?"

      This is what I've been saying about cars all along...
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is probably just a little market research project to prep the public for more H2 energy systems. Yes, we all know this is inefficient. The point is NOT efficiency but to introduce the idea of using H2 as an energy carrier.

      Think about this gents: big oil is not about to roll over and quit selling energy. Perhaps they have a neat little device for breaking the water molecule at far lower energy inputs. Why keep spending $billions on FCs and materials if you don't have cheap H2??

      There are disruptive technologies not far away that will change the energy picture greatly.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "...and if they are economically successful there really won't be any market for H2FCVs. "

        That's where we disagree.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, the oil companies DO have a cheaper method of producing H2, by steam reforming of fossil fuels like natural gas and coal. That's how they produce the H2 they use to refine petroleum into other fuels.

        What I find disingenuous is the notion some H2 promoters have that H2 fuels will somehow "threaten" the oil companies, when in fact the oil companies have been promoting it and are dues paying members of several H2 associations like the California Fuel Cell Partnership.

        letstakeawalk: H2 enthusiasts like Greg Blencoe have been trash-talking against plug-in cars for a very long time as they see plug-ins as a grave threat to their preferred H2 fueled solution. BEVs and PHEVs will be on the market years before any H2FCVs, and if they are economically successful there really won't be any market for H2FCVs. After all, by 2015 plug-ins will have an extensive power supply and recharging infrastructure in place, years of mass production and competition to drive down costs, improvements in battery technology for greater range and lower costs, perhaps even a network of battery swap facilities for faster "refueling" than any H2 station. H2FCVs won't be able to compete in such a market, even if they do get improved batteries from plug-in research efforts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If they had this cheaper way of producing H2 they would have it out already. They don't. In fact they would be parading it all around the world right now just to kill off the EV before it establishes a beachhead in the market.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Polo

        You assume that hydrogen supporters want to kill off the BEV. That is not the case; batteries are complementary tech to fuel cells.
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