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Hydrogen Toy Car
By David Nguyen

There is little doubt that the automobile of the future will be powered by electricity. It's still unclear if hydrogen will play a major role in generating that electricity. But here's an interesting toy that proves a concept.

A few weeks ago I placed an online order for a hydrogen toy car from Horizon Fuel Cell. It was sent directly from China via UPS, arriving in 2 days. That in itself is an amazing feat. Anyway, after some minor assembly I had a syringe (always amusing) and charging station that uses electricity from a solar cell (or two AA batteries) to produce hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then stored in a tank in the car. When you turn the car on the hydrogen is used to produce electricity which drives the motor and provides propulsion.

The car is slow and doesn't go very far on a charge, maybe 150 feet on concrete. It's not remote controlled and cannot steer. But it proves a concept that is at once both incredible and redundant at the same time. Think about it. The process turns electricity into hydrogen and back into electricity.

It would probably be more efficient to just charge a battery directly. Hydrogen power is an interesting concept. But I can't see it working very well this way. Sure there are all these claims that hydrogen powered vehicles will only emit water vapor. But it seems that people are forgetting it takes electricity to make the hydrogen to put into the vehicles to begin with.

The key is energy storage. Whatever form of energy is used to generate electricity, it needs to have an efficient and reliable method of storage for use on-demand. At this point, hydrogen does not seem to fit those requirements but this was a fun toy to play with.

Here's a video off Youtube of one running (though I got it to go a little further than he does). Skip to near the end to see it run:

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Posted June 30, 2005

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