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ENERGY

PIONEER
CEO, Hydrogen Energy Laboratory Project Co. Ltd.
Kenji Watanabe

Develop a Car Running on Water
43 years of dedication to utilize the cleanest and cheapest resource as fuel
28
A car runs on water. Kenji Watanabe, CEO of an energy venture “Hydrogen Energy Laboratory Project (H.E.L.P.)” located in Kagoshima, Japan, has successfully completed a vehicle running on the energy of steam explosion caused by the combustion of hydrogen. The car has been approved by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport of the Japanese government. The company will collect the driving data, participating the Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project (JHFC) launched by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. At the same time, they will start the distribution system across the whole country.
Hydrogen as a trigger
    “Both water and hydrogen are imperfect as fuels. The two can be used as fuels only after they are combined together”, says Watanabe.
    The engine can be basically applied to any conventional vehicle, and H.E.L.P. retrofitted a Nissan’s ELGRAND as a test car. A 35 MPa hydrogen tank has been fitted in place of the third seat. A gasoline tank has been replaced with a water tank in which ordinary tap water can be put.
    The hydrogen car runs on kinetic energy of vapor explosion which is caused when water spray is jetted and instantly exploded by the combustion heat of hydrogen that is simultaneously injected and burned in the engine. Hydrogen is used as a trigger to prompt water explosion. This process is more efficient than other traditional hydrogen cars which runs directly on the combustion energy of hydrogen.
    “Water is the cleanest and cheapest among all fuels in the world. There has got to be a way of utilizing it.” After years of studying with this innovative concept, Watanabe discovered that hydrogen was best partnered with water.

36 m³ of hydrogen for driving distance of 150 km
     Hydrogen and Water each have their own characteristics. For example, the combustion speed of hydrogen is several times faster than that of water. According to Watanabe, “hydrogen burns quickly, but it is difficult to convert that combustion heat into usable energy, while water explodes and produces a high pressure at a lower temperature. Great benefit can be derived from the combination of their characteristics.”
    The trick is to determine the proper ratio of hydrogen to water in the engine depending on driving conditions. Watanabe guards the way of computerizing of this balance.
    He named this “H.A.W. System”. “H.A.W.” stands for Hydrogen, Air and Water.
    In July 2006, the hydrogen car has been authorized by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, and he is currently performing on a test run on public roads with the vehicle. So far, it has reached a top speed of 180 km/h and a maximum travel distance of about 150 km per 35 MPa hydrogen tank. It means that it can travel over 4 km per cubic meter of hydrogen. It is possible to mount two tanks on the car, which calculate to driving distance of 300 km.
    Watanabe looks back and says, “It has taken 43 years to complete.”

Promotion in Tokyo Next Year
     In addition, the JHFC, which is the governmental studying project for the practical installment of Fuel Cell Vehicles and hydrogen stations, has accepted cars with hydrogen engines as one of the research subjects in the 2nd phase starting from the year of 2006. So H.E.L.P.’s hydrogen car will be taken for accurate data collection on test runs. One of the officers of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has paid particular attention to the hydrogen car, saying “we are interested in it even though its performance and data has been still unclear on this stage.”
  At present, it costs 10 million yen to retrofit each vehicle. It will be possible to bring down the cost as the number of manufactured vehicles increase.
  H.E.L.P. is now promoting the project to offer a Hydrogen Shuttle Bus for the Los Angels Airport next year. Their promotion and test runs will go into high gear in Tokyo next year, too. The designated retrofitting factories will be franchised out, and 5 plants will be assigned in Tokyo in the first year.

[The Environmental News, Oct. 25, 2006] (Translated by H.E.L.P.)