Salt Water Car? - Not So Fast
The Discovery Channel is still under heavy criticism for their fake documentaries involving sharks that never existed, and mermaids. Their D News YouTube channel is having some credibility issues as well. On a recently posted video, hipster host Julian Huguet gushes over a new car that “runs on salt water.”
After some reasonable background information on the limitations of fossil fuel and current battery technology, Huguet introduces the QUANT e-Sportlimousine concept car, which he claims can run on salt water, producing only water as a byproduct – no carbon emissions. Huguet further explains that while electric cars run on clean electricity, that electricity has to come from somewhere, and in the US it is likely to be a coal burning plant.
This is all correct – but he completely misses a critically important point: the exact same issue exists with the QUANT e-Sportlimousine.
There have been previous claims for engines that can run on salt water or fresh water. These claims are usually based on the electrolysis of water into hydrogen and oxygen, then using that hydrogen as fuel, burning it back with oxygen to make energy and water. The problem with using electrolysis of water as fuel is thermodynamics – it has to take more energy to split the water in the first place then you can possibly get back by burning the hydrogen back with the oxygen.
The QUANT e, however, does not use this method. Rather, it uses nanoflowcell technology. This is essentially a battery that uses salt water solutions to store electrolytes that can undergo reactions to produce electricity.
“Liquid electrolytes circulate through two separate cells in which a “cold burning” takes place, during which oxidation and reduction processes happen in parallel and thereby produce electrical power for the drive train.”
When the nanoflowcell battery is running low, you could just replace the electrolyte fluid to “recharge” the battery in about the same amount of time as filling a tank with gas (although you would have to refill two tanks with 200 liters each). This is an interesting approach, but is not a concept new to the nanoflowcell. The company claims a projected range of 400-600km (250-375 miles). With a respectable range and reasonably fast recharge, this kind of technology could make all electric cars feasible for the general market.
But – Huguet implied that the car would be “running on salt water” and would have an advantage over conventional batteries that have to be powered by coal burning power plants. The electrolyte fluids in the nanoflowcell would also have to be recharged, and this energy would have to come from somewhere (such as a power plant) like any other battery.
While the nanoflowcell is an interesting approach, and we may see cars with this type of battery in production in the future, this technology is not a solution to our energy needs. The salt water electrolyte fluids are not fuel. They are not a source of energy. They are simply an energy storage medium, just like any battery. And that energy has to come from somewhere.
It seems that Discovery needs to invest in better science writers.