Australian-Israeli startup creates water-based fuel for electric vehicles

Electriq~Global presents technology at Tel Aviv’s Smart Mobility Summit; touts zero emissions, longer range and lower price

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustration of a how car that will run on Electriq~Global's water-based fuel will work (Courtesy)
Illustration of a how car that will run on Electriq~Global's water-based fuel will work (Courtesy)

Australian-Israeli startup Electriq~Global says it has found a way to use water to power electric vehicles.

The company, formerly known as Terragenic, was presenting its technology as part of the EcoMotion 2018 “Smart Mobility Summit” taking place Monday and Tuesday in Tel Aviv.

The company said its water-based recyclable fuel is “highly efficient, safe” and clean and can be used to power electric vehicles with zero emissions.

The technology, which the company calls “revolutionary,” extracts hydrogen from the fuel, which is then utilized to create electricity to power the vehicle.

Guy Michrowski, the CEO of Electriq~Global, formerly Terragenic (Courtesy)

The Electriq~Global system contains three key elements: the water, a chemical called BH4 or Tetrahydrobiopterin, and a metal layer – a “catalyzer”  developed by the company – that triggers the production of hydrogen from the mix.

“We have created a new kind of fuel based on water,” said CEO Guy Michrowski in a phone interview. “It is safe, nonflammable and easy to use and to transport.”

Green energy competitors today use either lithium-ion batteries to power vehicles — Tesla does this — or compressed hydrogen technologies for larger vehicles like buses, trucks, trains and boats.

“Compressed hydrogen is expensive to store and transport,” Michrowski said. Because Electriq~Global’s fuel is 60 percent water, it is safe to store and transport, and is able to produce hydrogen on demand that is then turned into electricity.

“Our value is making hydrogen accessible in a safe way, which is a major cost reduction,” he said. “The market for hydrogen-based vehicles is taking off, he added. “We want to replace compressed hydrogen with our solution.”

Electriq~Global’s technology achieves twice the range of electric cars at half the cost, according to the company.

The battery of a Tesla Model-S 2018 has a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles), as does a compressed hydrogen-based car like the Toyota Mirai 2018 and an average unleaded-fuel car. Electriq claims its vehicles will have a range of 1,000 kilometers, according to data provided on its website, and can be refueled in five minutes.

Its cost per tank will be $25 compared to $80 for the Mirai’s hydrogen tank and $50 for an average unleaded-fuel car today, the website says. The energy density of the fuel is up to 15 times that of electric batteries currently in use in vehicles like Tesla’s, the company said in a statement.

Once the hydrogen is created and used, the remaining liquid can be recycled at a plant where it is replenished with water and the chemical, to be used again, Michrowski explained,

The company was founded in 2014 by Alex Silberman, the company’s chief technology officer, who is an electro-chemist with 30 years of experience in energy storage, batteries and fuel cells, the website says.

The company has proven that its fuel can operate a bicycle. It is now collaborating with a global hydrogen bus and truck manufacturer to develop vehicles that will run on its fuel, in a bid to eventually replace their hydrogen-based trucks with those powered by Electriq’s product, Michrowski said.

The firm is setting up a recycling plant for the fuel in Israel with the support of the Transportation Ministry, he said.

The firm received grant funding from the US-Israel fund Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) for its development, as a clean-energy project. The company is registered in Australia and has an Israeli subsidiary.

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