Last year Horizon Fuel Cell blew us away with a generator/charging device that used water to create electricity. My colleague, David Berlind, filed this blog, and this video on YouTube that not only produced more than 1.3 million views, but well over a hundred comments, many of them doubting the viability of the technology. This year, the company has not only created a final product, but showed off smaller, cleverer versions as well.Here's this year's video:
First, Horizon Fuel Cell has a retail version of its Hydropak, the final outcome of last year's prototype, and it's got double the power at 50 watts. You can plug in 110-volt, 12-volt, and 5-volt DC power sources, and you can get five hours at full power. It runs $400 for the unit and the cartridges are about $30. Once you activate them, you can keep refilling them with water and using them for 30 days.
Next, Horizon has developed the Minipak, which is a much smaller version of the device and is primarily aimed today at cell phone recharging. It uses Horizon's hydrogen storage cartridges (small silver cylinders about double the thickness and 50% bigger than a double-A battery). Let me be clear: this isn't burning hydrogen. It is hydrogen storage, and the hydrogen is in solid form for safe transport. The unit also includes a small fuel cell (about double the size of a postage stamp and maybe a quarter-inch thick). The chemical reaction is what generates the power.
The whole device might fit into your pocket, and company co-founder Taras Wankewycz says it will decrease by about 30%. The unit is $50 and the cartridges will run between $5 - $10, and are refillable (the company is working out deals with retail outlets for this purpose). You can get about 10 hours of charge time from a cylinder.
$50! $400! This is actually within reason, especially considering where we go next. Consider that Horizon has been successfully mass-producing fuel cells for toys; impressive given the investment in platinum required. Now onto charging, generators, and beyond, to full-on generators and even cars, with the possibility of homes being their own refueling stations. Horizon believes that the big trick here is thinking differently about storing hydrogen ("the most energy-intense element," Wankewycz said) and converting it into electricity rather than burning it as fuel. Once the fuel cells and hydrogen devices can take new and different shapes, Wankewycz says, the applications are almost limitless. Horizon already is working on automobiles, with small, toy cars on display at CES.
I can't wait to see how far they go next year.