PRODUCTION of a fuel saving device for internal combustion engines will begin in South Australia in the coming months.
Hydroflex is preparing for final trials of its version one hydrogen-based fuel reduction system ahead of a commercial launch.
The system can cut fuel use by 10 to 15 per cent while reducing exhaust emissions and can be fitted to diesel or petrol engines ranging in size from a car to a cruise ship.
Hydroflex, formerly known as Hydrogen Power Systems, relocated from San Diego in the United States to the Tonsley Innovation Hub in the South Australian capital Adelaide in April.
The company is initially focusing on devices for large engines such as generators on mining sites, long-haul trucks, ships and diesel trains because they represent the biggest opportunities in terms of fuel savings and emission reductions.
Independent testing will begin on generators for the mining industry and trucks for the transport industry in the coming weeks. The first commercial units are expected to be available for sale before the end of the year.
Chief Technology Officer and inventor Richard Connors, who has been working on the device for a decade, said the business was highly scalable and would continue to expand as demand grew.
“We are in the process of identifying as many Australian suppliers for commodity parts – bolts, nuts, fittings – but my objective is to have as much of the components sourced here, purchased here, used here as possible,” he said.
“All the IP will be manufactured in Tonsley in Adelaide.”
“The good thing about this is it takes three guys two hours to put one of these systems together so that three-man team can put together 80 systems in a month. We will generate within our manufacturing family the skill sets required.”
He said unlike catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters that treated emissions “after the fact”, his device used hydrogen and oxygen to increase the amount of fuel burnt in the combustion process.
“We have a device that is cost effective and delivers value to the bottom line of the customer and at the same time reduces all seven types of pollution that normally come out of the back end of an exhaust pipe – we positively reduce all of them at different ratios,” Connors said.
The device includes a 1.5 litre tank of water with an electrolyte in it. A small voltage of electricity is applied to the water to initiate electrolysis that creates hydrogen and oxygen vapour. The vapour is then piped through a standard rubber hose to the front of the air filter where it is combined with normal air to produce a hydrogen enhanced combustion process.
“So our hydrogen and oxygen is not a fuel, it is an accelerant that is consumed in the process and thereby because it moves the flame front faster it burns more of the fuel leading to more power and less pollution,” Connors said.
“To run this thing all they have to do is add 1.5 litres of ordinary tap water every 2000km.”
Connors, who has a diverse background ranging from manufacturing to flight test manager for Apache Helicopters, to software engineer and inventor, said previous hydrogen systems relied on pressurized gas cylinders, needed operator intervention and had safety issues requiring certification.
Strong transport and mining industries in Australia and Federal Government tax incentives for R&D helped lure Connors to the Tonsley Innovation Hub in Adelaide on the site of a former Mitsubishi car plant in April.
“I started looking around the world and while there are many incubators, the mix of talent, the proximity to a large market both here in Australia and in the Asian basin, Tonsley kept bubbling up to the top,” he said.
“Tonsley is a wonderland for someone like myself because it has all the ingredients in the petrie dish that I need to be successful and I’ve not found that anywhere else.
“Adelaide is the Detroit of Australia. You’ve got the talent pool of mechanics, the heavy manufacturing, the plastics, the computers, all these talents are within a rock’s throw of our building.”
It has also has entered the Low Carbon Entrepreneur’s Prize the first initiative unveiled as part of the Adelaide to Zero Carbon Challenge - a new program aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions, generating new green businesses for the state and ensuring Adelaide is a showcase city for renewables and clean technology.
Hydroflex Chief Operating Officer Ron Basset said the company had already been approached by businesses in India, Philippines, Malaysia and the United States about becoming licensees to assemble and sell the product.
“They want us to go to the Philippines for test on buses in two or three weeks,” he said.
“A lot of the other technologies out there are years away from commercialization, this is ready now and that’s the most exciting thing about this project.”
Version one is for vehicles manufactured up to 2010. Version two, designed for more modern engines, is about three months away.
“Then we will see version three in 18 to 24 months, which will fit in everyone’s car and we envisage that people will be able to buy it and get it installed for between $300 and $400 that’s our target,” Basset said.
The company is looking to raise between $500,000 and $1 million (AUD) in capital in the next month or so to help accelerate the commercialisation.
It is also in talks to have its device as an optional extra for the recently launched British sports car the Trident, which boasts a 6.6-litre V8 turbo diesel engine and claims to be the "fastest and most fuel efficient diesel sports car" available.