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Next up, the Perpetual Motion Machine
June 24, 2008 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Last week, Genepax Co demonstrated a car that it says runs on water. Video of the demonstration is here.

The claim is not without its detractors, and Genepax has not yet released any information about how the system works; most of their website (beyond press releases and general information) seems to be under construction
posted by never used baby shoes (76 comments total)

 
I like how their "mechanism" link says "Coming Soon!!"
posted by delmoi at 1:14 PM on June 24, 2008


Mechanism:

Coming soon!!
posted by mr_roboto at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2008


They've had time to go to TV stations, though...
posted by mr_roboto at 1:15 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll believe it if all the inventors die in freak accidents.
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2008 [10 favorites]


That looks good, because water is inexpensive (unless you use bottled water, which is more expensive than gasoline, hah!) and non-polluting. But I wonder, what happens if you're somewhere and you run out of water? Then you would be in a pickle. That's for sure.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


That's nothing. My bicycle runs on cold fusion.
posted by Mister_A at 1:17 PM on June 24, 2008


It says H2O Power right on the back. I'm convinced!
posted by owtytrof at 1:18 PM on June 24, 2008


Water vaporware
posted by burnmp3s at 1:18 PM on June 24, 2008 [12 favorites]


Turtles, I'm pretty sure the answer to your concern is:

Coming Soon!
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:18 PM on June 24, 2008




Man, if we could get an engine that runs on bullshit!!! Imagine the possibilities! I doubt it could be zero emissions though.
posted by spicynuts at 1:18 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


So it's not amphibious?
posted by box at 1:20 PM on June 24, 2008


Running out of water should be no problem. See, first you separate the water into hydrogen and oxygen, then you burn it to produce ...uh... water. The exhaust is water. So you just need a connection from the exhaust to the fuel tank. I think I'll start the patent process on my perfection of their invention RIGHT NOW.
posted by Humanzee at 1:20 PM on June 24, 2008


I like how humans think food and water are good things to feed to machines.

Because we need the competition to our food and water supply. And obviously we would eventually have giant meat eating Go-bots attacking our populace to feed themselves.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:21 PM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


“We understand these criticisms since we cannot [reveal] the core part of this invention,” said Jun Onishi, company spokesperson.

FAIL

Genepax, with great fanfare, showed media last week a small vehicle with an energy generator that the company claimed extracts hydrogen from water poured into the car's tank. The generator was said to release electrons that produce electric power to run the car.

THERMODYNAMICS FAIL.
posted by Avenger at 1:21 PM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ooh, electrons!
posted by Mister_A at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2008


Look out! They're QUOTING SCIENCE!
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:24 PM on June 24, 2008


Man, if we could get an engine that runs on bullshit!!!

Washington, DC alone could fuel the entire country.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:26 PM on June 24, 2008


What's the point of this post? These idiotic scams come up once every six months at least, if not more often.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


My car ran on gin & tonics until it was impounded for driving under the influence.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


Remember when Doc came back at the end of "Back to the Future" in his Delorean with the Mr. Fusion attached?

Well, not only am I still waiting for Mr. Goddamn Fusion, but now I think about it: His trip to the future would be the equivalent of some dude magically showing up today in a 1963 Renault Caravelle (well, aside from the improbability of that car achieving 88mph, a quality shared with the Delorean). Don't you think the first thing Doc does in future-land would be to sell his troublesome white stainless steel elephant to a collector and buy a fusion air car instead?

A neighbor of mine uses a Renault Alliance convertible to run his weekly errands. I think this must be the very last running Alliance in North America, perhaps the world.
posted by maxwelton at 1:32 PM on June 24, 2008


My great grandad had a car that ran on water..
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:34 PM on June 24, 2008


John McCain is aware of the internet and will be forwarding the 300 million dollar reward shortly.
posted by xod at 1:36 PM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


I need to bring along a bottle of water to "add from time to time"? Why can't I just hook a big bottle of water straight to the engine with like a hose? Seems more convenient that way.
posted by rlk at 1:37 PM on June 24, 2008


Oh come on.

Why are people so stupid?
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


While were here, I thought about making an FPP on (*cue Rod Serling voice*) the strange and sad case of one Carl Tilley. A man who claimed to have invented a car battery that "charged itself" and told his investors that GE had offered to buy his invention for $2 billion, "sight unseen".

Shortly thereafter, he was charged with securities fraud and skipped his Tennessee town for locations unknown. I don't know what happened to him, as the last articles online are from 2006.

These guys are always the same. I think whats most frustrating about it is that even a cursory familiarity with physics would disprove their claims, but they still manage to make millions off unwary investors.
posted by Avenger at 1:39 PM on June 24, 2008


My car can fly on the power of lies.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:40 PM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Even Jesus couldn't run on water. He could only walk.
posted by spicynuts at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's actually Tab Clear, not water.
posted by fire&wings at 1:53 PM on June 24, 2008


What's the point of this post? These idiotic scams come up once every six months at least, if not more often.

What's the point of these scams? Seriously, I don't get what's motivating them -- what do the scammers gain, other than (soon-to-be-negative) attention? Do they actually find enough naive investors to make the scams worthwhile? Or do they really believe their own BS?
posted by treepour at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


post is missing the perpetualmotion tag

FAIL
posted by Afroblanco at 2:01 PM on June 24, 2008


Robert Rapier has an interesting post on this.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:05 PM on June 24, 2008


treepour: What's the point of this post? These idiotic scams come up once every six months at least, if not more often.

Seriously, there ought to be a centralized waiting list somewhere. You register for the water-powered car hoax, and when your turn comes you produce your magical car by whatever means you like. Then some reporter who has nothing to do goes to a website, clicks on a button, gets your contact info, attends a bogus demo, writes a story, and never works again.
posted by Reverend John at 2:06 PM on June 24, 2008


Whooops, not treepour but delmoi... mefi quote tripped me up.
posted by Reverend John at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2008


His point being, I should say, that it's not necessarily an out-and-out scam, but that it still won't make any sense to use regardless of what the mechanism turns out to be. Of course, it could always turn out to be an out-and-out scam.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2008


Ok, clearly this car does not run on water, but in fact runs on some metal hydride, reacting with water to produce hydrogen and from there it's a fuel cell. So yes, call bullshit on the vapid news articles.

However! That doesn't necessarily mean it's a terrible idea. Just that it's subject to a couple of big ifs.

IF: You can produce your membrane electrode assemblies fairly cheap, and without using stupendously more energy than they'll release over their lifetime, then at least you can concentrate the major energy input in a place of your choosing. Set up the factory next to e.g. Niagra Falls or something and you could start to cut down fossil fuel inputs significantly, and...

IF: You can produce the MEAs without horrific mining and industrial pollution, then you can cut way back on carbon emissions.

Given those two things, then you've actually delivered on the hydrogen fuel cell (an energy storage technology, remember) premise without the difficulties of building a hydrogen production and delivery infrastructure.

We already have a good water delivery infrastructure in most parts of the world, and nearly all if you don't require the water to be potable. This type of thing could conceivably cut way down on the dirty energy storage we use billions of gallons of now. That's not so bad.

I have great doubts about those two ifs though.
posted by rusty at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


But I wonder, what happens if you're somewhere and you run out of water? Then you would be in a pickle.

No problem. You just hitch the car up to the pickle-powered motor trike you keep in the trunk.

THERMODYNAMICS FAIL.

Well, what about the kinetic energy of the water being poured into the tank? Perhaps it is harnessed and converted into useful molecule-splitting work, which okay I'll stop.
posted by cortex at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2008


Again, no one is claiming this is an over-unity device.

If the hydrogen source is non-electrical, but a chemical catalyst, and that catalyst is cheap enough to produce, how is this (energy-wise) any different than mining coal or petroleum for energy?

The problem I see here is not the engineer's problem. It's a problem of public perception in that people are too quick to assume that this is some kind of revolutionary product. It's alternative energy. Energy is energy, fuel is fuel. If it works and it's safe to produce and use, why not? The general public is way too involved in the status quo of cars and petrofuels and how they're thought about and used.

People are already doing various hydrogen conversions, both combustion and eletrical fuel cell, and some of them "run" on pure water by way of external energy input and onboard hydrogen generators.

If you can get the energy you need to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen from "free/cheap" sources such as wind or solar, or from chemical catalysts (again, assuming cheap, safe and useable) then you have renewable, portable energy.

Meanwhile, people scoff at these ideas because they're too entrained into the lifestyle of their petrofuel cars. We could have useable solar powered cars RIGHT NOW if you'd give up that hulking, false illusion of safety and we started building modern cars that were light like bicycles, rather than the heavy, wasteful Ford Model-T holdouts we still use today - but, yeah, a light, low-slung aerodynamic pod covered in solar panels and running on high pressure, narrow bike wheels wouldn't comfortably carry your average American lardass to megashopping trips at Costco and Wal-Mart.

Whatever. Get a fucking bike already. Demand better public transportation. Most of us don't need a car. Most of us are too damn lazy to make the effort to try something new or actually work at transporting themselves, so we have "crackpots" like this trying to find a suitable replacement for your petro-burning assmobile.

It's not their fault. It's yours for seeing the world the way you do. Get over it.
posted by loquacious at 2:16 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


so we have "crackpots" like this trying to find a suitable replacement for your petro-burning assmobile

My assmobile never seems to run out of gas.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:28 PM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


We'll feed the rats to the cats, and the cats to the rats, and get the cat skins for nothing!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2008


your average American lardass

pass the butter!
posted by quonsar at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2008


MaxWelton: "Don't you think the first thing Doc does in future-land would be to sell his troublesome white stainless steel elephant to a collector and buy a fusion air car instead?"

He couldn't do that cuz at the time he still thought he needed the unique DeLorean design to make time travel work. Of course, by the time the DeLorean was destroyed, the DeLorean corporation had gone belly up and there were no more, so Doc Brown got creative and invented a time machine shaped like a locomotive that ran on steam...

Yes, I've watched Back To The Future I-III back to back approximately a dozen times. Why do you ask?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2008


East Manitoba....noted in a link So, the moral is: Sometimes it appears that the lunch is free, but the bill eventually comes anyway - when you have to replenish the catalyst.

loquacious noted If the hydrogen source is non-electrical, but a chemical catalyst, and that catalyst is cheap enough to produce, how is this (energy-wise) any different than mining coal or petroleum for energy?

A catalyst by definition is never 'used up' in a reaction, it lowers the energy hump to reaction as a intermediary step but is always returned to its original state. The proper term is reagent, as reagents are consumed in the process. The platinum in a catalytic converter will always return to being platinum after the reduction.

This basic misuse of terms (taught in the 1st week of Chem) leads me to believe the analysis by the Intel Daily is done by someone who's Chem 1A skills have suffered severe oxidation. Might I suggest keeping a zinc bar in your pocket?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:41 PM on June 24, 2008


runs on water? meh. i'm more interested in a car that drives on land.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:55 PM on June 24, 2008


Well, I'm convinced. There is absolutely no way that video could have been faked.

Also, I was watching a documentary recently, and I'm greatly concerned about bioengineering being done on remote tropical islands. They are making dinosaurs for a themepark.

That just seems dangerous and irresponsible.
posted by quin at 3:04 PM on June 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here's more water for the PR fire.
posted by MetaMan at 3:06 PM on June 24, 2008


MiltonRandKalman, perhaps if it IS catalytic, then they mean it is poisoned rather than used up. In the same way the catalytic converter in your car needs replacing from time to time·
posted by 999 at 3:40 PM on June 24, 2008


This is why no one likes journalism. Copying an energy-from-water press release and reporting it as truth? FAIL.

I'm getting bored of these things, though. I propose a moratorium on them, unless it's a really funny hoax, until such time as one comes out that I can go to the store and buy. Meanwhile I will continue to use my food-and-water powered vehicle.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2008


Also, I was watching a documentary recently, and I'm greatly concerned about bioengineering being done on remote tropical islands. They are making dinosaurs for a themepark.

That just seems dangerous and irresponsible.


So you're saying oil is a renewable resource now? Cool! Eat that, liberals!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:08 PM on June 24, 2008


Shares in Dino-Oil LLC are expected to show good returns over the long term.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:24 PM on June 24, 2008


It's not a catalyst. Catalysts do not provide energy to a system (maybe a little if they are being poisoned, but not meaningful quantities.) Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen requires a lot of energy, so whatever is doing it has to contribute that energy into the system, which means it must be constantly losing energy and changing chemically. It has to be a reagent, or else the energy has to be put into the system some other way (i.e. you plug the car in.) In that case it would be a catalyst and this would effectively be a very strange sort of electric car, but I haven't seen anyone mention it being one.

If it is a reagent, then the main question becomes how much energy it costs to manufacture, what the efficiency is, and what's left after it's used up. There are a million chemicals you could theoretically run a car on, but they're either too expensive, impractical, inefficient, or toxic to be superior to what we already have.

My guess is this is a very shady business scamming money from the OMGWATERCAR idiots and they don't have a serious system at all.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:31 PM on June 24, 2008


Oh, and let me also note that if it does react some chemical with water to make hydrogen, it is no more accurate to say it consumes water than it is to say my car consumes air. What would actually fuel the car is whatever chemical it consumed to power the hydrogen generation.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:35 PM on June 24, 2008


MiltonRandKalman, perhaps if it IS catalytic, then they mean it is poisoned rather than used up. In the same way the catalytic converter in your car needs replacing from time to time·
posted by 999

Oh of course, if its gunked up sure, but this is a basic (sorry) inorganic reaction with a ionic metal hydride that gives off hydrogen gas, sodium hydroxide (which children find delicious!). But this is not a catalytic reaction.

NaH + H2O → H2 (gas) + NaOH ΔH = −83.6 kJ/mol, ΔG = −109.0 kJ/mol
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:36 PM on June 24, 2008


Genepax, with great fanfare, showed media last week a small vehicle with an energy generator that the company claimed extracts hydrogen from water poured into the car's tank.

Fanfare is certainly much cheaper than energy these days.
posted by JHarris at 5:51 PM on June 24, 2008


Oh, and let me also note that if it does react some chemical with water to make hydrogen, it is no more accurate to say it consumes water than it is to say my car consumes air.

Um, you're car does consume Air, or at least the oxygen in the air. Try running it in an all nitrogen environment and you won't have much luck (plus, you'll die), and you won't be able to recycle the exhaust either. Air is just as much fuel for your car as gasoline.
posted by delmoi at 6:49 PM on June 24, 2008


Air is not the most expensive fuel the car is using, though. The analogy is clear: the cost of air + gas is equivalent to the cost of just gas; the cost of water + Mysterious Fuel That Makes Things Work in the water car is likely equivalent to the cost of just MFTMTW. That air and water, respectively, are required is kind of beside the point if it's a question of fuel cost.
posted by cortex at 6:59 PM on June 24, 2008


Lisa, get in here...

In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!
posted by Talez at 7:27 PM on June 24, 2008


Lisa, get in here...

In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!


So the water's warm enough, then, Wendy?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:28 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


ZachsMind: Of course, by the time the DeLorean was destroyed, the DeLorean corporation had gone belly up and there were no more, so Doc Brown got creative and invented a time machine shaped like a locomotive that ran on steam...

Also, wasn't he trapped in 1885? His options would have been limited.
posted by ruddhist at 9:11 PM on June 24, 2008


delmoi: Um, you're car does consume Air, or at least the oxygen in the air. Try running it in an all nitrogen environment and you won't have much luck (plus, you'll die), and you won't be able to recycle the exhaust either. Air is just as much fuel for your car as gasoline.

You missed my point entirely. It was 'Yes, it does use water, but claiming that water is fuel for the car is just as stupid as claiming a gasoline engine is fueled by air just because it requires it to run." Of course a gasoline engine requires air, I'm not daft, but it doesn't fit the common definition of 'fuel' that most people use. When anyone but a chemist uses 'fuel', they mean 'stuff you pour into the car to make it go', or maybe if they're being fancy, 'energy source.'

I realize that you could be snarky and philosophical and claim that air is just as much fuel for the engine as gasoline is, and speculate on engines created for reducing environments that would use an oxidizer for a fuel and a reduced hydrocarbon for a substrate, but you're overanalyzing things.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:34 PM on June 24, 2008


Notice to all inventors of water-powered cars and suchlike:

Dear sir/madam,

Your invention is marvellous and wonderful. It will lead to a tremendous reduction in pollution, poverty, starvation, crime, natural disasters, and TV advertising. There is a list of names of persons who have changed history through invention and innovation, a list containing names you already know, by definition. Your name belongs on that list. A thousand years after you die, you will be remembered.

Your invention will be shown around the world. You will never have to work again. Everything you need will be provided to you. Electricity companies, saving trillions of dollars worldwide as a result of your invention, will gladly sponsor you to produce new ideas, and to come up with innovative uses of this most amazing device. If even a millionth of the money saved comes your way, you and yours are set for life forever. Physicists, chemists and engineers will pay thousands of dollars each just to hear you speak. There are a thousand research labs in universities and corporations worldwide who would open their arms and budgets to you.

Once again: you will never, ever, have to work again. Even if you produce nothing ever again, you are set for life forever.

This will occur if you release the full details of your invention worldwide. All you need to do is post the instructions on the Internet, ideally in the form of a citable scientific paper, in such a way that anyone with the required equipment (say, a typical university's physical chemistry department) can replicate your work.

Alternatively, you can withhold some details. No matter what your reasons for doing this, you appear to be selfish, and furthermore, you appear to be dishonest. Even if you demonstrate a putatively working device, unless the specifications follow quickly thereafter, you will be assumed to be operating some form of scam, a dog and pony show, a "mechanical Turk" whereby the work only appears to be done by your device and some other mechanism does the actual work. Your name will be remembered by no-one except those foolish enough to be sucked in, legal problems will follow you everywhere, and, if fate is fair and just, you will die in poverty and disgrace.

This is your choice, good sir or madam.

Yours,
The World.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:45 PM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


IRFH gets bonus points for confabulating The Simpsons and a Prince song.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:50 PM on June 24, 2008


Why does it only run on BLUE water?
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:47 PM on June 24, 2008


Here's a hint: It gets 40 mile per flush.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:51 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Btw, a friend of a friend told me that the government agents that orchestrated the demolition of the Twin Towers drive air-cars powered by water. True story.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:33 AM on June 25, 2008


Don't conflate "confabulate" and "conflate".
posted by cortex at 7:08 AM on June 25, 2008


Btw, a friend of a friend told me that the government agents that orchestrated the demolition of the Twin Towers drive air-cars powered by water.

Shouldn't air cars be powered by air?
posted by lukemeister at 9:40 AM on June 25, 2008


Don't conflate "confabulate" and "conflate".

Indeed. I correctly insinuated that IRFH confabulated because conflating usually connotes careless confusion. He intentionally strung together three disparate elements (The Simpsons, a song off of "Purple Rain" and the heat death of the Universe) all into one tidy little joke.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2008


Wait, maybe not. I need to start using a dictionary.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:41 PM on June 25, 2008


It's a bit of a gray area in this case, actually.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:42 PM on June 25, 2008


Yeah, I'm mostly giving you a hard time. You could even arguably be committing a confabulation rather than a conflation in your mistaking of confabulate for conflate, in the case where I argue that it's a mistake at all.

The key point here is that I used to hang out on the Blue Confabulation BBS, back in the day, and I really like that word.
posted by cortex at 2:57 PM on June 25, 2008


It is an ab-fab word, that confabulate.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:03 PM on June 25, 2008


confabulate: to make up.

conflate: to combine together, often with the implication that it was out of confusion or misremembering.

What Burhanistan wanted to say was "conflate."

The word cortex was looking for was "confuse," which is not quite the same thing as conflate. Conflating "conflate" and "confabulate" would produce a word like "conflabulate." Using one instead of the other is just confusing them. Unless you're trying to be extra-clever, and is it not written "Oooh, he's so sharp he'll cut himself."

This message was brought to you by the Pointless Linguistic Clarification Dep't. "Word confusion is something up with which we will not put!"
posted by rusty at 8:16 AM on June 26, 2008


But Burhan is in the right to call it fuzzy, as "confabulation" can also mean something like "made up to fill a gap in memory", having then a more automatic function that is a kind of superset of confusion behaviors, of which "conflate" is one valid member.

Now, I was accusing Burhan of intentionally choosing to use "confabulate" instead of "conflate", which would itself indeed be conflation rather than confusion; however, that that was what I was thinking is not made explicit in my comment, so I can understand the confusion.
posted by cortex at 8:25 AM on June 26, 2008


Or, as they liked to say in the 15th century, "Thay wille be chaste, and neure the lesse of filthes fflesshely confable."
posted by cortex at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2008


You could use thousands of these to power your electric car.

The internal converter simply extracts electrons from water (or other liquid) molecules and provides a steady stream of electrical current acting as a fuel cell to generate power to the clock.
posted by Akeem at 9:49 AM on June 26, 2008


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