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Review: i-H2GO hydrogen-powered remote-control car

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September 16, 2013

Gizmag tries out Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies' i-H2GO hydrogen-powered car

Gizmag tries out Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies' i-H2GO hydrogen-powered car

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At the end of last month, Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies began shipments of its latest hydrogen fuel cell-powered remote-control toy car, the i-H2GO. Like its predecessor, the H2GO, it runs on hydrogen obtained from user-supplied water. The main thing that's new about the i-H2GO, however, is the fact that it is now controlled using a free app on the user's existing smartphone. I got my hands on an early production model, mainly just so that I could truthfully say "I've driven a fuel cell car."

Like the H2GO, the new car comes with an included Refueling Station. The user pours purified water into that device, and it proceeds to electrolyze the H2O, separating it into H and O – hydrogen and oxygen. A plunger on the station rises as hydrogen fills its temporary holding compartment.

The user then connects the car to the station using a built-in hose, and manually pumps the hydrogen from the station into the car. The car's fuel cell subsequently combines the hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen, producing a flow of electrons that powers its motor.

A photovoltaic panel is also included, to provide power to the Refueling Station's battery. If the Sun isn't shining or the user just doesn't want to be bothered, however, the station can also be charged from a computer via an included USB cable.

The i-H2GO kit includes the car, its Refueling Station, and a photovoltaic panel

My first order of business was to use that panel to charge the station. The instructions state that at least 10 hours in the sunlight will be necessary, and that 16 would be even better. Just to be on the safe side, I left mine out in direct sunlight all day for two full sunny days in a row. Unfortunately, that still wasn't enough.

This didn't come as a huge surprise, given my recent experiences trying to charge the Waka Waka Power solar lamp and device charger. The fact is that if you live in high-latitude places such as Scandinavia, Russia or (in my case) Canada, solar-powered devices are likely to take longer to charge than their makers claim.

Given that the Refueling Station indicates its charge level simply via an LED that's either red or green, I had no way of knowing how close it was to a full charge. That being the case, I just took it inside and charged it the rest of the way from my computer. A full USB charge, starting from an empty battery, takes five to six hours.

The i-H2GO hooked up to the Refueling Station

Once the station was ready to go, I added filtered water to its water tank, turned it on, and watched it set about separating the hydrogen and oxygen. The electrolyzer itself could be seen furiously fizzing away, while the oxygen escaped as a stream of bubbles at the water's surface. The hydrogen, meanwhile, accumulated in the holding compartment – the plunger rose steadily as it was displaced by the gas, providing an indication of how full the compartment was getting.

Within just a couple of minutes the compartment was full, as indicated both by the plunger being all the way up and the illumination of a green LED. I then hooked the station up to the car, and slowly and steadily pushed the plunger down, transferring the hydrogen from the compartment and into a "balloon" within the car. That balloon could actually be seen inflating as it filled with hydrogen gas. After disconnecting the car and allowing it warm up, it was time to try it out.

Although an Android version of the control app is on the way, presently just an iOS version is available. Not being an iPhone-owner, I took the car over to be test-driven by my Apple-enabled friend Jason.

The i-H2GO, on Jason's sidewalk

Pairing the car with his iPhone was quick and easy. The dedicated app allows users to control the car either via touchscreen controls, or by going into Gyro mode and turning the phone itself to steer. Both methods worked fine for us, and the car zipped around just like you'd expect it to. Given its low ground clearance, however, it became pretty obvious that the i-H2GO is designed for smooth surfaces such as floors. When we first tried it out on a relatively rough asphalt road surface, it did a lot of bumping around and spinning out.

We were surprised at how quickly it went through its onboard store of hydrogen – after just a few minutes, it konked out. It turns out that that's normal, given hydrogen's relatively low energy density. Fortunately, one charge/water fill of the Refueling Station is good for several fillings of the car. Just keep the station close at hand, and expect to take the car out for a few back-to-back short runs instead of a single long one.

Overall, I liked the i-H2GO, and would recommend it for people with science-nerdy kids ... or who are science-nerdy kids at heart, themselves. It may not offer the run time or simplicity of a regular battery-powered RC car, but it transforms fuel cell cars from being some concept that exists "out there," to something that you use and understand yourself.

The i-H2Go is available now, for US$180.

Product page: i-H2GO

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
13 Comments

well it is not worth it at all.

Majed Hosneddine
16th September, 2013 @ 10:35 pm PDT

I think that is really cool. If they could make it small enough to fit it into a small RC car, they could fit it into bigger vehicles that can carry people. One could refill the car at home using a device that is similar to the one used to create hydrogen for the little car but on a bigger scale. I think the fuel cell is the future.

BigGoofyGuy
17th September, 2013 @ 06:03 am PDT

Maybe toys like this will convince most people what a lousy energy carrier hydrogen actually is.

Slowburn
17th September, 2013 @ 09:38 am PDT

Yawn.... Fuel-cell powered toys have been around for over 150 years if you know where to look.... They started out as curiosities.. then in the 60's there were a few toy cars.....then they were a catalog hit in the 70's through mid 80's...then they faded and then came back in the late 80's and early 90's.... Tyco almost created a new series of toys using them... but their buyout killed the whole project.... so now a new real car is on the list of, to be manufactured products, coming out of a new Engineering Center in Texas to run on WATER as the fuel carrier.... Yawn... nothing new or interesting about it....

Common.Sense.Lost
17th September, 2013 @ 10:00 am PDT

I forget, is hydrogen only slightly explosive ?

Jay Finke
17th September, 2013 @ 10:33 am PDT

They could at least have made the car good looking! It's an ugly little lump.

sailr
17th September, 2013 @ 11:28 am PDT

Garage inventors unite! For stuff to tinker with and improve. Sure it may be clunky, but it beats choking on exhaust and knowing the price of water can't be controlled like oil. Just think, you'd save hundreds of dollars a month and the downfall would be your care won't go as fast. Let the people with inferiority complexes buy unpractical super cars.

bullfrog84
17th September, 2013 @ 11:56 am PDT

The simplest lowest tech is compressed air. No catalysts in fact no chemical reactions. Quick to refill if charge station has a tank already compressed and limiting factor is size of hose.

Kirk McLoren
17th September, 2013 @ 12:45 pm PDT

Hydrogen is a wonderful fuel with many advantages. Yes you need more gallons of hydrogen than you do of gasoline but then again hydrogen can be compressed. For automotive use hydrogen may not be in the cards because batteries are making breakthroughs now that should make batteries a better choice for cars for quite some time. But for industrial use hydrogen is a blessing. Engines can last a very long time running hydrogen and the pollution of combustion is history with the use of hydrogen. So far it is easy to come by but also expensive to come by. That expense barrier will vanish soon enough.

Jim Sadler
17th September, 2013 @ 12:57 pm PDT

C'Mon guys, projects like this start small but sometimes develop into practical technologies. Don't be so hard on them.

However they certainly have a long way to go.

My electric R/C car goes 110 kph (Traxxas Rustler VXL), goes for 15 minutes of racing and I can charge it in 15 minutes. I could charge this G6 chemistry Li-Po battery in under 10 minutes if my bench supply could deliver more than 40 amps. The battery's rated at over 60 amps charge rate.

And there are now G8 chemistry Li-Po's that can charge in 5 minutes!

If you want to look it up go to http://thunderpowerrc.com/G8ProForce70C

Some of these little batteries can deliver over 1000 amps!

It's simply amazing! But they're uber-expensive of course.

warren52nz
17th September, 2013 @ 02:39 pm PDT

@ Jim Sadler

Hydrogen at its densest is bulkier than gasoline, and ultra cryogenic.

Compressed to useful pressure it need heavy tanks.

Generating hydrogen is energy intensive and then it is a pain to store and use.

Slowburn
17th September, 2013 @ 10:31 pm PDT

"solar-powered devices are likely to take longer to charge than their makers claim."

This is usually true for *ALL* claims by solar charging devices...they *NEVER* achieve the capacity claimed...and the capacity diminishes as the solar cell ages!

From what you describe though, it sounds like this toy is more trouble than it's worth! And heaven forbid if someone is smoking near your electrolizer! What that O2 escaping like that, it's prime for a fire...and keep it away from burning magnesium!

And honestly, you can get hydrogen from any 9v battery you toss into water!

Ed
17th September, 2013 @ 10:39 pm PDT

Hydrogen could be great fuel when used in a fuel cell if we build advanced nuclear reactors like the FHR,advances have to be made in the fuel cell to be more inexpensive,and research must provide better means of storing it ,but it would have the advantage of being CO2 free and inexpensive and derived from our own plentiful water. It is really shortsighted of this administration to put so little money towards these advanced reactors (yes I know there is a program for modular reactors but higher temperature is needed to produce H2O economically).

Paul Bedichek
23rd September, 2013 @ 09:59 am PDT
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