A Texas company is offering a glimpse of a high-end hydrogen-gasoline sportscar it hopes to sell by the fall.
Rather than using fuel cells to power an electric motor, the Scorpion from Ronn Motor Company would have an internal combustion engine burning both gasoline and hydrogen, achieving 40 highway miles per gallon.
Unlike with a hydrogen fuel cell car, the Scorpion's "hydrogen on demand" system wouldn't require a high-pressure hydrogen storage tank. Nor would a driver need to find and fill up at a hydrogen fueling station.
Instead, electricity from the Scorpion's alternator sends an electric charge through the water in a storage tank, fracturing molecules and releasing hydrogen, which is injected into the motor, explained Ronn Maxwell, CEO of Ronn Motor in Horseshoe Bay, Texas.
"This means that as we're driving down the road, we're producing hydrogen in real time, and blending it with gasoline at a ratio of 30 to 40 percent," he said.
The hydrogen-gasoline hybrid technology comes from Hydrorunner.
"We are still using gasoline, but we're gonna be using 40 percent less," Maxwell said. "The hydrogen cleans up the emissions. It actually consumes carbon. It's not the perfect car, not electric, but it is something that'll work right now."
Ronn Motor showed off a working prototype of the Scorpion, sans body, Tuesday in downtown Austin.
The hydrogen internal combustion engine can achieve between 30 to 50 percent greater efficiency over standard gasoline cars, Maxwell added. Under the hood is a 2009 Acura 3.5 Vtech motor with 280-horsepower stock, or 450-horsepower with a twin turbo option. The car has a 6-speed manual transmission.
Ronn Motor has taken several orders so far and has plans to build 200 Scorpions this year, eventually ramping up to 500, Maxwell said. He believes his will be the first company to market a passenger car with a hydrogen-on-demand system, which gearheads already tinker with in private garages and which are available for the trucking industry.
Maxwell is targeting the sort of automotive aficionados who might collect Lamborghinis, Ferraris, or an electric Tesla, but said he wants to create a sedan next. It remains to be seen whether Ronn Motor will succeed in delivering its roadster to customers by October as planned.
The company's stock was listed on the Pink Sheets May 29.
Meanwhile, building the necessary fueling infrastructure remains just one of the barriers to wider adoption of hydrogen fuel cell cars, which primarily reside in the garages of a wealthy and famous few.