Can the American-Danish MethaEnergy Compete With Better Place?

methaenergy fuel cellIs a Serenus methenol fuel cell package the best one going?

With the opening Monday of the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen, some of the discussions taking place there will deal with finding “greener” solutions to ground transportation, particularly automobiles and other vehicles which are now considered as being one of the major forms or air polluters on our planet.

Car companies in particular, like Better Place and MethaEnergy,  plan to promote products at the conference.

MethaEnergy’s technology is based on a unique fuel cell design using methanol, a highly flammable compound that is produced from the combination of carbon monoxide gas with hydrogen, and is often produced from natural gas, a very available commodity in some parts of the Middle East, including Qatar – and in the near future, Israel.

As compared with local Middle East companies involved in producing a practical electric car, such as Better Place,  which will be exhibiting and demonstrating their electric cars and specially designed batteries and charging terminals made with Renault at the COP15 conference, MethaEnergy will demonstrate its unique Serenus fuel cell packages which the company claims will power an electric car up to 500 kilometers before needing recharging.

The fuel cells that provide the power are also very unique in that they will be powered by methanol and can be “recharged” very quickly – in only a matter of a few minutes. The company also claims that their fuel cells only utilize about 5% of the total energy needed to operate them, as compared to 25% in other fuel cells currently in use today.

Methanol can be made from natural gas, which will soon be a common fuel even for fuel-starved countries like Israel, thanks to the development of some large underwater natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. These gas fields, being developed by the Yam Tethys exploration company, a subsidiary of  Yitzhak Tshuva’s Delek Motors will be able to supply some of Israel’s energy needs for the foreseeable future.

While still a fossil fuel, natural gas is much cleaner than distilled petroleum products: and by using small amounts to power fuel cells for cars and even light aircraft, there’s no reason why MethaEnergy’s technology would not work in Israel as well.

Naturally, this would be in competition with Better Place, who plan a small revolution: to install their electric car battery recharging stations in large parking lots, such as those found at Israel Railways train stations .

The fuel cell developed by MethaEnergy is said to be much lower in cost than competitive technologies and can operate on either natural or liquid petroleum gas. While it’s not pollution free, like solar energy is, it is much better for the environment than petroleum.  And that in itself is something worth considering.

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