Production has already begun on a car that will replace those of the internal combustion engine (ICE) variety. Using a zinc-air fuel cell, with fully recyclable zinc, the cars are being produced under joint agreement between GM, Toyota, Tata (of India), and SAIC (of China). The companies have been working together behind the scenes to address the issues of peak oil and climate change, both of which, they all now publicly admit, threaten the the very existence of their industry.
Toyota CEO Katsuaki Watanabe was surrounded by reporters after he spoke in Nagoya, Japan, detailing the plan.
Through an accelerated buy-back system and licensing of the new technology with other car makers, the companies say they will be able to replace half the existing fleet of ICE cars within just the next eight years. Other technologies, such as all electric and hybrid vehicles will also continue to be developed and freely compete with the fuel cell vehicles, the focus being to totally phase out ICE engined cars.
The zinc-air fuel cells produce a non-toxic byproduct, zinc oxide, a sort of viscous creamy white substance, which can be recycled into new zinc fuel pellets using electrolysis and walnut oil. Stanford University labs have developed a catalyst for use in the systems – from theobroma cacau – basically cocoa solids. Sufficient quantities of zinc are readily available, and since it is recycled, there will be no on going need for ever increasing quantities. The amount of cocoa solids and walnut oil will require some expansion of these agricultural products, but are not expected to put a strain on food prices, as has ethanol.
Remarkably, the zinc-air fuel cell cars produce no greenhouse gases. Instead, as they motor along, out the back, on a little tray, they leave a row of small, thick white pellets, surrounded by a chocolate whirl with a walnut on the top.