A Reno startup is betting its future on a lawn mower engine that’s scheduled to be completed by mid-summer.
If the hydrogen-powered small engine works as they expect, representatives of H2 Technologies Group Inc. will be on the road quickly to gauge the interest of manufacturers worldwide.
The key technology, says founder Gary Lord, is a system developed by University of Nevada, Reno, researcher Ryan Hopkins that allows for inexpensive and safe compression and storage of hydrogen fuel.
H2 Technologies Group links that technology with a patented system developed to produce hydrogen from water. The company holds a worldwide exclusive license on that process developed by Hungarian researcher Jozsef Petro.
In combination, the two technologies would allow homeowners to produce hydrogen fuels in a unit about the size of a cracker box and store them in a container about the size of a 10-ounce water bottle.
Small engines powered by hydrogen would produce no emissions. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency says one gas-powered lawnmower produces as much pollution as 11 cars. If their technology works — and that’s where the lawnmower engine test comes in — H2 Technologies Group’s founders think they can make a compelling case to small engine manufacturers who face strict emissions standards. Over the next couple of years, emissions from lawn mowers and similar equipment will need to be cut by about 35 percent.
“Compliance is No. 1. All small engines are now out of compliance,” says Lord.
The company’s founders — Lord, researcher Hopkins and Reno entrepreneurs Randy and Sue Sidwell — are sufficiently confident in the technology that they’ve lined the politically well-connected Wade Consulting Group LLC to carry its message to lawmakers and potential investors.
The consulting firm looks to earn an equity stake in the company, says Patty Wade, one of its founders.
Founders of H2 Technologies Group boot-strapped its $100,000 in research in the past couple of years, and Lord says the company doesn’t expect to need big amounts of capital for factories or other facilities. Instead, it plans to license its technology to manufacturers.
But it needs capital to protect its intellectual property. It has filed 48 claims with the U.S. Patent Office and is preparing to file eight more.
Wade believes government grants that target green-energy companies also could be tapped by H2 Technologies Group.
“The EPA is going to be thrilled,” she says.
The company thinks manufacturers can build its hydrogen-powered engine for about the same cost as gas-powered models, and homeowners’ costs to create hydrogen fuel would be lower than the purchase of gasoline.
The H2 Technologies Group system would produce enough hydrogen in one storage tank to power a five-horsepower engine for about 90 minutes, Lord says.