Is This the Next Big Thing in Green Energy?: Ford Motor Company (F), General Motors Company (GM), and More

Unfortunately, commercial production of a magnesium-ion battery is still a way off. But as a long-term solution, it’s promising — and as we Fools like to invest for the long term, it’s a potentially promising addition to your portfolio.

Finally, cryogen, or liquid air-powered engines are re-emerging as an alternative energy option. As The Economist reported, Peter Dearman, a British inventor, found a solution to the expensive heat exchange that previously made liquid air engines unattractive.

Dearman Engine, along with Ricardo, a prestigious global engineering consultancy, is quickly moving forward with an engine design, and they expect to have a “fully characterized demonstration engine [that] is scheduled to go into testing during mid-2013 to provide the groundwork for field trials.”

I’m a fan of this solution for a few reasons:

1). The engine uses traditional reciprocating engine processes, so there’s less cost involved and it can hit the market more quickly than other alternative technologies.

2). A proof-of-concept model has already been tested and deemed more efficient than any other previously built.

3). Following an extensive study, Ricardo stated that “the technology is likely to compete with hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric systems in zero-emission applications.”

4). A liquid air engine would be a far cry cheaper than hydrogen or battery cars, making the car more affordable for consumers.

5). Liquid air is less hazardous than batteries, hydrogen, or diesel. And it can be “produced and stored on site or delivered through pipeline or road tanker.”

6). Liquid air can be stored in non-pressurized insulated tanks. As a bonus, energy stored as liquid air would allow energy produced by wind farms and other alternative sources to be stored for later use, instead of being wasted.

7). It’s possible that the “fuel” used to power the engine could use existing industrial companies’ distribution infrastructures.

Basically, a liquid air engine is a lot like a typical combustion engine, except that instead of using a spark plug to ignite the fuel and cause an explosion to force the piston down, the liquid air itself expands into a gas as it reaches ambient temperature and forces the piston down. So while liquid air engines still have hurdles to overcome, they’re promising, and they could be a viable and cheap alternative to current batteries.

Wave bye-bye to current EVs
The race is still going strong for an alternative energy solution. Yes, Li-ion batteries are popular right now, but given advances in technology, I’m not sure they’ll stay popular. Some solutions aren’t the most financially feasible — hello, hydrogen — but others have lots of potential and are relatively cheap. Those are the ones I’m keeping my eyes on.

The article Is This the Next Big Thing in Green Energy? originally appeared on and is written by Katie Spence.

Fool contributor Katie Spence has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow her on Twitter: @TMFKSpence. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors (NYSE:GM) and owns shares of Ford.

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