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Thursday, Oct 6, 2022
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Manufacturing Firm Eyes Alternative Fuel for Buses

It sounds like the name of a multistate lottery back East.

But the Powerball that one San Diego company hopes to hit the jackpot with is actually a fuel source for the next generation of environmentally friendly city buses.

ISE Research, a local manufacturer of drive-systems for electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, has formed an alliance with West Valley City, Utah-based Powerball Technologies, to explore the potential of a hydrogen Powerball as a fuel source. Both companies hope the Powerball will be the next-generation, environmentally green fuel choice for hybrid-electric vehicles.

The Powerball concept is an efficient and safe way of storing hydrogen fuel. It eliminates carbon emissions and the need for high-pressure or low-temperature storage and produces more hydrogen than any other traditional method, said George Schuh, director of marketing for ISE Research.

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Powerballs are pingpong-sized solid balls of sodium hydride that are coated with a waterproof plastic coating.

To generate hydrogen, the Powerballs are mixed with water, and the plastic coating is ruptured. The sodium hydride reacts with water, releasing hydrogen, he said.

The byproduct of the reaction is sodium hydroxide, which is returned to the Powerball facility to be recycled, along with the plastic skins. The sodium hydroxide is heated up to form sodium hydride, ready to make more Powerballs. The Powerball process is safe, clean and 100 percent recyclable, Schuh said.

There are many potential uses for Powerballs, including transit buses. Transit bus systems are already facing mandates in California and elsewhere to reduce vehicle emissions, Schuh said.

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