On Friday, we told you about a potentially revolutionary new technology that was about to undergo its first trial in Italy: called the E-Cat, it supposedly combines hydrogen and nickel using a catalyst to generate heat (and electricity) without any radiation or carbon emissions. So, has society been revolutionized over the weekend? Not quite.
Over the weekend, the E-Cat cold fusion power generator reportedly ran for 5.5 hours, producing about 470 kilowatts of electricity. It was supposed to output one megawatt, but some "technical issue" prevented full power operation. Well, fine, okay, that's still 470 kilowatts of power from effectively nothing, so not bad, right? Not quite: according to a witness (and apparent believer in the E-Cat technology), there was one other notable issue with the test:
"Probably the biggest opening for skeptics will be the continually running genset that is probably rated for 500 kW (my guess), and appears to have been connected by cables to the E-Cat. "Where's the mystery?" So knock yourselves out, skeptics. It's the customer who has to be happy, and apparently this one was satisfied that those cables were not contributing to the 470 kW output during self-sustaining mode."
So, let me get this straight: the E-Cat was supposed to produce one megawatt. Instead, some technical issue caused it to produce only 470 kilowatts while hooked up to an operating generator producing 500 kilowatts? Er, yeah, I think it's pretty reasonable to be skeptical about that, don't you? I'm glad the customer was happy, but if it were me, I would have insisted that the E-Cat not be hooked up to anything at all while it was producing power. I guess that's why I'm not buying it, though.
I'm really not trying to be a stick in the mud here, I'll be as thrilled as the next power-hungry consumer if the E-Cat ultimately proves itself. But science that only works in your basement when you don't show it to anybody more often than not doesn't work at all, as Steorn dramatically proved with their "free energy" machine back in 2007.
I mean, "big corporate power" conspiracy theories aside, why can't we just go take a look at an operating E-Cat? All it would take would be one public test run completely independently, which this weekend's experiment turned out not to be, to convince a whole bunch of people (many of them with very deep pockets) that this thing can do what it says it can do. Instead, the E-Cat's inventor has declared that this was it, no more tests. Again, very sketchy, if you ask me.
In any case, the anonymous customer was apparently happy enough with the E-Cat's performance over the weekend to purchase it, and they're now building another one for someone else. These first commercial units cost $2,000 per kilowatt, but if mass-produced E-Cat systems do ever become available, they'll only cost around $100 per kilowatt, with fuel that's readily available and nearly free.