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A spare-time tinkerer has big ambitions

Shaul Yaakoby had been an insurance company assessor in Israel for 25 years. He grew up on a kibbutz (a cooperative citrus farm) and never finished high school, but he spent his spare time building things. His inventions, including a water-purification system and a theft-proof car key, were patented. (Today, he has 14 more patents.) He was the proverbial experimenter. Working with a block of aluminum, he eventually came up with a low-cost, fuel-efficient, lightweight and environmentally safe single-piston linear engine. The concept had been tried by many others as far back as 1940, but had been abandoned every time.

The traditional internal combustion engine has a thousand parts and two hundred moving parts, and weighs 265 pounds (120 kg.). The Aquarius engine has 20 parts and only one of them moves, a linear piston fueled with hydrogen, and has no emissions. And it weighs just 22 pounds (10 kg.).

Before the reader dismisses this as another crackpot idea, however, please consider this: The engine Yaakoby designed became the basis for Aquarius Engines, ( an Israeli company founded in 2014. Beginning with electric generators that weigh five percent of what typical generators do, Aquarius has expanded with aviation, nautical and automotive applications. With 180 employees and additional facilities in Germany, Italy and Poland, it has a US$5 billion valuation. In 2021, an agreement was signed to build a $1 billion factory in the United Arab Emirates.

Investors and partners are a who’s who of big industry: Ericsson, Honda, Komatsu, Nokia, Pratt & Whitney, Toyota, Volkswagen. The financial press are right behind, clamoring for scoops. A Google search yields 5.74 million results, among them BBC, Bloomberg, CNN, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

Not bad for a tinkerer.