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By Robert Rapier on Aug 8, 2008 with 3 responses

The Hydrogen Electrolyzer Debunked?

Tags: water car

Popular Mechanics just ran the tests and reported on the results:

Water-Powered Cars: Hydrogen Electrolyzer Mod Can’t Up MPGs

I have told people not to waste their money, but that is just based on the science: It takes more energy to electrolyze water than you get back out of it. In theory, injecting hydrogen could allow you to run at a different compression ratio, which could allow you to derive more useful work out of the engine. Or, it could allow you to run at a different fuel/air ratio. So I don’t necessarily reject it out of hand until I have seen the data, I am just highly skeptical. Popular Mechanics provides some data. The background:

Water-powered cars continue to be the largest single topic taking over my in box—and the Comments section of this Web site. And it’s not just my recent column on the truth about water-chugging prototypes. This trend has become an obsession with many backyard inventors, and some of them have become quite strident, insisting that if I knew anything at all about cars, I’d be embracing this technology. They say it could help change the world as we know it. They even say it could eliminate the energy crisis altogether.

So, last month I received an electrolyzer, fabricated by my old Monster Garage partner, Steve Rumore at Avalanche Engineering out in Colorado. Steve cleverly designed the device into a steel toolbox, making it portable—just the ticket for someone tinkering with HHO/water/hydrogen/Brown’s Gas­powered conveyances. The unit consists of eight plastic bottles with stainless-steel electrodes, connected up in series—parallel to the vehicle’s battery. The cells are filled with plain ol’ water and a small amount of potassium hydroxide electrolyte to conduct electricity. A hose conveys the HHO output to the engine.

It took me a few days of puttering around in my shop to get the electrolyzer up and running. I’m using an HKS Camp 2 onboard computer, hooked into an LCD monitor that’s suction-cupped to the windscreen, to check things like mass airflow, fuel-injector pulse width, battery voltage and, of course, fuel economy.

But guess what? My fuel economy is exactly the same, whether the HHO generator is turned on or not. And that’s exactly what I expected. This isn’t anecdotal evidence from several tankfuls of gasoline. It’s steady-state, flat-road testing, and I don’t even pretend to have actual economy numbers. I’m using fuel-injector pulse widths directly from the OBD II port. That means I’m measuring the actual time the injectors are open and delivering fuel. When the HHO generator is toggled on, there’s no change. And when it’s turned back off, there’s no change. Well, the computer’s system voltage sags a couple of tenths of a volt, indicating the current drain to run the electrolyzer.

This is not a great surprise, but it didn’t take long for someone in the comments section following the article to invoke the oil conspiracy charge:

As an owner of an auto repair facility that installs and configures HHO Cells i have to disagree with your findings. I am not surprised by your results considering your methods and your obvious opinion going in that it would never work. It does in fact work when installed and configured correctly. Your article brings to mind the weak attempt Mythbusters described on their show. Needless to say my high opinion of Popular Mechanics and MythBusters is not so anymore. By the way, i wouldn’t be surprised if the oil companies financed your obviously biased experiment.

Of course I have to point out that since the commenter installs and configures HHO cells, he has a vested interest in claiming that they work. One good accusation deserves another.

  1. By Len on August 7, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Yeah, and when the automakers start installing the magic Hydrogen generators and 100mpg carbs on cars I’ll fly around with my attached wings.

    With the market today, vehicle producers and fleet operators will use anything that really boosts performance or sales.

    Here’s a tip…
    If you want to really save money use generators on the wheels hooked to an electric drive motor. A push down the hill should make it run ‘forever’.
    Pssst …..Wanna buy a kit?

  2. By Dave Mathews on March 22, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    You are correct…it doesn’t work, HHO boosters are junk science. Please check with Roy McAlister of the American Hydrogen Association. He has researched and used hydrogen in vehicles for 35 + years. The man is an engineer. Hydrogen DOES work but not in the form these suckers would have us believe. There is a lot more going on to a hydrogen conversion than the HHO bombs they’er trying to push.

  3. By pj on April 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Hey.  I’d be interested in some of your data that you used.  How much current did you apply?  How much hydroxide?  Are you saying that you did not produce any hyrdrogen to assist the gasoline?  Or are you saying that you produced all you could, which is an unknown quantity to us that read your article, and that this still did not provide any increase in power or mph?

    Are you also implying that the mathematical formula out there to produce hydrogen based on given voltage/amperage,and wattage consumption    is wrong?

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