Oxy-Hydrogen Fuel?

Last winter, a friend in Oregon told me of his experiments with hydrogen as a fuel in an ordinary internal combustion engine. He was able to prove the concept, he said, by running hydrogen into an old Honda home generator. He could start the engine, and it ran strongly … a bit too strong because, he said, he could not control the gas flow. The point is, it worked. He created the hydrogen from a crude homemade separator consisting of two probes, a car battery, and distilled water.

Later, a Google search turned up several Web sites such as …


… which I chose only because it was one of the first in the Google results list.

Assuming it works at least a little bit, will this harm my engine? The Web guy points out that hydrogen burns easily and can improve gas mileage by 28%.

He also suggests that the oxygen component could boost the octane rating of the fuel. Based on things I have read in your column in The Washington Post, this higher octane might not be good for some cars (my car requires high test, so this would a good feature?).

So, have you heard of this? Is it feasible? Is it realistic? Or should I go inhale some of that fresh oxygen to clear my mind?

If this actually worked all cars would come equipped with these devices from the factory.

Think about it. What automaker would not take advantage of a simple device that instantly increases fuel mileage by 20%?

It’s just another way to separate money from “true believers.”

This is nothing new. [Shrug.] Hydrogen cars have been demonstrated for more than 30 years. Yes, they work.

Two great problems with making hydrogen an everyday fuel are (1) the difficulty of mass refueling, and (2) the simplicity and relatively low cost of gasoline.

Your friend has had the fun of demonstating an amusing science project. It is not practical for the mass market. Not this year, anyway.

I did not view the data so it is possible it may not be what I am thinking.

I suspect that it works as stated, but they are not considering that hydrogen is a fuel and adding that is like adding more fuel. Hydrogen is also not free, and in the long run is likely to cost more than it saves. It is also not easy to store in quality or find.

Right now you are not going to get hydrogen for the same or less energy as just buying gas per $$

Remember that it takes fuel to make hydrogen.

Hydrogen may become the fuel that replaces gasoline when the oil runs out. The problem is the amount of energy it takes to generate raw hydrogen, way more expensive than gas. Then there is transportation and storage issues. Of course when the oil runs out, we’ll figure it out.

One possibility would be to build nuclear power plants and have them generate hydrogen during the off peak hours. Nuclear power plants apparently are most efficient at 100%. Of course we don’t want these power plants in our back yard, and there are those among us who don’t even want them on our planet. But when the oil runs out, we either have to figure out how to live in the 19th century or embrace nuclear power. I’m sure we will chose the latter, but there will be that intervening 12 to 20 years before the first new nuclear power plants come on line that we will have to deal with.

The existing power plants may start generating hydrogen in the off peak hours, if there are any by that time, to power the remaining conventional power plants during peak hours.

Well, you folks are talking about several different subjects at once.

First, the H2 “devices” sold on the internet are just scams.

Second, H2 can be used in an internal combustion engine, but it is not very efficient. The best way to use H2 in an auto would be a fuel cell.

Third, obtaining free H2 does require energy (normally electrical energy).

Forth, there is not currently any excess off-peak nuclear power in the U.S. The 105 operating reactors do not follow load (reduce power at night) because it is not very practical for them to change load frequently (for many reasons). Currently, the least efficient (most expensive) fossil plants are reduced at night, so any current H2 generated off-peak would use the most expensive/least efficient/dirtiest power on the grid. As always, no free lunch.

You can get a conversion kit TODAY for your car to run on Hydrogen. The problem is the COST. $60k AND UP …JUST FOR THE CONVERSION. You supply the vehicle.

I’m sure you can, running an internal combustion engine on H2 is easy. The problem is the efficiency is low, H2 has a very low energy content, and it’s expensive (both in terms of energy and cost). It’s an interesting science project with very little practical application.

Ok, first off if H20 is seperated you get a perfect combustion of H2 + O2. When seperated you have less O then H and it takes alot more energy to seperate it than to burn it so you have a loss of energy. Instead of having to fill up with pure hydrogen we should have just water in the tank and have some kind of onboard seperation so that the mixture is already there and you limit an air intake for the engine. Aside from the water freezing in the tank (im sure theres a way to solve that) Im sure someone could develop some kind of alternater that could supply sufficient power for the seperation. However youd probably need one of those Hydrogen batterys to power that. You would have to fill up on water like gas ever so often BUT then you create a strain on the fresh water supply unless the efficency of the H2 burning is better than gas. (we need more desalination plants but that too requires a ton of energy… hell we need that Cold Fusion reactor… heheh) It sounds all great and I wish it worked but thats technology thats probably never going to be invented. That engery equation kills it. My two cents…

That engery equation kills it.

Exactly, separating the H2 from the water requires more energy than you will recover while “burning” it. The H2 is not a source of energy, just a way to store it (like charging a battery). The water is the result of the combustion process, free H2 is required as “fuel.”

I’m sure you can, running an internal combustion engine on H2 is easy. The problem is the efficiency is low, H2 has a very low energy content, and it’s expensive (both in terms of energy and cost). It’s an interesting science project with very little practical application.

Actually Hydrogen converted vehicles see a HUGH increase in MPG…

Here’s a link on a story MSNBC did. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4563676/

Quote from Above Article…
“The Hummers about double their mileage once converted, says Robinson, whose conversion garage is in Steamboat Springs, Colo.”

Interesting, but very silly. How exactly would you define the mpg (miles per gallon) of H2? When you have a chance look up the thermodynamic conditions under which H2 is a liquid, then look up the heating value of H2. As I said, H2 has a very low energy density on a mass basis and an internal combustion engine is a very inefficient way to convert H2 to energy.

Just once I would like to see a technical article in the press written by someone who actually understands what they are writing about, or at least understands enough basic physics to identify a scam.

this really does work, its been done so many times. the only reason we arent using it yet is because were trying to find a way the tanks wont explode when we wreck.

“Quote from Above Article…
“The Hummers about double their mileage once converted, says Robinson, whose conversion garage is in Steamboat Springs, Colo.””

Right, there's an unbiased source if ever I saw one.

Seriously, how is this yahoo defining “mileage” when comparing a gas to a liquid. If he’s storing liquid H2, then there is one heck of a conversion cost on each car for the storage tanks, not to mention the energy cost of liquefying H2.

Yes you get water when you burn H2 but there is a way to seperate them but keep the H2 and O2 seperate then when you put them back in a chamber to burn you get water again (its a very volitile explosion more so than gas I believe so you theres no problem with mpg as long as you get water as your exaust-- actually you wouldnt really need an exhaust cause you get water in the end again but there is that energy loss so you would have to add water or o2 again). You lose energy in the seperation but thats like the car using the gas in the tank, you gota refill it time to time. The thing is that when you get water you can reseperate the h2 from the 02 again. You have to keep adding o2 or water to the tank for fuel. Its not 100% efficient but the h2 itself is recyclable. Like I said all you gota do is fill up with water time to time.


Okay, let me add some more information.

  1. According to one of the Web sites, the device splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen on demand. I do not know if it has a lag time after starting the engine.

  2. The car battery or generator supplies the power.

  3. The device output plugs into the engine intake manifold, mixing hydrogen and oxygen with the outside air.

  4. The Web site claims that a competent mechanic could install the device and plumbing in about an hour.

  5. It uses distilled water, a gallon of which lasts about 1,000 miles on the Interstates. Someone pointed out that it also needs an additive to promote the separation process – sort of like a catalyst?

Let me take a slightly illogical turn, whereby I use one argument to support an entirely different one.

A few years ago, my son introduced me to the concept that diesel engines could run on vegetable oil.

Last January, in Oregon, I met a guy who owned a 1983 Mercedes 300 with the five-cylinder diesel. I used to own one, too.

While having breakfast at a small restaurant in Oregon, I heard the familiar clacking engine pull up. The driver left the engine running while he came in, asking the restaurateur if he had a batch of oil.

Immediately, I jumped up to talk to this fellow, who said that he came in several times a week to pick up the used cooking oil, saving the restaurant the cost of hauling it away.

The car owner showed me the alternate tank in the trunk, described the heating system, and how it worked.

The familiar engine clearly was running smoother than I was accustomed to hearing. He confirmed that the vegetable did lubricate the cylinders a bit better than did normal diesel fuel.

Then he said, “I have been driving free for five years.”

My point is, here we have common, off-the-shelf technology providing an alternative fuel source that anyone can add to their diesel engines. The upgrade costs just a few hundred dollars and does not require any modification to the engine.

If someone in a higher paygrade than I am focused on this issue of on-demand hydrogen and oxygen, why would it not work?

Da Brig Guy

“If someone in a higher paygrade than I am focused on this issue of on-demand hydrogen and oxygen, why would it not work?”

Because it requires more energy to separate the hydrogen and oxygen than you get back from burning it. Where does that energy come from? It comes from the engine burning regular gasoline. The extra load on the alternator to supply the current to do the electrolysis will put more load on the engine than the energy it gets from the burning the hydrogen and oxygen again. If this were not true you could create a perpetual motion machine.

Exactly, it would be a violation of the second law of thermodynamics. This is not a technological limitation, it is a basic law of physics.

BTW, his 300D was running “smoother” on vegetable oil than diesel fuel due to the slower combustion rate of the vegetable oil (similar to retarding the timing on a gas engine), not because of the difference in lubricity. You can run a diesel engine on waste vegetable oil (WVO) if has been adequately filtered and de-watered (it’s quite a bit of work). There are also issues involving the increased viscosity of the vegetable oil (most of these folks pre-heat it or blend it with conventional fuel). Do an internet search on WVO, the is a ton of info (both pro and con).

Not only that but take a look at the volume of gas produced PER HOUR by their device. Do you really think that much hydrogen gas will have any effect on a 2 liter engine operating at 2000 rpms?

Hydrogen is incredibly dangerous. It liberates a lot of energy when it oxidizes and can’t be stored in your tank. You will need a fuel cell. And do you know how to tell it’s burning? Stick a broom out in front of you. If it catches fire, hydrogen’s burning. You cannot see the flame.