I heard about ’em, did some research on ’em, and I decided to get one.
I do a lot of driving, and the benefits of getting one sounded attractive. A few days and a few dollars later, I was the proud recipient of a cardboard box with the product: a hydrogen gas generator.
See the pictures I have provided (here and here). As a plus, this baby produces pure oxygen gas also.
WHAT IS IT FOR?
Most cars work by burning a liquid fuel with oxygen. Fuel is squirted into a chamber with air, it evaporates into a gaseous mixture, it lights, the burning gases expand, which in turn produces motive power. Your car begins to move.
Problem: the fuel that makes all this happen is getting too dang expensive!
With these rising costs of gasoline and diesel fuel, I decided to try using hydrogen as a means of alternative power for my car. With a hydrogen generator, the idea is to replace some of the gasoline with hydrogen. Gaseous hydrogen burns readily and produces loads of power. The idea is that the extra boost (not replacement) in gasoline power from the hydrogen would cause a gasoline-burning engine to back off on using so much gasoline. This in turn should result in less gas being burned.
Less gas burned means cost savings on the fuel bills, eh? That’s the idea. K?
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Just like the technology I wrote about in my solar tower article, a lot of this “new” technology is actually old hat.
The hydrogen generator I bought works on an ages-old process called electrolysis.
Without getting too fancy on technical terms, electrolysis is the conversion of water into its constituent components: pure hydrogen and oxygen. This is done by sending electricity through specially designed pieces of metal suspended in water. The “tension” caused by the electricity causes the water molecules to shear apart, and this results in the production of pure oxygen and hydrogen gas bubbles. In the hydrogen generator I have, these gas bubbles rise into a collection chamber. From there the gases travel through a tube that goes to where my car sucks up air before sending it into the engine.
An added plus to the electrolysis process is: not only is pure hydrogen gas being produced, but pure oxygen gas comes out, too. This oxygen is collected along with the hydrogen and goes into the engine also.
WHY GET IT?
As everyone knows, all engines require some oxygen to burn with the fuel. The fact that the ambient air we breathe (made of only about 20% oxygen) is now replaced in part by 100% oxygen and 100% hydrogen. Both of these two combustible gases make an extremely powerful combination.
My car burns diesel or biodiesel. In any case, the idea is the same as with any gasoline-burning car. Replace the regular fuel with hydrogen gas from my new generator, and save some money at the same time. That was the idea.
DID IT WORK?
Yes, it made loads of powerful hydrogen and oxygen gas.
I installed the hydrogen/oxygen generator, no problem. It was a fun project. After filling the stainless steel generator case with water and a chemical called an electrolyte, my generator indeed produced a gas.
To test the output gases for combustibility, I lit a small piece of wood and dropped it into the generator’s collection chamber. The resultant explosion was like a small cannon going off – and it burned all the hair off my hand. Luckily this was around the Fourth of July, so my neighbors shrugged off the explosion as just another one of those beefy bottle-rocket grenades.
On the road, it was a different story. Instead of being explosive, it was very smooth running.
HOW WELL DID IT WORK?
After installing it, I wanted to test my car’s fuel efficiency. What better excuse for a small road trip! I topped my tank off and drove out to Richmond, home of that wonderful Charlie’s Coffee Bar. After sucking on some coffee grinds, I was back on the road again, homeward-bound.
While driving on the freeway with the generator turned on I noticed the following. The engine produced loads more power than it usually does. If you’re a racing car buff, it’s like having nitrous oxide (NOX) on-call! Pretty powerful if you crank it up! With a flip of the switch, my car’s acceleration from a stop was markedly more powerful, and accelerating at speed was pretty darn good, too.
Because I have a diesel engine car, it has loads of torque but doesn’t accelerate as well as a gasoline car. The way I had this baby cranked up, the extra power from the hydrogen generator obviated this problem and came in handy when I need to be competitive with those zippy gasoline cars. Works great when going up ramps to merge with fast traffic. Passing other cars on the freeway became much easier, too.
WHAT THE $%$#@#! HAPPENED?
When I got home, I topped off the tank again and measured my fuel consumption. A frown appeared on my face. I recalculated. Yep, the numbers were right. My fuel efficiency had actually gone down.
Unless I was willing to lay out some serious cash and hire a bunch of geeks, I can only guess as to the exact reason why the MPG went down. BUT I’ll tell you my theory.
FUEL MIXTURE 101
First I have to tell you a little about how engines run with respect to fuel.
As stated before, conventional cars mix fuel with air. You’re right in assuming that this mixing is done in carefully calculated proportions, which in automotive engineering lingo is called fuel mixture.
There are certain times when a car’s fuel mixture can be out of balance. When too much fuel is mixed with air, this is called a rich fuel mixture. One of the symptoms of a rich fuel mixture is that the car runs a little cooler than normal, which is sometimes a good thing. Good. On the bad side, this means the car consumes more fuel and gets bad fuel economy. Not good, and expensive!
On the other had, when too little fuel gets mixed with air, it’s called a lean fuel mixture. People who can tune their own cars sometimes like to run their car with a lean mixture. The advantage to this is one can save gas and get good fuel economy. However, a significant risk in “running lean” is that the engine may run hot. If the engine is tuned too lean, it may run too hot, seize up and possibly destroy itself. Not good!
Basically: Run rich = cooler. Run lean = hotter.
Now that the engine lesson is over, I will get back to my theory.
My car’s engine is carefully monitored and regulated by a computer. When I depress the gas pedal, that signal doesn’t even go to the engine. It goes to the computer. The computer in turn sends signals to various parts of the engine, telling it to speed up. I am not directly connected to the engine at all. Mr. Computer is in charge. A lot of cars are like this. Maybe even yours.
Likewise, the computer monitors what’s going on with the engine’s condition. One such condition it monitors is temperature. If the engine runs too hot or cold, it will tell the engine and the systems that support it to do things to bring the engine back to its optimal temperature.
After I got done on the road trip, I opened the hood and was blasted by loads of engine heat – a lot more than I had ever witnessed. That there was more heat being produced made sense. With this noticeable change in heat, it was clear that the addition of pure hydrogen and oxygen to the engine was not only making it run more powerfully, but also run at the cost of tremendously higher temperature. While the hot engine light never turned on while I was driving, I later noticed the car’s coolant level was much lower the next day. This meant the engine was abnormally running hot, and this should never happen. Running too hot is risky, if not dangerous for an engine.
I tuned the hydrogen generator so it produced less gas, and this brought the heat problem down.
BAD FUEL EFFICIENCY – FOR A REASON
I mentioned my car was computer-regulated. It controls the fuel mixture and can make the engine run rich (cooler) or run lean (hotter), remember?
During my road trip, the computer must have noticed the heat increase produced from burning hydrogen. Because the computer’s job is to protect the engine in whatever way it can, it saw this extra heat as a threat. In order to protect the engine, the computer started running the engine with a rich mixture. Remember, “rich” means “cooler”.
By running rich the computer was effectively using fuel as a coolant. Result: more fuel consumed, and bad miles-per-gallon.
At first I was disappointed at the gas mileage, but in retrospect I am glad the computer did what it could to keep my engine from overheating.
IT’LL WORK ON OTHER CARS THOUGH…
The hydrogen generator didn’t help my fuel efficiency. This isn’t to say it won’t help other cars.
I think it would probably help an older car with a carbureted engine that wasn’t so closely tied in with the computer. Or even on an older car or truck with no computer. A friend of mine has an old rusty Volvo falling under this category. His car’s mileage jumped from 23 to 32 mpg (highway) after installing his hydrogen gas generator.
WHY I DECIDED TO KEEP IT
By accident I found that when I use the generator in my car for a few minutes once every 25 miles or so, I do get an overall improved fuel efficiency while the generator is turned off.
I was puzzled by this at first, but after some thinking, this makes sense, too.
As we use our cars over the years they lose efficiency, mostly due to engine wear. Because I have done something that almost eliminates my car’s engine wear, I can pretty much attribute any loss in efficiency to something else. This “something else” is usually a buildup of carbon and other solid contaminants in the car’s exhaust system. This buildup takes place over years, reduces engine efficiency, and increases fuel consumption.
I believe the hydrogen generator knocks this buildup out.
The result of burning hydrogen with oxygen is hot steam. Many folks know a really good way to clean off anything – including engine carbon – is to use steam cleaning. Running the hydrogen generator regularly has steam cleaned my car’s exhaust system and various exhaust sensors. This allows for a smoother exhaust escape, more accurate exhaust readings, and thus more accurate tuning by the car’s computer. This theory is supported by the same friend (mentioned above) who has also observed the “steam cleaning” effect derived from his hydrogen gas generator. Result: better efficiency.
I WANNA TRY ONE
If you decide you’d like to try using a hydrogen generator, I urge you to consider some factors carefully and to use extreme caution if you end up getting one. Factors to consider would include:
– Whether your engine is closely regulated by a computer. Such as with my car, your car’s onboard computer (if any) may take the increased heat load as a threat to the engine. The computer may cause your engine to run rich, and thus consume more fuel.
– Whether your car uses a carburetor. Most cars use either fuel injected fuel-air mixing or carburetion. It looks like the generator would work better on a carbureted vehicle, preferably with little to no computer control.
– An added risk arising from the increased heat derived from the hydrogen combustion. While some engines can handle this extra heat load (such as the cast iron block of my diesel engine) other engines may crack and become ruined. Do not use a hydrogen generator on cars with aluminum-based engine blocks.
– Whether your car is still under warranty. The addition of power, heat, and stress delivered by a hydrogen generator may result in damage to the engine. Knowing how the majority of car dealers are, they will willingly shunt any blame to factors not under their control, like the use of “non-spec” equipment such as a hydrogen generator.
– Whether your car uses water coolant (has a water-filled radiator). Most cars use a water-based coolant system which could most likely displace the extra heat produced by the hydrogen generator. If you have a car that does not use water as a coolant – such as with finned-cylinder motorcycles and cars like VW Beetles – I strongly that you do not use a hydrogen generator. It could easily overheat and destroy this kind of engine!
My suggestion is to try your hydrogen generator on an “expendable” older carbureted car that already gets reasonably good mileage – say perhaps a little old Honda Prelude. On the chance the increase in heat and stress damages the engine, your loss will be acceptable. On the other hand, if properly installed and tuned, this extra heat and stress can be minimized, and vastly improve your car’s efficiency without apparent damage.
IT’S EXPERIMENTAL, MY DEAR WATSON
Please keep in mind, the use of a hydrogen/oxygen generator is experimental. People such as myself have carefully weighed and accepted the possible risks associated with using non-spec additions to car engine systems. Luckily the risk I took has paid off, but in an unexpected (yet welcome) way.
If you are uncertain whether to use hydrogen generator, consult with as many mechanically inclined (yet open-minded) friends as possible to weigh the risks and benefits. Regular mechanics will tell you categorically not to experiment – but this attitude eliminates the chance for possible benefit. While the people who take risks in pushing their car’s performance limitations may fail sometimes, their risk will be more tuned to success if carefully planned.
Have fun with your generator (if you dare!)
(Hey! Read my other articles here. )