HHO Gas Magic — What a hydrogen car isn’t

In researching another post, I stumbled upon a site advertising so-called HHO gas engine modification technique (HHO gas is the term they use for a 2:1 mixture of elemental hydrogen and oxygen). Usually, such snake oil would not even be worth addressing. The idea itself is that water can be used to supplement gas in fueling an automobile, thereby getting additional travel distance at no extra cost. Some readers probably notice that this would violate the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. According to sites like this, the reason why this design is not being used already is that automobile companies are conspiring to hide it from the general public to keep us dependent on oil. The site makes use of the common grifting fiction that the people peddling this manual are crusaders here to rescue us from corporate insiders in smoke-filled rooms.

The reason this is relevant, and the reason that some people might fall for it and buy the kit, is the exaggerated hype surrounding actual hydrogen vehicles. Be it the fuel-cell design, or combustion of hydrogen, there is this perception that hydrogen is the source of power. The element of hydrogen is also closely associated with water, contributing to the mythology of cars that run on water.The catch is that hydrogen is just a medium for energy transfer, not an energy source.

Saying that a car runs on hydrogen is akin to saying that a power plant runs on steam. Most power plants do, but nuclear reactions, burning fossil fuels, or occasionally even the sun make the steam. The hydrogen used comes either from electrolysis (an energy consuming process) or from industrial processes that make use of hydrocarbons, both of which make use of existing energy sources. Hydrogen serves as just a flexible battery. Hydrogen can be quickly refilled at a service station and tank capacity does not diminish due to ordinary usage. Unfortunately, hydrogen is considerably less efficient than, for example, electricity stored in a lithium ion battery.

Efficiency of Batteries Compared to Fuel Cell

Efficiency of Batteries Compared to Fuel Cell

So if hydrogen is not a viable energy source, how does the internet scam work? First, there is no mention anywhere of the energy cost of actually producing the hydrogen from water. Plus, to fool readers into thinking that water can be used directly, they display a Consumer Electronic Show clip about a fuel cell product that charges in electronics, a product that involves pouring water into a disposable fuel cartridge. Nowhere is it mentioned that in that case hydrogen is produced by a chemical reaction, at a cost of $74 per kilowatt-hour (electricity usually costs less than $0.10 per kilowatt-hour).1 They even brag about the volume of water needed. This is, of course, ridiculous because the cost of hydrogen has nothing to do with water and everything to do with electricity.

It is obvious then that this conversion manual they sell (no equipment provided, just a manual) is strictly fake. Any positive results are imagined. Besides hydrogen being an energy loser, there’s the simple fact that some hobby mechanic probably won’t be able to assemble the sophisticated injection system to keep the hydrogen from igniting prematurely. Given that the scam site is devoid of mention of electrolysis, the plans might involve something more devious such as simply adding a trivially small amount of water vapor to the intake. There are two lessons to take away from examining the site’s deceptive boasts. First, hydrogen is not a miracle cure, and it might not even be the optimal option for replacing conventional gas and diesel vehicles. Second, as gas prices rise, there will be an increasing number of scam sites trying to play off conspiracy fears, almost none of them are legitimate, most of them probably will just lead to more energy usage or to damaging parts of the car.

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16 Responses

  1. Interestingly, readers who actually go to this site will notice that the item is perpetually “on sale”. When I went to this site on the 14th of July, the sale expired on the 15th. As of today the sale expires on the 17th. This is probably just a poor attempt to create more impulsive purchases, before prospective customers find out that their claims are impossible.
    Rob

  2. While not an energy source, I think by harnessing energy that would otherwise be wasted through the alternator, you could theoretically generate electricity and convert water into fuel and make the initial combustion of gasoline (the real energy source) more efficient with a bit of a positive feedback loop. So, while it shouldn’t be thought of as a savior by any means, devices like this may be able to save you a few MPG and a few bucks, much like how gasoline/electric hybrids have improved efficiency but still leave us with dependence on gasoline.

  3. Brian makes a good point, reusing wasted energy in cars can help improve efficiency. This is the principal behind superchargers and turbochargers which try to pull additional energy out of the exhaust.

    I don’t think there could be any gains from that particular system though since the energy used to power the electrolysis is just coming from greater load on the alternator. It lacks the advantages of a hybrid drive train including removing the link between engine speed and vehicle speed and exploiting the differences between engines and motors (motors are most efficient at start-up, engines are most efficient at speed).

  4. The writer is correct. converting water into hydrogen and oxygen takes much more energy to produce than it does to produce water from those two elements. This results in a severe net loss of energy.

    there is a major net loss reducing water to its basic element then recapture the energy from the recombining of those two elements, hydrogen and oxygen.

    A super stable compound, water, takes tremendous amounts of energy to separate it in relation to the amount of energy recoverable from the recombining process by making power from burning and combining back into water.. Nitro glycerin, is an example of a very unstable compound taking very little to energy to set it off, just a small shake or sharp jolt.

    There may be a very slight benefit, less than .05% maybe from adding moisture to the combustion chamber cause greater expansion of the combustion gases. and maybe a very slight beneifit from cooling the motor for mechanical wear and tear but not for fuel effiecncy. High temps produce more energy extraction. Its a balancing act. Big trucks used to use water injection just to cool the motor down. It was introduced into the air stream and in very small amounts as a mist. Not a measurable amount of increase in mpg resulted if any. That has been another scam and sitll is preying on motorist today.

    There has been a nearly fully ceramic motor developed and made running that is much more fuel effcient it however runs at exrremely hot tempeture and is very fuel effieceint comparred to our automotive tye motors, Extreme Cost and very short life make it prohibitive for praticle use.in automobiles. I have not kept up with this techknowlge for over 20 years.

    Please pardon the typos and spelling at this point I am lucky to just get the thought down And I am to old to care anymore..

    You all take care

    tars

  5. The truth about hho gas is that you can produce enough to boost the fuel economy of a car or truck with very little energy but the use of salt, lye, or baking soda to help with the reaction. I know because i have built one myself by looking at designs that are free to the public on the internet. It does work but I personally am still concerned about the chemical reactivity with the gasoline when they are mixed in the combustion chamber. Does it cause an adverse reaction or maybe even to much heat to the engine. The basic claims are that gasoline is not 100% efficient, because only 30% actually burns the rest just cools and lubricates the combustion area. So the idea is to use the hho gas to replace the 30% so that you will not use as much gas, but if you really look at it hho gas will burn hotter then gasoline. The injectors still cause gas vapors that will still burn and this could cause the over heating and lack of lubrication so is it safe or is it not is my only question.

  6. There are lots of catalysts that make the electrolysis process take less energy. Unfortunately they are often prohibitively expensive. Basically, they are expensive because they are hard to produce, that energy is coming from somewhere. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    I read in the news that there is research going on at MIT about using Cobalt, that would be one of the cheapest catalysts. Even then, their goal is not free energy, their goal is to develop a way of more cheaply STORING solar energy for use at night.

    As to whether or not it’s safe, I’m not sure it would ever be “safe” to have consumers retrofitting their car to inject some foreign substance into the combustion chamber. Real hydrogen cars have sophisticated valves that prevent backfiring, because of hydrogen’s low ignition temperature. Otherwise it may explode in the line and not in the cylinder, although like I’ve said, there is no free energy. So in all likelihood, any hydrogen you’d be injecting would be so vanishingly small that it wouldn’t do anything whatsoever.

  7. Also, when people talk about gasoline burning internal combustion engines as “30% efficient” they don’t actually mean that only 30% of the gas burns. Cars do not retain large amounts of gasoline in the cylinders, in fact when that does happen inadvertently while trying to start a car (before fuel injection drivers would tap the gas pedal a little), it’s called “flooding the engine” and the driver must wait it out.

    30% efficient just means that a lot of the potential energy contained within the chemical bonds is not harnessed by the piston, but instead exits the system as sound or in the heat of the exhaust, etc. Adding a different “fuel” along with the gasoline has nothing to do with how efficient or not the engine is.

  8. Obviously, nobody read enough on this topic and missed the whole point of what’s happening! To get higher mpg, you must consider this as a system and foget about the pieces until later. The electrolysis part only draws ~15 amps which is what it takes to power a cars headlights, No problem here so far as the alternator can handle this with ease. The HHO, outside air and fuel is injected into the combustion chamber close to TDC, the hydrogen ignites first and burns hot. The fuel is greatly atomized further and turns into a “lean-burn” situation which ignites and burns LONGER giving a longer, more complete power stroke, improving the efficiency substantually.

  9. I apologize Chris if you think that we here at Smash The Mirror have overlooked some details of these systems. However, I think that we’ve made a fairly convincing argument that you can’t get something for nothing using hydrogen (or anything else).

    Regarding the content of your comment, I don’t really see any refutation. For one thing, 15 amps is a lot of power, even at the relatively low voltage used in cars, and it’s more than a pair of headlights (40-65 watts at 12.8 volts according to wikipedia). Really though, the scale of this system is irrelevant. The less power used, the less hydrogen one gets. The system still violates the laws of thermodynamics. Even something on the scale you’re talking about will cause a noticeable increase in fuel consumption. Using your 15 amp figure at 12.8 volts, I get a load increase of 192 watts. According to this study, that will knock roughly 0.902 mpg off the car’s fuel economy. Not devastating, but a waste is a waste, and it’s particularly insidious that it masquerades as energy savings. Don’t forget the added weight too.

    Incidentally, a “lean burn” refers to changing the ratio of gasoline and regular air. That has to do with things like timing and the car’s computer, not some misguided attempt to burn hydrogen. Again, Wikipedia can shed some light on this.

  10. I have seen it working first hand, and I have been able to see the actual math .. People
    that say it can’t be done are members of the Ignoramus campus … Their little heads
    cannot grasp complex Science and engineering

    They think that they can dispel something just because they think it can’t work. They
    base their assumptions on what they think they know ..

    It is true that it takes more energy to Split water into Hydrogen then the caloric result
    that burning it yields, however, the thing most everybody does not realize is that by
    injecting HHO into your car’s combustion chamber you create a cleaner longer more powerful explosion that translates the previously wasted energy into more mechanical energy that gives you a positive net energy gain ….

    Put succinctly (copied verbatim from alt-nrgy.org, thanks Zero):

    1) The best I.C.E. is 18% efficient, 20% on a good day.
    2) The process of brute force electrolysys today has been pushed to about 85% Faraday.

    Note: Based on the caloric energy available from burning Hydrogen, by using Faraday’s “Law” to translate from electrical energy it is estimated that 100% efficient hydrogen electrolysis is achieved by creating somewhere between 5.5-7.5 milliliters of gas per minute per watt of energy consumed. Members of our research group have run the numbers several ways which all seem to point to around 7.0 m/m/w or mmw for short. Many of our cells have operated as high as 6mmw or roughly 85% efficient

    3) The product of electrolysis is HHO which has it’s own energy value, up to 85% of what we put in.

    If all we considered was the return of energy value when we inject the HHO as a suppliment to gasoline, then yes; Conservation of energy applies.

    HOWEVER!

    HHO as an additive does more than return 85% of the energy we put in to create it. It’s properties enhance the slow burning gasoline, speeding up the rate of combustion, causing much more of the total combustion process to be translated into mechanical energy rather than being lost as waste heat out the tail pipe, raising the efficiency of the total system. Returning to the simple math…

    4) Let’s say we’re able to translate just 10% more of the total system energy to mechanical energy. We have still not violated conservation of energy, only raised the total system efficiency to 28%. But that’s an increase of 55%!!! Now deduct the energy loss of 15% to create the HHO that made this possible and you still end up with a total net gain of 40%!

    This is not rocket science. It’s simple math. And it works. The reality is some are getting even more, up to 35% mechanical efficiency, 94% gain, -15% to create the HHO, 79% total net gain. That’s 54 MPG on a car that started out at 30. People are doing this. It is working. The move is on and there is no stopping it.

    There .. Dwell on it.

  11. OOps .. Typo, I meant to say http://alt-nrg.org not http://alt-nrgy.org .

  12. I am rather shocked at the controversy this has generated. There seems to be a lot of defensiveness and group-think without much data.

    I don’t think it’s fair to expect me to debunk statistics that begin with the phrase “let’s say we’re able to”. Is there any proof that adding a vanishingly small amount of hydrogen to the air/fuel mixture will cause more gasoline to be burned? Sure, it’s simple math, but with made-up numbers.

    Gasoline has a flashpoint of -40 degrees Celsius by the way. It isn’t hard to burn as long as you have a spark. Yes, that’s negative and yes, that’s Celsius. The fact that internal combustion engines are inefficient seems irrelevant. It is still an internal combustion engine if it burns hydrogen.

  13. Actually, the hho systems do work, and any energy used in the method of electrolysis used to created the hho gas is negated. the process in creating hho gas is significantly less than creating hydrogen. Say 1/10th that of, so one could say, instead of requiring 13 units of energy to create 9 units of hydrogen, you would create 90 units for every 13 units of electricity. Now being that being said, what does that mean, does that defy the laws of thermal dynamics. Of course not. HHO gas by its self is completely stable, until introduced to oxygen and ignited, oxygen or any other combustible material.

    My vehicle 2008 ford f150, normally gets about 29 miles to the gallon, with this hho system, on the highway in optimal conditions, I am achieving 50 miles per gallon. If I had a ceramic engine, and adjusted the fuel to hho ratio, I could probably achieve mileage in the 100 – 120 mile range. What these Pseudo Intellectual frauds here debunking hho lack in understanding is that hho isn’t a fuel, its an accelerator. It allows materials to burn at a hotter and more efficient rate. Gas normally only burns at 17% efficiency anyway. With hho, it is significantly increased, upwards of 30 %. with a higher ratio of hho, gasoline could at higher efficiencies .

    HHO Gas can be burned as a sole combustible, except unless you had some sort of highly durable ceramic that can withstand 10,000 degrees, its not viable.

    This technology has been around for years, I am a phd physicist, a scientists who does research such as this.

    Did you know that we are able to use a decay method to produce hydrogen efficiently, at a 10 to 1 ratio. Wave reflection propagation using resonate harmonics. For those who do not agree, you are either too ignorant to comprehend something such as physics or simple chemistry, or you are working for an oil company, you liberal turds.

  14. Worth Your Time…

    Wonderful story, a bit off the subject, nevertheless truly worthwhile reading…

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