Skip to comments.Drivers Seek Mileage Boost From Hydrogen, Oxygen Bubbles
Posted on 06/11/2008 7:44:53 AM PDT by Incorrigible
Steve Kushnir's 'Hydrogen Hurricane' is an equipment package he sells that uses a car's electricity to make hydrogen and improve the way the engine burns gas. (Photo By Frank Ordonez)
[Liverpool, NY] -- Stephen Kushnir's 7-year-old Chevrolet Prizm used to get 35 miles per gallon on the highway. Not bad, but Kushnir thought he could do better.
A month ago Kushnir, a middle school technology teacher in Liverpool, N.Y., popped the hood and installed a gas-saving gizmo he had purchased over the Internet. He got it from a farmer in Missouri, who makes them in his spare time.
The main component is a steel cylinder filled with distilled water. With electricity supplied from the battery, the unit makes bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen. A hose carries the bubbles to the engine's air intake.
Now the Prizm gets 50 miles per gallon on the highway, Kushnir said.
"It's amazing,'' he said. "I did not think it would work as well as it did.''
Kushnir was so impressed, he became a dealer for the Missouri farmer's company. He sells the hydrogen generating system in his spare time.
Fueled by testimonials such as Kushnir's, interest in on-board hydrogen generators is spreading like wildfire. They are the latest in a long line of aftermarket gadgets promising better gas mileage few, if any, of which have been backed by independent studies to prove they work.
The Internet brims with start-up companies selling the technology and urging customers to "convert your car to run on water.''
Prices range from about $200 for small systems to more than $10,000 for systems designed for large trucks. Some sites offer free instructions for people to build their own.
Kushnir's company, Extreme Alternatives, sells a system that costs $849 before installation, or $999 installed.
In a world of $4 gasoline, hydrogen generators are drawing a lot of interest.
"Everyone's talking about them right now,'' said Patrick Serfass, director of technology and communication at the National Hydrogen Association in Washington, D.C.
But consumer watchdogs and government officials remain wary.
Some companies claim their hydrogen units can double a car's gas mileage while reducing its emissions. But Cathy Milbourn, speaking for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said consumers should be skeptical.
"If someone has something that works, we would love to see it, and we would love to help them bring it into the market,'' Milbourn said. "But we haven't found anything that really works.''
Proponents of the technology say it remains below EPA's radar because laboratory testing costs tens of thousands of dollars, which mom-and-pop entrepreneurs cannot afford.
In theory, hydrogen generators could boost fuel economy, scientists say.
A small amount of hydrogen mixed with gasoline or diesel causes the fuel to burn faster and at a lower temperature, increasing efficiency and reducing the amount of nitrogen oxides emitted, said Tom Ryan, president of SAE International, the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Whether any of the dozens of hydrogen generators on the market actually improve fuel efficiency is another matter, one that's difficult to assess without independent test results, Ryan said.
"There is a basis in science for this,'' Ryan said. "But the devil is in the details.''
Ryan, an engineer at Southwest Research Institute in Texas, said improving the performance of an existing car by adding aftermarket equipment is a complicated quest, because it involves changing the way the engine works. More promising, he said, is the likelihood that auto part suppliers will develop hydrogen generating technology with a view toward integrating it into new cars.
"We're getting to the point where maybe the cost-benefit is right,'' he said.
Michael Fowler, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said scientists are still studying the effects of introducing small amounts of hydrogen into internal combustion and diesel engines. It's likely that hydrogen improves combustion and reduces the production of smog-producing nitrogen oxides, he said.
"The question is, when you start generating your own hydrogen, and (factor in) the energy you take to generate the hydrogen by running the alternator, whether you get a net gain in the efficiency of the vehicle,'' Fowler said.
Fowler said he has not seen any conclusive answers.
"Is it possible? Definitely,'' he said. "Is it proven? No.''
Because hydrogen improves combustion, it allows engines to run on a leaner fuel mixture, said Ryan, of SAE International. But putting a device on existing cars would probably yield "mixed results'' depending on how each engine was calibrated, he said.
"It would take almost an engine-by-engine analysis to figure out the answer,'' he said.
Many consumers aren't waiting for such an analysis. Ken Smith, the Missouri hay farmer who manufactures hydrogen generators under the business name Hydro Fuel Solutions, said he's selling 250 units a week and growing fast. He's negotiating with a manufacturer to take over production.
"Every time the price of gasoline jumps, the interest in hydrogen generation for vehicles, tractors, farm equipment and all kinds of stuff jumps,'' he said.
But the technology is not new. Smith said he started selling hydrogen generators at county fairs and flea markets during the early 1980s, another era of high gas prices. Smith said he likes the interest in independent testing of hydrogen generators.
"There's a lot of stuff out there that really shouldn't be put on cars,'' he said, including a hydrogen generator made from a glass jar. His Hydro Super 2 is made from stainless steel.
Kushnir, 41, the Liverpool, N.Y., teacher, has been interested in fuel economy and alternative energy ever since he was a graduate student. His 1989 master's thesis looked at the possibility of building a corn-burning car.
He and his wife, Dina, started Extreme Alternatives last year to sell Chinese-made Lifan motorcycles, many of which get 100 or more miles per gallon. He usually has half a dozen display bikes parked at the end of his driveway.
Extreme Alternatives incorporates the Hydro Super 2 into a package with other equipment. Kushnir markets the package as the Hydrogen Hurricane.
A key component of the system is an electronic modulator for the car's oxygen sensor, Kushnir said. The device prevents the car's computer from injecting more fuel into the engine in response to cleaner exhaust produced by burning hydrogen, which would negate the efficiency gained, he said.
Kushnir also includes a special oil and a gasoline additive in the package he sells.
Kushnir said his Prizm is averaging 40 miles per gallon in city driving and about 50 mpg on the highway since he installed the Hydrogen Hurricane. His wife's Jeep is averaging in the low 20s, up from about 16 mpg, he said.
(Tim Knauss is a staff writer for The Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y., and can be contacted at tknauss(at)syracuse.com)
Not for commercial use. For educational and discussion purposes only.
I agree. The car industry is in worlds of trouble, if this worked they would be all over it.
I would warn anyone against doing this to a vehicle you can not afford to replace. You are working with gasoline near a hot engine. Car fires are nasty ones.
Did somebody say "huge manatees"????
Unless you’re leaving out some pretty important details, I’m thinking you have a very active imagination...
I love Manatee steak with country gravy
The question then is, is the chemical energy release of burning the hydrox mix greater than the electrical energy required to crack them? Somehow I doubt this is the case. I expect a lot of dead batteries in these cars' futures.
This also kind of strikes me as similar to the more complicated versions of steam engines like triple or qudruple expansion engines.
Now if you were generating electricity from the waste heat off the exhaust and using THAT to crack the water. Then you'd definitely be getting somewhere but even then you are just increasing the efficiency of the internal combustion engine.
Just the same, the whole idea of doing it on the old pickup is to check it out on something we can afford to have it not work on and then fix afterward if necessary. A 1992 Ford F-150.
I'll post something on FR after we do so in the next coupe of months and then test it long enough in real world conditions here in IDaho to get a feel for the results.
Ding! Ding! They mechanically lean out the fuel mixture...
I drive a Ford Ranger with the small 4 cylinder and manual transmission.
I normally get 29/30 mpg. Since most of my driving is within 50 miles, the few minutes difference between 65 and 75 is worth the difference in gas money.
Here a while back I had to get about 400 miles away in a hurry and was not worried about gas millage. At 75/80 mph, my gas millage dropped to 19 mpg.
With a 4X4 pickup operating offroad in the mountains here in Idaho, you will not have to wrroy about that.
I now call it Der Hindenburban.
Congratulations, I find your post to be the most informative and credible in this thread.
When I was in the Navy, we had on board a rather large device known as an electrolytic oxygen generator. It generated oxygen using a process that is really no different from the device described in the article aside from scale.
There was a reason that we referred to it as the “bomb”.
The modern engine running at constant driving speed is giving as close to 100% combustion as you can get. There is hardly any raw gas or CO coming out the tailpipe. There's nothing left to burn. How can you improve on that?
Since it takes energy to make the hydrogen, even if it makes a difference, will it pay back the energy lost?
“A key component of the system is an electronic modulator for the car’s oxygen sensor, Kushnir said. The device prevents the car’s computer from injecting more fuel into the engine in response to cleaner exhaust produced by burning hydrogen, which would negate the efficiency gained, he said.”
Simply leaning the engine fuel mix. Plug-in engine modulators can be purchased aftermarket to tune the engine on the fly.
Burning water, burning hydrogen generated from water, nonsense, past and present.
Water is an ash. By chemical energetics, it is thus about the worst place to look for a bulk hydrogen source. At first glance, it seems easy enough to use electrolysis to split water into its oxygen and hydrogen components. Just apply any low dc current for bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Full details first appeared by Michael Faraday over a century ago. And are easily found today in Britannicas Great Books #45.
Electrolysis is certainly useful for cooling generators or petrochemical refining or precision low energy torches or lifting research balloons or making fat pretty but deadly. But nearly all of these use unstored hydrogen-on-demand and do value their hydrogen much higher than by its meager energy content.
As weve seen, retail electricity is worth about ten cents per kilowatt hour. Lower exergy gasoline is worth three cents per kilowatt hour. Your value of raw unprocessed hydrogen is not well established, but we do know it will certainly be a lot less than gasoline today. Because it has not yet impacted gasoline in any significant way. I feel 0.8 cents per raw hydrogen kilowatt hour can be a reasonable ballpark estimate.
In a typical situation, electrolysis takes two or more kilowatt hours of electricity worth ten cents each and converts them into one or fewer kilowatt hours of hydrogen worth less than a penny each. And that is before any fully burdened cost accounting, amortization, storage or processing. Thus Electrolysis for bulk hydrogen energy is pretty much the same as 1:1 converting US dollars into Mexican Pesos.
At its very best, electrolysis introduces a staggering loss of exergy that dramatically reduces the quantity and value of transformed kilowatt hours of energy. Electrolysis is thus wildly unsuitable when driven from high value electrical sources such as retail grid electricity or any small scale photovoltaics.
If you have electricity, sell the electricity, buy some methane, and reform the methane. It is a lot cheaper and throws away a lot less exergy.
This is remarkably comparable to our earlier electrical resistance heat example. Where your best solution involves converting a few higher value kilowatt hours into more lower value ones. Rather than fewer.
Even if you have a renewable and sustainable source of ultra low cost electricity, electrolysis can still easily convert it back down into a net energy sink. Individuals making their own "homebrew" hydrogen by electrolysis face other rude surprises. For openers, some to much of the produced "gas" may end up water vapor from dielectric heating. Safety issues are largely unappreciated and easily lead to Darwin Awards.
But the really big gotcha is trying to use stainless steel rather than costly platinized platinum electrodes. Because of the hydrogen overvoltage of iron found in most any electrochem textbook, and because of the dead-wrong low energy passivated surface, stainless slashes your possible efficiency by one-half or greater.
Umm, pretty sure this was Mythbusted.
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