I stumbled across a scam today that I just had to write about. Here’s the hook:

“Increase your gas mileage 20-90% by adding a supplemental hydrogen generator to your car! A supplemental hydrogen generator works simply enough – you put distilled water in a special canister in your car, and electricity from your car’s battery is used to separate that water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is added to your car’s fuel because hydrogen burns very well (hydrogen is a very combustible gas), and it reduces the amount of gas you use! The oxygen is added to the air your car breathes in. Oxygen is needed for combustion, and more of it makes your car more efficient. One gallon of water is enough to provide oxygen and hydrogen for hundreds of miles!”

Supplemental hydrogen generator schematic.

Here’s a nice graphic of the system.

The hook is followed by lines like “the secret the oil companies don’t want you to know” or “automakers and oil companies are working to keep this technology out of your hands”, etc. The websites (which I won’t link to because they’re a complete and total rip-off) even sell parts or entire mechanisms for adding a separator to your car. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this idea. It doesn’t work! It’s impossible!

Here’s a summary of the system:

Step 1: Using electricity from the battery, the system separates water into oxygen and hydrogen. Keep in mind that the electricity in the battery is simple stored electricity from your engine. The engine creates electricity by turning your alternator, which powers your radio, headlights, turn signals, etc., with any extra charging your car’s battery.

Step 2: The oxygen from the separator is added to your air intake. More oxygen in the air makes for better combustion.

Step 3: The hydrogen from the separator is added to your fuel, reducing the amount of gasoline your car uses.

Step 4: Hydrogen and oxygen recombine during combustion in your engine, releasing energy and making your car go. Unfortunately, the engine also needs to send electricity to your hydrogen separator in order to continue the process. That brings us back to step one.

At best, this would be a break-even process. While it is true that hydrogen can supplement gasoline, it’s important to remember that whatever energy you added to the water to get it to separate in step 1 doesn’t fall from the sky – it comes from your engine. Whatever power you gain in step 4 goes towards providing energy for step 1.

Here’s the ironic part – adding this equipment will probably reduce your gas mileage. You’re pulling energy out of the engine to break down water, but you’re going to loose some of that energy to electrical resistance in the alternator as it charges the battery, heat loss from the battery and the separator, and probably some combustion efficiency loss because the engine’s computer won’t understand what’s going on (the computer would need to be re-calibrated for the un-naturally high oxygen in the intake air stream, not to mention the hydrogen in the fuel).

There’s a law called “conservation of energy” – whatever energy we put into something, that’s the most we can get out of it. We add energy to water to make oxygen and hydrogen, but whatever energy we get back can’t be more than we added.

In other words, it’s a scam.

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