Hydrogen As An Alternative Fuel Source

If you’re like most of us in America, you’re starting to look for some relief at the pump. I just filled up my car the other day with 11 gallons and the price came to just over $44. That’s right, the dreaded $4/gallon. Because I drive a lot, and I also like to drive classic cars, I’ve been looking quite seriously at alternative fuels.

BioDiesel is a viable answer.

For awhile I owned a 1984 Mercedes 300D Turbo Diesel and tried BioDiesel in it a few times. It ran great (the same as regular diesel, but with less soot) and the power seemed to be the same, but it’s hard to get where I live and I don’t have the room to set up a proper distillation system to clean and prep the fuel. Yes, you can actually burn straight vegetable oil in a diesel engine, but it tends to get a bit solid when it gets cold, so you need to treat it a bit first.

So though BioDiesel is great stuff and if you can get it in good supply (and can get a diesel vehicle), then by all means, go for it.

So what to do with my gassers? I looked at Ethanol, but studies show that it either takes more energy to grow the corn and refine it than we get out of the ethanol fuel, or that the margin is so slim that it’s simply not viable. Studies also show that if all corn grown in the US was used for ethanol we’d still only provide 6% of the needed fuel. Methanol works, but it’s a bit harder to come by and like Ethanol is really only well suited to use as an additive to make regular gas a bit better.

I’ve never been a fan of hybrids; they just don’t get the mileage I would expect a true alternative to get. Sure they can pull off 50MPG at the best of times, but a 1982 Honda Civic coupe could get 62MPG. So what’s the big deal? Hybrids also come complete with large, nasty rechargeable batteries – one of the worst things around for the environment. And honestly, let’s not forget the largest waste product from a car: the car and the manufacturing process for that car. New cars generate a lot of waste and I want something that will extend my existing vehicles and make them more viable.

That essentially means this: What else can I burn in my car that is good for the environment and has low emissions?

The answer: Hydrogen.

I know what you are thinking, “whoa mister, I don’t want to drive around on a bomb!” And honestly, who would? Interestingly enough, when gas burning vehicles were becoming common, a lot of people were very concerned about how flammable gas is and how dangerous it was to drive around with tanks of it. As it turns out, we’ve survived. We also can build much better tanks these days. There are propane and natural gas vehicles out there that have pressurized fuel tanks of very explosive gasses and they have a very low leak in crash ratio. Much less so than a thin metal gas tank.

Norway even has a hydrogen highway that spans several hundred miles and has fuel stations along it. Iceland is working on a similar scenario. Hydrogen is a viable fuel, and it is starting to catch on.

But that still doesn’t deal with my concern over the fact that I want something that will work in my current cars. Can they burn hydrogen? Yes, yes they can. Modern engines are very well capable of burning hydrogen. They sometimes require a bit of adjustment in their air-fuel ratios, but they can burn just about anything that can be compressed and be ignited with a spark.

If you have the ability to get a good supply of hydrogen and know a competent mechanic, you can turn your car into a H burner. However, that’s unlikely, and the prospect of hauling heavy hydrogen tanks in my trunk didn’t fill me with enthusiasm. So I looked a bit further.

And I found HHO Conversion systems.

I knew that Hydrogen was the most common element in the universe, and I knew that it is the primary ingredient in water. What I didn’t know is that there is a tried and true process for extracting the hydrogen from water. It’s called Electrolyzing water. Electrolyzers have 2 (or more) rods or plates in water. They then run electricity between then and the process breaks the bond between the Oxygen and the Hydrogen in the water, causing a gas called HHO to be emitted.

Unfortunately this process is slow and at present it’s not feasible to power your car off of this entirely, but there are ways to add this HHO gas to your fuel. What it involves is a small electrolyzer that converts water to HHO gas in your car as needed. It starts up when your car starts and then bubbles happily away. It doesn’t add a large amount of HHO, and on most cars it’s better not to. What it does add is more oxygen and enough hydrogen that your car burns its gasoline faster.

I won’t go into details, but much of a car’s power and efficiency comes from when the fuel burns, not how, or how much. The faster it burns, the more of its power translates into spinning the engine. We’ve all had some really bad gas once or twice and you can feel how your car doesn’t have as much power. This is usually because the gas is not burning fast enough, or completely.

Adding HHO seems to really help this out and provide a significantly better burn and power transfer to the engine.

There are a lot of products out there that can help you take advantage of this technology. One such offering is from Hydro Fuel Solutions and their Super Hydro 2 product ($389 US). Additionally it seems that there are a lot of people offering information on how to build your own Hydrogen Generator, such as Water4Gas which for $97 will provide over 400 pages of information on how to create your own generator and stick it to the man.

Obviously they cater to different markets, the Super Hydro 2 is for folks who want a complete, working product and things like the Water4Gas ebook is for people who want to learn how it works and tweak and optimize their process.

I’ve started playing around with HHO conversion and am doing extensive tests before I release my numbers, but they are looking promising. I’ll be sure to publish the results when I am done and show whether or not I was able to save money at the pump (won’t that be nice) or if I’ll have to wait on some new advanced technology and a new car to save my pocketbook.