Viability of Converting a Car to Burn Water and Gas
Posted Sep 07 2008 2:10am
NOTE: audio and presentation file for this post are linked at the end
Life is dangerous. Driving an automobile is dangerous. Burning any type of fuel
is dangerous. However, millions of people drive gasoline-powered automobiles
every day because the risks are known and manageable.
Depending on the application, hydrogen is less dangerous than gasoline. That is
a known, demonstrable fact. Converting a car to burn water and gas involves
blending hydrogen with gasoline, adding one explosive compound to another.
However, as my friend Adam Nehr of the Kennedy Space Center explains below,
converting a car to burn water and gas involves the addition of hydrogen from
water which has been reformulated from H2O into HHO, or oxyhydrogen, a useful
but highly volatile substance.
Please read on for all the details or, better yet, scroll all the way
to the bottom of this post to listen to my in-depth telephone conversation
with Adam. It contains all of the information which appears below in a greatly
expanded version along with a PowerPoint presentation (in Adobe format). As you
will come to see, the idea of converting a car to burn water and gas is
appealing but ultimately can’t work without violating entropy, not a good idea
no matter how high fuel prices go.
Enough Danger To Make Even Will Robinson Tremble
CORBETT: Many of our readers have heard that conventional internal
combustion gasoline engines convert to thrust only 40% of the kinetic potential
of the fuel – and on a good day. Why is this?
ADAM: The mechanical conversion of combustion to linear and then rotary
motion is inefficient. It’s really a mechanical problem due to the fact that as
gases expand they become less dense relative to the square of expansion. As
combustion happens the pressure builds and pushes the piston down but as the
piston moves, the gas has a greater space to fill and soon it reaches the point
where it is too weak to push further. It is still very hot, however, and that
heat now has to go somewhere. That’s where the cooling system takes over but
just like the alternator, it costs some horsepower to do its job. When you add
it all up, the average engine only returns 30 – 40% of the energy potential of
the gasoline in the form of power to move the car and the rest goes to heat
dissipation and electrical generation.
CORBETT: Here on Keyboard Culture Global Warming, I
have featured the fact that Ford currently makes a diesel version of the
Fiesta and some owners report fuel economy of 60 miles per gallon. Back in the
1990’s, I knew a gentleman from Scotland who drove the diesel version of the
Ford Escort and obtained upwards of 80 miles per gallon.
If it is possible for diesel automobiles to have such high efficiencies without
exotic technologies such as regenerative braking, why don’t we have
high-efficiency gasoline engines?
ADAM: Well first, the core problem is that we like BIG cars and, with big
cars, come big energy needs. The more wind drag a car has, the more horsepower
is required to push it against the invisible sea of air all around us. If you
think about the root of my first answer, the engineering of today’s gasoline
engine is pretty wasteful fuel -wise but it is about as good as a
gasoline-burning mechanical engine can be made in a practical sense. We either
have to drive smaller or think bigger when it comes to energy conversion for the
size of cars we drive.
If we could find a low entropy means of using all of that heat the engine
wastes to provide propulsion, it would be a start, but a better solution would
be to get away from gasoline altogether. The diesel is more efficient than a
gasoline engine because it compresses the air first – and because the fuel has a
higher energy specific or energy content per liquid volume. The difference is
around 15% more energy per gallon of diesel compared to regular gasoline. The hypermiling figures you stated are the result of many factors, all being
optimized....including tire inflation. Good mileage has to be approached from a
holistic system point of view.
CORBETT: We have heard prominent people, including George W. Bush,
express enthusiasm about hydrogen in automobiles. If hydrogen is part of water,
why won’t technologies which claim to allow us to run our car on water function?
ADAM: Well it’s a problem of entropy. If you made the hydrogen from
solar energy at a station designed for high volume production and stored it in a
high-pressure or nickel-metal-hydride tank onboard the car, like some of the H2
cars currently on the road, hydrogen is a good fuel but not a great one. The
problem here is that the tanks are heavy plus the fuel cell is stuffed in and
inaccessible to easy maintenance. Electric cars are ideal but that does not stop
the use of hydrogen for energy storage – in fact, it encourages it! If you use
hydrogen to store energy from solar production and then use the stored gas to
create electricity when the sun is not shining, you are getting much closer to a
viable and sustainable use of hydrogen for personal transportation, like the way
the Interstate Traveler is designed. Batteries and super capacitors are making
chemical propulsion look like it is in its last few decades and if we really put
a push on the development of the new technologies, we can realize this dream
quickly. Note that I talk only about hydrogen and not oxyhydrogen (or HHO) gas.
That’s for safety reasons.
If you split water into its component parts, you get hydrogen AND oxygen at a ratio of 2:1. If you keep the gases together, you have oxyhydrogen
(or HHO), which is very explosive. In fact, welders use this gas when they need
to melt metals with melting points as high as 2700°F. In a car, this gas can be
lethal in moderate quantities because it is so explosive. It is like running
your car on acetylene and oxygen mixed together....not a good idea. Even more
importantly, the systems for converting a car to burn water and gas take energy
from the gasoline engine to make the HHO gas right in the engine compartment.
That is not only dangerous but completely inefficient. In fact, it costs
you a small amount of mileage which some of the systems for converting a
car to burn water and gas cover up by convincing you to lean out the fuel
mixture by reprogramming your engine computer. This decreases engine life but it
does increase mileage right up to the point where the engine fails. The
attached presentation tells the story...
CORBETT: If HHO technologies don’t function, what alternatives do
automobile drivers have to improve fuel economy?
ADAM: Well, smaller cars for one – perhaps owning two cars, one for commuting
and another for general hauling and errands. That’s what I am doing – I ordered
a Smart for Two and will use it on my daily 45-minute commute instead of my mini
pickup truck. There’s also tire inflation, good maintenance and using public
transport when possible. As far as a miracle fix for fuel consumption, there
isn’t one out there yet, but the electric car and the hydrogen storage of solar
and wind energy is coming up fast! Right now, conserve, be smart and be patient.