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Hydrogen Injection Proven in Real-World Usage

Retired Article • Written by Alan Bellows

As early as the 1970s, auto researchers have known that adding hydrogen to the ignition phase in a combustion engine dramatically increases the efficiency of the reaction, while also reducing pollution. But until recently, there was no safe, reliable means to provide a steady supply of hydrogen to an engine. Now, a company called Canadian Hydrogen Energy is marketing their Hydrogen Fuel Injection (HFI) system to North American shipping companies, and the system is proving useful.

The HFI system is a bolt-on apparatus which includes an electrolysis unit, and a water reservoir. It uses power from the engine's alternator to electrolyze distilled water, and produce hydrogen on demand. The hundreds of semi trucks in North America which are now using this system enjoy improved horsepower, and emit about half of the particulates they did before the unit was added.

Sherwin Fast, the president of Great Plains Trucking, reports that their four HFI-equipped trucks have saved them $700 a month in fuel. With the units about $14,000 each, it will take some time to recoup the expense; but in the meantime they're also helping to save the environment. Instant Karma... just add water.

Wired News article
Canadian Hydrogen Energy homepage

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 16 November 2005. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

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14 Comments
tedwriter
Posted 20 November 2005 at 04:46 am

The energy from burning fossil fuel is being used to turn the alternator, which in turn produces electricity, which then is used to separate water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. That hydrogen is then injected backinto the engine to burn to create more energy.

Throughout this system there are losses of energy, so my bet is that this thing is not saving money. TANSTAAFL is alive and well, otherwise this would be a perpetual motion machine, using all of the energy of the burning of hydrogen to create electricity to electgrolyze water so that you can burn the hydrogen to produce more electricity, etc.

Bottom line -- it doesn't work, which is why I laugh whenever I hear Bush prattling on about hydrogen power for cars. He never talks about, and I am willing to bet does not understand, the necessity to use fossil or some other energy to electrolyze water.


Yic Yac
Posted 20 November 2005 at 01:20 pm

But it is saving money... Did you even read the article?


Alan Bellows
Posted 23 November 2005 at 04:37 pm

It's not a "perpetual motion machine" because all it is doing is increasing the efficiency of the burn. A normal combustion engine is highly inefficient, and wastes a lot of unburned fuel out of the tailpipe. Hydrogen injection systems like this one DO initally rob a couple horsepower from the engine, but the hydrogen increases the efficiency of the burn enough to recoup that horsepower, and then some. Since the burn is more efficient, less particulates make it into the atmosphere.

When one looks at the larger picture though, there are still questions. For instance, how much pollution is produced and how much fossil fuel is consumed to manufacture one of these devices?


armengar
Posted 02 December 2005 at 09:25 am

$700 is not a lot of money either. The system cannot be that efficient or worthwhile for the majority or people. Remember that the $700 is for 4 trucks not $700 per truck. At $2100 per year the truck will be retired before it pays for its system.

Plus where do they get the distilled water from? Boiling? How much water does it use? There is more to pollution than the mere exhaust product.


oldhogger
Posted 27 April 2006 at 01:02 pm

this should be tried on locomotives(SD-70''s or Dash-9's) ....they stay in service for 30 plus years


sulkykid
Posted 22 May 2006 at 11:03 am

armengar said: "$700 is not a lot of money either. The system cannot be that efficient or worthwhile for the majority or people. Remember that the $700 is for 4 trucks not $700 per truck. At $2100 per year the truck will be retired before it pays for its system.


Plus where do they get the distilled water from? Boiling? How much water does it use? There is more to pollution than the mere exhaust product."

A 7 year payback period on brand new technology is amazingly good. When these things are mass produced, the price will go down. Plus, fuels prices have increased substantially since this article was written. I think that trucks have a 10 year plus road life (?). I do not know why distilled water is used, won't plain old tap water electrolize as well?


WolfManDragon
Posted 23 June 2006 at 07:40 am

I know guys that are driving riggs dating from the early 80's.


Drakvil
Posted 08 January 2007 at 10:27 pm

armengar said: "$700 is not a lot of money either. The system cannot be that efficient or worthwhile for the majority or people. Remember that the $700 is for 4 trucks not $700 per truck. At $2100 per year the truck will be retired before it pays for its system.

Who retires trucks after only 7 years? You might trade in your commuter car at the end of it's 4 year lease, but trucks usually last for many times the distance that cars do.

I know a truck driver that put about half a million miles on two trucks she drove, and neither was retired (move to a new company, drive a new truck). Also, fuel is a large factor in the profit margin of trucking operations. So something that saves them on fuel is of great interest to them. The time they save in making fewer fueling stops also allows them to be a little more profitable.

And, if a signifigant number of trucks are using this device, the overall cost of fuel will drop due to lower demand/consumption.

I am curious if this equipment works only on diesel engines (what trucks use, and the only kind of vehicle mentioned in the article) or if it applies to gasoline as well. Any idea if using excess engine heat to heat the water aids in the electrolysis process? It would be childs play to route the exhaust through the water storage container.

And the electricity that is used for the electrolysis isn't making the engine work any harder. An alternator just uses the existing motion of the engine to generate electricity,- this is a continuous process 100% of the time the engine is running - the electricity generated is a function of the speed of the engine, the power requirements of the gizmos (radio, cigarette lighters, computers, cell phone chargers, etc.) in the car has no effect on the engines operation or efficiency. This is in large part electricity that is lost as heat - when the battery is at full charge it cannot accept any more power and it dissipates that power as heat. When the generator doesn't supply enough power some is borrowed from the battery and/or a fuse gets blown.


Radiatidon
Posted 09 January 2007 at 07:16 am

Drakvil said: "And the electricity that is used for the electrolysis isn't making the engine work any harder, the power requirements of the gizmos (radio, cigarette lighters, computers, cell phone chargers, etc.) in the car has no effect on the engines operation or efficiency."

Actually each device added to the electrical system is causing more resistance at the generator. The engine has to provide more torque to turn the alternator when more items are added. More torque requires more power to turn the shaft. The battery is only used to start the engine and to act as a buffer between the alternator and the electrical system to balance the surges and lulls in power generation (which is why your headlights should never dim or brighten based on the alternators rpm. If they do, then check the battery first, finally the alternator for problems).

Years ago a friend added daylights (spotlights) to his truck. It was a ¾ ton with a high-end hemi and a decent sound system. He had a problem when he turned on the daylights, his truck would die. He added a second battery but that only worked part of the time. When he asked me I rated his alternator and added the amps his entire system required. His stock alternator was barely producing half the amps required by the stereo and the daylights together without anything left over for the motor’s needs. The two batteries on full charge and the alternator could squeak by, but barely. We upgraded his alternator and I rewired part of the system and voila, no more truck dying with the daylights. Even in winter the system produced enough amps for the load.

"An alternator just uses the existing motion of the engine to generate electricity,- this is a continuous process 100% of the time the engine is running - the electricity generated is a function of the speed of the engine"

This is like saying that you can pull a trailer without any additional load on the engine. Since the engine is running anyway to move the vehicle, the trailer should not cause any lugging or extra fuel consumption. A load is a load. Does not matter if it is a physical trailer with weight or an electrical device. Each electrical device is the same as additional weight added to the vehicle. They will and do cause extra fuel consumption and additional wear-n-tear on the engine. Additionally electrolysis is a large load, in the same class as a heat element.


Jeffrey93
Posted 20 March 2007 at 04:06 pm

Heavy Trucks have a life of about 10 to 15 years...depending on the usage of course (single driver, team, shared, etc.). They should last well over 1 million miles. Which begs the question of why a heavy cumbersome truck can go a million miles and my lightweight car struggles to get to 200,000!!! Something just isn't right with that.

I've never heard of this before...and I am somewhat involved in an industry that often deals with truck manufacturing/assembly.

The big thing now is Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel. Which is an apparent nightmare in the winter as we saw in Pennsylvania this past winter (buses wouldn't start or would quickly stall).
For a new truck right now you would pay $5 to $10 thousand dollars extra just so it can pass the '07 emissions standards.

So paying $14,000 for this hydrogen do-hicky doesn't seem that far fetched. I don't believe the new systems used for passing the emissions standards improve fuel effiencency in any significant amount (re-burns some exhaust particulates but that's it).


ddonovan
Posted 17 August 2007 at 02:25 pm

It's a simple answer why trucks can go a million miles and cars might go a fifth of that.

First, trucks are almost entirely highway mileage, which causes comparatively little wear-and-tear compared to city driving.

Second, those diesel engines rarely rev over 2000 rpm and typically roll down the road at less than 1500.

Third, diesel fuel is a lubricant, where gasoline is not. When the fuel itself is a lubricant it produces far less wear on the rings and cylinder walls, and its byproducts from the combustion process are not as detrimental to the crankcase oil's viscosity as those produced by gasoline.

Fourth, trucks are strictly maintained on a regular maintenance schedule. When your livelihood depends on it, you take much better care of your vehicle, not to mention when those trucks cost $100,000.


DanThinksDances&femaleGspot
Posted 23 September 2008 at 10:02 pm

Enter your reply text here. OK

The obvious: Is this the same company from last month's article?


BROCO
Posted 29 September 2008 at 04:19 pm

It not only sounds good, but it works. Now I havent tried it yet, but I know people with a homemade system that does work. $100 worth of supplys, and some elbow grrease, and a 20mpg S10 is getting 35. They are using tap water and it works fine, its just dirty so the stainless steel plates get deposits on them rather quickly.

Just wondering:
basically this system is in sence a batterie under load, why couldnt you tap into your cars exsisting batteries vent ports and run that into your intake?

Batteries under charge do create hydrogen dont they?


thekenemy
Posted 01 March 2011 at 07:48 am

Interesting, and very feasible if you ask me. But how about just adding a little bit of water to the fuel/air mixture to enable higher compression ratios in otto engines? I know this has been done in (charged) WWII fighter plane engines and in rally cars. I guess this only has a significant benefit when the engine is running at full tilt though...


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