On Monday, September 8, 2008, a Ford mini-van was towed into the dealership where I work and I was delighted. It was the first vehicle I have seen in two years that advertised it was water powered.
I have some familiarity with "water powered" cars since I initially choose that to be my seventh grade science project. I submitted building a car that runs on water. Coach Jones said no.
I settled with using a 5 quart ice cream bucket filled with water and two metal plates connected to an extension cord to show the electrolysis of water. I earned a "c" for my efforts. This isn't about the immense learning opportunity I missed out on as to WHY a water powered car won't work, so I had to learn that myself.
Anyway it's towed in and I'm wondering just what they have used to get this thing to work. It has Canadian plates, so must be moose juice running it.
On the outside of the van, there were bold claims about engine wear, better fuel economy, and less emissions. Most important was the website: http://www.gogreenhydrofuel.com . There on the top of the calculations page was the very van we had in our service department. Silly dog in the windshield and all. Oh this is going to be fun.
The next day, I see the owner talking to one of our service advisers and and he wants to show her some wire he thinks may have shorted. I just "happened" to be back in the bull pen, as we call it, when he was showing her. I approached them and said, "I've never seen a vehicle that claims to run on water in the two years I've worked here. How does it work?" I'm conscious that it doesn't work or we wouldn't have it in our service department, but I kept everything I said to him as softball as possible.
He claimed that all the big motor companies are doing the the same thing with hydrogen cells, that 1000's of companies are now selling systems like his, and he "believes" in it. As a side note he says he spent between three and four thousand dollars to outfit his van.
I had to ask, since why else would he spend so much, "What kind of fuel millage are you getting now?" He said that he used to get a 480 miles on a full tank before the system, and now he gets around 620 miles. That's 140 more miles per tank. So I asked him how much water was converted to gas for that tank. He said ,"about half a quart." At this point I got a pen and some paper and wrote down the numbers and asked him, "So, if you were to run out of regular gas at 480 miles, and you had half a quart of water, then you should be able to drive up to 140 miles to get to a regular gas station?" He looked at the numbers for a second, then said he didn't think the system would make enough gas for that.
Jackpot? Of course not, he may never abandon his "belief" that he can break water down with electrolysis, then put it back together again and get more energy than he put in. On the plus side, he did say that "90%" of the people he talks to don't think it will work and only one, his father, believe him. What is the number one reason? The alternator takes power from the engine to break the hydrogen and oxygen bonds. The correct answer.
I wish my co-workers were more focused on that than the answer I get when I ask them, mostly mechanics mind you, "If it worked, then everybody would be doing it." A fallacy of logic that just happens to be correct in this case.