Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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As oil prices rise, the quest for ways to replace fossil fuels or at least improve the mileage of modern vehicles becomes increasingly urgent.
All around the globe, teams of highly educated scientists slave away in an attempt to squeeze the last few percent of efficiency out of the conventional internal combustion engine because they know that even small improvements can have a big benefit to an auto-maker's bottom line.
At the same time, there appear to be legions of "garage mechanics" who are also working on ways to improve the mileage of your car.
All kinds of crazy devices are now flooding the market and promising to slash your fuel bill by improving your mileage, or maybe even completely eliminating the need to buy gasoline at all.
Perhaps the most prevalent of these systems is the HHO hydrogen generator system that is being pitched by numerous different individuals and small companies.
Connect one of these "fuel cells" up to your car's electrical system, fill it with water and run a pipe to your car's air intake and voila... you'll immediately see a significant improvement in your gas mileage.
Sounds almost too good to be true doesn't it?
And what is it they say about things that sound too good to be true?
Let's take a closer look at those HHO "hydrogen fuel cells".
They are actually nothing more than a simple electrolysis device that uses electricity to split water into its constituent components -- two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen.
There is nothing magical about this, it's a process that's been around for a very long time.
The gases generated by the electrolysis of water (sometimes referred to as Brown's Gas) can be recombined by way of combustion to release energy.
Unfortunately, the first law of thermodynamics states quite clearly that the energy generated by recombining the hydrogen and oxygen through combustion can only ever be equal to the amount of energy it took to separate them.
In fact it's worse than that.
Because there all sorts of losses involved in the generation of the electricity, the delivery of it to the electrolysis cell and then the combustion process, we actually recover far less energy from burning the hydrogen than it took to create it.
So, once those losses are taken into account, these useless devices will actually cause your car to use *more* fuel - that extra fuel doing nothing more than heating the water in that electrolysis cell and the wires that lead to it.
What's more, the introduction of hydrogen and oxygen into your engine's intake can also lead to the car's computer incorrectly adjusting the air/fuel mixture to the point where fuel consumption either worsens further, or damage could be done to your engine.
As usual in the wonderful world of physics, there are no free lunches.
But a little scientific fact is not about to stand in the way of those who think they can make money from the current energy crisis.
They still insist you can increase your gas mileage by sucking power from your alternator and using it to create hydrogen.
Why would you buy anything (be it plans, instructions or ready-built kits) from someone who has not the faintest grasp of basic science?
Here's a typical scam site that makes outrageous claims you'll "double your mileage" and "generate free energy".
Of course they work hard tug on your heartstrings and feelings of guilt by claiming that you'll also be saving the planet.
Well I'm sorry but this is nothing but a bunch of lies.
Nobody has yet broken the first law of thermodynamics and there's no sign that anyone will. These laws are immutable and have withstood the test of time and many, many brilliant scientific minds.
But what about all these glowing testimonials?
Chances are that some are fake. Others are just poor deluded fools who want it to be true so much that they fool themselves into believing this worthless idea actually works.
Notice how the vast majority of these testimonials come from people such as "Eric from Wisconsin" or "R.A. Foreman (USA)". There is no way to contact these people, let alone even verify that they actually exist.
You'll also notice something else about many of those who pop up claiming that they're using the system and it works... they provide you with a link to a website. That link is inevitably either a paid-per-click link, or the address of a website promoting these scams. In the first instance, the scammer earns a dollar or so every time someone (including you) clicks on that link. In the second case they're usually part of an affiliate or referral scheme whereby they earn a few dollars for every kit, eBook or other piece of snake oil that's sold.
Well look at this page where it's proudly stated that "earn 50% commissions for every referral that places an order".
So of course these people are going to lie to you and say it works, because they want you to believe them and visit the websites or buy the product so that *they* get paid.
And, by the water4gas.com website's own admission, some of its fellow-scammers are earning tens of thousands of dollars every month by duping people into believing this stuff actually works, often simply by telling giant lies and stating that they get enormous fuel-savings when in fact they get none. Don't become one of their victims.
Another good clue to the fact that this is a scam is the way these systems are being marketed on sites such as YouTube. Just look at the result of this search on YouTube.
See how the scammers are spamming YouTube with worthless, endlessly repeated ads that simply serve to promote these worthless products? If this was a genuine product that worked as advertised, word of mouth advertising would ensure that it sold like wildfire. Spamming is the last resort for those pitching products of no value which will never ever receive word-of-mouth endorsement by those who have wasted their money on them.
Please do everyone a favour and whenever someone has uploaded multiple videos all the same and all pitching to promote these lame schemes, take a moment to flag them all as spam. Just think, by doing this, you may be saving some innocent dupe from being fleeced.
This horrible scam is simply an attempt to separate you from a whopping $97 of your hard-earned cash. That money will get you access to a couple of e-books that purport to contain the secrets of doubling your fuel economy by breaking the laws of thermodynamics.
Don't waste your money. Don't become just another sucker who is taken in by shysters like these (and there are plenty more out there, I've just given one example).
In today's world of rapidly rising fuel prices, $97 won't buy you much gas but it'll get you a lot further than the worthless plans and instructions in these books.
If you have a website of your own, please add a link to this page so that it can be found by those poor hapless souls that might be contemplating wasting good money on one of these scams.
Now check out the scientific proof that shows just how impossible these "run your car on water" scams really are.
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Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.