by Mark Scheinbaum
AR Finance Writer
Angel Fire, N.M.
March 16, 2011
IS THERE A 'BEST CASE' SCENARIO FOR JAPAN?
BRADENTON, Fla., March 11, 2011 -- Yesterday, March 10, 2011, I looked and saw the needle was below Empty and pulled into a Racetrack gas station in Bradenton to put in $10.22 of regular gas in my 2002 Saturn SC-2, which has a 1.9-liter engine and runs at 125 horsepower, and then I reset the miles counter to 0.
That's because on March 8, 2011, I had an FG2 hydrogen generator from Fuel Genie Systems in Largo, Fla., and a Volo soft chip, or modchips, installed in the car. Now it was time to test them. The FG2 generates hydrogen as an additive or supplement for gasoline or diesel, and the Volo chip takes over the computer settings that manage hydrocarbon issues and adjusts them for the use of hydrogen and the extra oxygen released with it. Most over-the-road diesel trucks don't need a Volo with their HHO kits because they have no sensors. There are thousands of trucks on the road with HHO kits, and when diesel is high, each mile per gallon they save due to one is worth $15,000 or more a year in fuel savings.
In the FuelGenie FG2, that happens during electrolysis, the process of running a current between two electrodes bathed in distilled water. The FG2 accomplishes this in a small, sealed acrylic device the size of a square CD and the thickness of a poor man's wallet. The FG2 gets water from a small, simple canister called a "bubbler" - one now sits in my trunk. For simplicity's sake, the whole set-up is called an HHO kit; HHO stands for the two separated atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen the kits produce in the form of a very light gas.
The hydrogen generator is made by a man named Ed Grimm, a former NASA space shuttle technician. I trust Ed Grimm and the owner of Fuel Genie Systems, Barry Holzsweig, because I have known them both and worked with them at the HHO Games, since 2008. Barry is a marketing genius I've written about before.
To the water is added an electrolyte, such as drain cleaner, that allows the owner to produce hydrogen and oxygen at a consistent rate - just under 80cc's a minute for my engine; each car is a little different. When the car's oxygen sensor sees the extra oxygen as it's being added by the HHO kit, it thinks the car's running too lean (i.e., not getting enough gas to burn pollutants), so it tells the computer to inject more gasoline into the engine. But the sensors can't see the hydrogen that is also being created. So, while the hydrogen is quickly burning away all the pollutants in gasoline and diesel, the Volo chip lets the computer react appropriately and not just throw more fuel into the engine, wasting it. It took years to evolve a solution for that problem, which was a major one for the HHO industry.
The installation took about four hours. The standard price was $498 before taxes ($560 after). The kit in my car was a trade for a booth at the HHO Games, which will take place April 15-17, 2011, at Dolphin Aviation Hangar A in Sarasota, Fla. - where President Obama usually lands. The HHO Games are sponsored by this newspaper and I organize them; this will be our sixth. I welcomed the exchange because I can't afford a kit and I have really wanted to try it out and tell others how it worked, and to write about my experience for this paper. No money changed hands in that process.
Once I filled up in Bradenton, I traveled 131.2 miles with several stops over the next six hours before the engine conked out at a stoplight in Venice, Fla. I presumed I'd have to push the car, as I have before.
But after not starting at the light the first time I tried, I tried again about 30 seconds later. Because I pushed the pedal way down and the engine roared back to life - apparently on hydrogen fumes. It was sufficient to get me another 100 yards to the Mobil station. There I took a note on how far I'd traveled: 131.2 miles.
I divided $10.22 by $3.499 and came up with 2.92, and then divided 131.2 miles by 2.92 gallons. I got about 36, my actual mileage per gallon. The car, according to the original EPA rating in the invoice sheets pasted on the rear window that came with car, is supposed to get 37MPG on the highway and 28MPG in town. I seem to have gotten a miles less than the 2001 EPA rating, which the EPA has admitted inflating by 4 or 5 MPG in error until 2007. Doesn't seem too good? Read on.
I bought the car new on Sept. 28, 2001, at the Saturn of the Valley dealership on Roscoe Blvd. in Van Nuys, Calif. It is now almost 10 years old and has 155,000 miles on it. The maintenance warranty ran out six years ago and little work has been done on it, since it is really a very good car.
I have had three fairly serious accidents requiring numerous repairs under warranty or under my regular insurance. It has not gotten a tune-up in about 4 years. In the past year, due to serious "bucking" - often at high speeds and upon starting - and frequent stalling at lights, I have replaced the belt pulley and tensioner-spring housing, the serpentine belt, brake pads (the rotors needed turning but I couldn't afford it), two tires, spark plugs and cables, and I changed the oil twice within the last 7,000 miles.
I got the air in the tires properly adjusted a week before, and again when the FG2 was installed on March 8. The bottom line: All of the many problems I experienced daily in the car for the past year have disappeared. The HHO kit saved me a huge repair expense - and I'd already paid several mechanics who had nonetheless failed to fix it.
Barry recommended I take a long drive - 100 miles at least - to test it out. So Thursday evening, I went up through Ruskin to Hardee's for a hamburger, and then north through Apollo Beach and up Big Bend Road to Sun City. I parked and went to the new Sam's Club, which gave me a $20 gift card and buy coffee and Cheerios there with my food stamps; then I headed back south down I-75 to Venice, where I got off on US 41 and drove through town.
To my great surprise, it seemed like the gas would never run out, but when it did, I wanted to be near enough a gas station to push it in on foot if necessary. My drive ended with 10 or so repeated 3- to 5-mile runs up US 41 in Venice, where I'd spotted a half-dozen gas stations along a strip I could reach when the gas ran out.
During the first of these back-and-forth runs I had to stop and recover with a Drumstick at a 7-Eleven after a car narrowly missed slamming into me when I turned around at the end of the first run. I never saw him coming, and his horn scared the hell out of me!
An hour or so before, a check-engine light came on - at about 80 miles into my ride - and the refill gas tank light came on about 10 minutes later. That's been common in my car. When the service light goes on, the computer is supposed to go into a loop in which it richens the gas mixture, requiring the car to expend more gas. Usually, I turn the little yellow light off by draining the battery by taking the cables off it for a few minutes. I also have a $99 ODB II reader that allows me to do it from the car's ODB port.
But judging from the fact that I got so much additional distance - I usually get about 25MPG - on so little gas, it appeared as though the programmed Volo soft chip overrode any signal from the computer, and so the computer ordered the same amount of gas to go to the injectors as it usually does.
Finally, I then bought $3.66 worth of regular from Mobil, treated my wonderful car to The Works (a Mobil car-wash option), reset the miles counter to 0 and drove home. It was 29.6 miles from Venice to my home in Bradenton. The car never hesitated.
However, I noticed that when I put in the gallon of gas in Venice, the needle never moved off Empty. That proved that when I originally filled up in Bradenton I had roughly three-quarters of a tank of gas left even as I started to pump more back at pump #4; back then, the needle was just a hair below Empty.
During 20-odd minutes of idling as I talked on the phone outside the Hardee's in Ruskin, Fla., to Gabet123, the young tech wizard who runs the HHO industry's greatest Website, HHO-INFO, and during my drive, I had expended all that residual gas, plus all of the gas I bought for #10.22 (that got me something like 2.92 gallons). Before I saw that gauge still at Empty, I had calculated my mileage from Empty in Bradenton and thought I'd gotten 44.9MPG. But now I learned it was 37.5MPG; I was still very, very happy.
The experience proves to my satisfaction that hydrogen from the FG2 kit can make your engine to run like new and propel the car a short way when there's no gasoline left. It also cools the engine down because it doesn't have to work so hard to burn all the gasoline and the hundreds of additives in it.
Unlike research recently published in "Perspectives," the ExxonMobil blog, which says cars usually waste 80% of the gas they burn, hydrogen burns all the gas. Unscientifically, you can tell because it is odor-free, and even sweet, suggesting a total absence of unburned hydrocarbon.
As the car idled after I parked in my usual space at home, I could hear the hydrogen generator's water reservoir bubbling away in the trunk. I left the engine idling for a few minutes and actually went to the metallic tailpipe and bent down to smell the exhaust, scooping it toward my nose from about four inches away. There was no oily aroma at all from the exhaust coming out as the car idled.
It reminds me now of the huge cloud of black exhaust I saw spewing from a newer pickup truck as it sped away from a red light on US 41 as I was on my way to get gas this afternoon. I pulled up his truck at the next light, got his attention and asked, "Did you see that huge cloud of black smoke when you left the light?" He replied, "It's no dirtier than your tires!"
"That's true!" I called back. My car was dirty, and his was bright and shiny white. Only his exhaust was dirty and black. Mine was invisible.
Out of curiosity after I parked at home, I took the tailpipe between my thumb and fingertips on my right hand and held it for a moment; my fingers are not calloused, and despite that and a 29-mile drive, they were unburned. It was not even hot enough to hurt me after two or three seconds, nor was the exhaust uncomfortably hot as the car idled for several minutes. It then turned off as it should have, with none of the jerking and clatter I'd grown used to.
In other words, after two years of serious problems and reduced mileage, my car ran perfectly and got the best mileage it has ever gotten since the day I bought it.
As a result, despite my despair over the cost of gas and lack of income, I will not be able to use the tailpipe of my car to commit suicide because there is no carbon monoxide coming from the exhaust to kill me.
Moreover, I will not have to bear the awful expense I have over the past year trying to find out what was wrong with my beloved Saturn, which is the only car in my life I ever managed to buy new, pay off and keep.
I need also not despair over the high cost of gas, because I can go anywhere I want now for far less than I used to pay. With my savings, I think I'll try to get the sunroof, dings and paint chips fixed, replace the torn leather driver's seat, and the upholstery around the sunroof that falls in my face. I'll finally get the engine tuned. I will once again enjoy life to the fullest in my HHO-hot car-car.