Sunday, September 18, 2005

Canadian Entrepreneur Believes His Machine Can Save the World

From the Montreal Gazette via, an article on Canadian businessman Joe Williams and his Hydrogen Generating Module. This is not a fuel cell or means of using hydrogen as fuel, but rather a machine for introducing hydrogen into an internal combustion engine and making it burn fuel more efficiently. Williams believes he's on to something big:
...if Joe Williams turns out to be right, "I think Bill Gates and our group will be shaking hands," he says. "It's that big."

"It" is his Hydrogen Generating Module, or H2N-Gen for short....

It's a scientific fact that adding hydrogen to a combustion chamber will cause a cleaner burn. The challenge has always been to find a way to get the hydrogen gas into the combustion chamber in a safe, reliable and cost-effective way.

Williams claims he has achieved this with his H2N-Gen. His product, he said, produces a more complete burn, greatly increasing efficiency and reducing fuel consumption by 10 to 40 per cent - and pollutants by up to 100 per cent.

Most internal combustion engines operate at about 35 per cent efficiency. This means that only 35 per cent of the fuel is fully burned. The rest either turns to carbon corroding the engine or goes out the exhaust pipe as greenhouse gases.

The H2N-Gen increases burn efficiency to at least 97 per cent, Williams said. This saves fuel and greatly reduces emissions.

It also means less engine maintenance and oil changes. The only thing the vehicle owner has to do is refill the unit with distilled water once every 80 hours of engine use.
This certainly sounded like it belonged in the "weird science" and/or the "too-good-to-be-true" categories, but a third-party lab has independently verified Williams' claims about the machine, and he's currently seeking certification from the Canadian Environmental Technology Verification, "...a non-profit Toronto company licensed by the federal government to verify environmental technology."

Williams' story is interesting not only for the H2N-Gen itself, but also for his business plan:
Williams doesn't want to make money just through selling H2N-Gen units. He has his eye on getting a share of the fuel savings.

In other words, he would hope to install the H2N-Gen unit in, say, every Canadian National railway and truck engine for free in return for a percentage of CN's fuel savings.

Furthermore, he would hope to get his hands on carbon credits promised by the Kyoto Protocol. The trade in carbon credits is predicted to be a multi-billion-dollar business as countries attempt to meet their 2012 obligations of cutting greenhouse gases to below 1990 levels.... "Credits are a huge bonus," Williams said. He figures his company could make billions trading them.

At least one other larger competitor is labelling Williams a "snake-oil salesman," but given the amount of testing he's subjected his invention to, I have to put this in the "let's keep an eye on it" column. I would think (and the engineers reading can feel free to correct and instruct) that technology like this could work well as a bridge technology to more sustainable means of powering personal transporation. While I realize that mass transit and is probably the most preferable alternative in terms of truly sustainable transportation, coupled with urban planning that focuses on public transportation, walking and biking, more efficient, cleaner burning cars could certainly ease the transition.

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