Local News

Man credits hydrogen system with fuel savings

Posted November 24, 2008 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2008 7:16 p.m. EST

— If Fred Tutwiler has his way, Arm & Hammer might be the next Exxon.

Using plans he found on the Internet, he built his own hydrogen-based fuel-boosting system for his 1997 Ford Explorer.

Electricity from the alternator interacts with the baking soda, separating hydrogen and oxygen in the water. The hydrogen gas feeds into the engine, creating combustion with less gasoline.

Tutwiler said he once got 62 mpg on his Explorer, but the emissions system thought something was wrong and increased the amount of fuel it provided to the engine. That brought down his average mileage to about 30 mpg.

“We have serious issues with energy,” Tutwiler said. “I just don’t think we can wait for government and industry and all those guys to finally figure out how they’re going to pull this off.”

Rich Cregar, an alternative fuels technician with Wake Technical Community College’s automotive program, said he has doubts about Tutwiler’s plans.

“I have an open mind, but I remain quite skeptical about it,” he said.

Cregar says scientists and automakers have studied hydrogen-boosting technology over the years.

"We still don't see it in production, which tells me it has issues. It's probably not as good as it seems,” he said.

Some people buy devices to trick their emissions systems into overriding the computers and keeping their extremely high gas mileage. Tampering with an emissions system is illegal, however, Cregar said, and he doesn’t know if a hydrogen-boosted car would pass an emissions inspection.

“I think a lot of people who get an improvement are getting the improvement because they are driving the car differently, because they are trying to get better fuel economy,” Cregar said.

Tutwiler said he believes in his hydrogen plans.

"You know, we have serious issues with energy,” he said. “I just look at it like one person can do one small thing."

Cregar says hydrogen is highly explosive at almost any concentration and can be dangerous for inexperienced people to experiment with.