The Hydro 4000: Save 60 percent on gas?

Does injecting hydrogen into your engine increase efficiency, or is this a myth that's already been busted?


Farhad Manjoo
May 9, 2008 11:17PM (UTC)

I just got off the phone with David Havanich Jr., president of Green Machine Solutions, a company in Jupiter, Fla., that promises to increase your car's gas mileage by as much as 60 percent.

The product is called Hydro 4000, a $1,200 device that sits under your hood and uses electrolysis to turn water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen and oxygen are then fed into your engine, and the mixture causes gasoline to burn more efficiently, Havanich says.

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"Instead of having anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of your fuel not getting used and going into your catalytic converter, you can burn all your fuel," he told me.

I learned about the Hydro 4000 from a local news report on WPTV Channel 5 in West Palm Beach. Jamie Holmes, the reporter there, was skeptical of Havanich's claims, so he tried the Hydro 4000 on the channel's Dodge Durango news van.

On a dynamometer -- basically a treadmill for a car -- the news van, running at 55 miles per hour for 20 minutes, got an average of 9.4 miles per gallon before installation of the Hydro 4000.

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Holmes reports:

We then ran our truck on the street for close to a month with the Hydro-4000 running. The owners said this would give the device time to clean out the engine. We then put our vehicle back on the dynamometer, and did the same test all over again.

And guess what? With the device on, we were now averaging 23.2 miles to the gallon. That's 61 percent better than the gas mileage we were previously getting.

Channel 5's math is off there; a jump from 9.4 MPG to 23.2 MPG is actually a 147 percent gain in gas mileage. Which sounds amazing, doesn't it?

Havanich told me that Channel 5's results were ideal, and that more typical driving conditions -- i.e., not on a dynamometer -- would yield something closer to a 20 to 60 percent efficiency gain.

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But if gasoline prices keep going up, even the smaller gain could make a Hydro 4000 a good investment.

Unless, of course, the whole thing's bunk. Which could be true: Hydrogen-injection devices aren't new, and as in many debates about energy, there remains fundamental disagreement about whether they work.

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The basic problem is this: The device uses electricity produced by your car's alternator to electrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen. Does the energy it uses for electrolysis exceed the energy it saves by making your engine consume fuel more efficiently -- and is it, therefore, phony?

Depends on whom you ask. There's at least one trucking company that swears by hydrogen boosting. And in online forums, some people report getting better gas mileage after installing such devices (just as WPTV did).

But there's skepticism that drivers may have adjusted their driving styles after installing the hydrogen boost, and that the adjustment might be the true reason for the savings.

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Many online point out that the Discovery Channel show "Mythbusters" once investigated hydrogen boosters and pronounced them busted: The booster device failed to produce much hydrogen at all, "Mythbusters" found.

But others criticize "Mythbusters'" methods there, and say that a more conventional test -- such as WVPT's -- would have proved that the thing works.

So, the question still seems up in the air. Havanich offers a 60-day money-back guarantee on the device, so if you're interested, you risk little by ordering it (you need to have it installed -- and, if necessary, removed -- by a mechanic).

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I'm going to ask my bosses here at Salon to buy me a Hydro 4000 to review. If they go for it, I'll let you know whether it works.


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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