This is another story that keeps on doing the rounds – a claimed perpetual motion engine. The idea is simple: push an electric current through water to get two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen and then burn them to get water (with a power stroke). The idea is so simple that it cannot work effectively! However that hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theorists from thinking up some pretty wacky reasons why we are not using this power source and why the people who “created” them are either dead or in hiding.
Motoring Weekly has written in general about the idea of a water powered car and the most famous of these systems was created by Stanley Meyer in Ohio. Meyer was born and appeared to have lived all his life around Columbus having attended school and university there before joining the military. It was the aftermath of the 1973 Oil Crisis that spurred him to find a solution to the reliance on oil for powering cars – a noble cause.
One story says that Meyer found an occupied house and simply moved in with the family who were there and started to build his engine based on electrolysis. One of the occupants was quoted as saying that Meyer had converted his tractor to run on water for 15 minutes at a time – presumably the rest of the time it was diesel powered. No one thought that this was technically impossible!
Meyer claimed his water powered motor was super efficient at the electrolysis stage such that less energy was used to split the water than to burn it again. This breaks at least one law of physics in that energy cannot be created or destroyed – it simply converts to another form. Water cannot be split using less energy than the constituent parts provide – in fact it needs more.
The design was interesting – his unit used what he called a water fuel cell where the electrolysis was done and this provided the split gases that were then sent to the engine to be ignited and turned back into water ready to be pushed back into the fuel cell. He also claimed that he replaced the spark plugs with injectors – but then referred back to the fuel cell in their use! He apparently used electrical resonance to split the water and would need an electric current to force the ignition to create water. Without a spark plug, that would be difficult.
The question I have, relates to the power created by the burning of the hydrogen and water – how much energy is created to push the piston down? The next question relates to lubrication, water and oil don’t mix well and that is bad news for an internal combustion engine. So the whole concept is difficult to understand. Another issue is that to push enough gas into the cylinder, it needs to be compressed and that takes energy as well. So thinking about it, you would need far more energy to complete the process than is generated along the way.
An internal combustion engine is a huge energy leaker. Energy is lost through heat, friction as well as the combustion of the air/fuel mix, so the idea of having a power source that is not capable of producing enough power to complete the cycle is wacky. That probably explains why Meyer was described as eccentric!
Sadly there are still people who believe that what Meyer was doing was excellent work and that he was an engineering hero. The courts found otherwise, mainly because he could never show anyone how the system worked in person. He showed videos of a dune buggy however when it came to be peer reviewed, the buggy was never available. After he died, the buggy was locked away and very few people were allowed to see it, although one report said that it was fitted with a VW motor, a typical engine for a dune buggy at the time.