I received an email from Mark M. from Tallahassee, Florida on Monday who pointed me towards a video of a hydrogen engine that he’s been working on in his garage and perfecting. I asked for some more details about his project and here’s what he had to say:
“I have been building engines since the seventies. I normally build engines for more conventional fuels, but about two years ago, I decided to test the hydrogen feasibility, because of all the buzz. I wasn’t new to producing hydrogen. I had actually played with calcium hydride as a teenager (fun childhood!) and was aware of its properties.
I started out trying to convert an old single cylinder engine, and after much tinkering, I did get it to run reasonably well. But, it never had the full rated horsepower, and literally had been hacked to pieces to get it working. I was then (and still am) convinced this fuel deserves, and really requires a new kind of engine to realize its full potential.
My first design was also a simple single cylinder engine, with pretty conventional designs. I have a small foundry, and a few machines, and made every single part myself. After some tinkering, and a few redos, I got the engine not only running, but really performing well.
This engine can be seen on YouTube in its original form. These things just run forever on tiny amounts of hydrogen. You really just need to get the timing, and fuel air mix right. The second engine, I wanted to be more auto “ready”, a more “drop in type” replacement that would be seen as a real practical design for road use.
I also saw the possibility of trying some electric motor designs that I had tinkered with about ten years earlier. This would also be beneficial as it could be used to turn the motor over for starting, and could power the auto as a secondary prime mover in slower, or lower load driving conditions as a fuel saver.
I had worked out a binary fuel tank, using the calcium hydride and water reaction to provide me with the hydrogen to run and test the engines. I was (am) self funded, and could not afford tanks, regulators etc. for conventional hydrogen. The binary tank can automatically mix proper amounts of water and the hydride into a reaction chamber, as the engine needs it.
I have made several versions of this tank now, and continue to use it. The first one was a real Rube Goldberg design, but it got me going, and I perfected it. I have a source for the chemical at 5$ a pound, which will produce about 20 cubic feet of hydrogen total. I use it in very tiny amounts.
The current engine needs about 18 grams an hour at a 1:10 ratio air mix. The proportioning system is made of ceramic parts, and cost just a few dollars each to make. Those parts will last forever and never need attention.
I sent the project pictures over to Wired last year about this time, and it had the usual negative comments. Everyone was convinced that hydrogen was a dead end, it was too costly to produce, etc. etc. My take on that is 75-percent of the universe is made up of hydrogen. We just need to find a way to get at it. As far as costs, aluminum used to be expensive, and nearly impossible to produce also back in the early days, but now it is very common and abundant.
Yes, it still costs energy to make, but so does everything, including gasoline. And unlike oil, we can get hydrogen from our own backyard. If you just saw the pictures of my engines last year, they really were not all that impressive.
But the videos are quite impressive even to me. I started shoving them up on YouTube this year, and people are really responding from all over the world, even from “oil” bearing countries. The engines just all start up and run really well.
I never can seem to find all that funding that is supposed to be available. I sent out white papers, and got little or no response. Maybe I just didn’t ask for enough money or something.
To date I have spent less that $2,500 total on the project. And, I have half a dozen real working prototypes. I literally built an end-to-end system, from fuel to engine. I will concede, the calcium hydride fuel is not anything close to end all, on demand, hydrogen production, but it works for me, and gives me what I need to keep going.
Maybe it was for the best I never got any funding, but it sure would have got things done faster. I really have to scrape and scrounge for materials. Thousands of people on YouTube are generating hydrogen. About three of them actually know what they are doing. The rest are just blind, leading the blind, through a minefield. A few show some promise, and I may actually look into those (I have talked to many) later on.
Almost all of them have left positive comments, and ask lots of questions. Myself, I am mainly interested in getting the engine right. On the tailpipe end of things, the fact I run these engines for hours on end in a fairly closed in space of my workshop speaks for itself. Try that with any gasoline engine.
More coming soon, if the money holds out!”