December last year I wrote a blog on kloptdatwel.nl on so called HHO-generators. These generators are meant to be built into your car and will produce a hydrogen-oxygen mixture via electrolysis. This explosive mixture (in Dutch we call it ‘knalgas‘) is used to enrich the diesel or gas your car uses. From the generator it is added to the air intake of the motor. The sellers of this technology promise up to 30% savings on fuel consumption. But unfortunately it’s just another scam.
On the website www.eco-scams.com I had stumbled upon the story about UK company Oil Drum Ltd. (4/4/2015: link is dead, archived version), which had won an award: ‘The Kent innovation Challenge 2008‘. The company was then followed by BBC documentary makers for a while.
The documentary reaches its apotheosis when a (blind) test is performed at an official testing facility. The results clearly showed that the system doesn’t work. The documentary crew would not have been surprised however, if they had done some research on the web. These HHO-generators have been around for a long time and have also been debunked many times.
The Aardvark blog explains quite well, why it doesn’t work. Adding hydrogen can improve engine efficiency, but it will take more energy to produce enough of the hydrogen-oxygen, than you will gain by the better performance of the motor. The test by the BCC showed that you will lose about 4% when you use these kind of systems. I know of other tests which confirm this. Oil Drum went bust soon after the documentary was broadcasted, duping companies who had bought licences for the UK and also some countries of mainland Europe.
From the documentary I picked up that Belgian company Automotive Ecology bought a license from Oil Drum for selling the SaveFuel system in the Benelux. And to my surprise I found out that this company was still trying to sell the product in the Netherlands. A transporting firm, Brink Transport in Hardenberg, did a test in collaboration with Automotive Ecology in 2010. The test results can be found online (in Dutch only). For me it was a confirmation of how people can fool themselves in thinking that it works anyway. It’s is difficult to find this 4% decrease in efficiency under uncontrolled circumstances.
The blog I wrote was not accusing in any way in the direction of Automotive Ecology. Mainly because I thought at that time they honestly believe in the workings of the SaveFuel system and that they were probably just victims of Oil Drum Ltd. Although I knew of one garage owner who is quite angry with them. That’s because they are not paying back the money for two systems he installed for two customers who were dissatisfied with the results.
Before publishing my blog I’d send Automotive Ecology an email with some questions (amongst others to shed some light on their relation to Oil Drum), but I didn’t receive an answer. Only some days after the blog was online I got a reaction: they wanted the blog removed immediately because all of it was untrue …
Of course I asked them kindly which parts were wrong and offered to add their views on things. But they just kept insisting on removal without ever indicating which specific things were wrong in their opinion. In the end they threatened with legal action and even had a lawyer (a business club friend, it seems) send a scary e-mail. But after a while they stopped bugging me and the website administrator. Jon Starbuck of eco-scams also picked up the story at this moment.
A couple of months later I found out that Automotive Ecology had won an award in a business competition organized by Belgian magazine Knack. As most promising starting company of the year!
It started to look like a repetition of the Oil Drum story more and more. I contacted the journalist who wrote the article. I asked him if the jury had known the relation to the Oil Drum story and whether they had actually looked into the technology itself. This journalist turned out to have been a member of the jury himself and informed me that they had only looked at financial performances of the candidate companies.
Although I’m not a financial expert I could see that Automotive Ecology looks like a company which cannot survive for long without attracting outside capital. Winning a prize is helpful when you are looking for investors! Probably my blog was quite annoying to them because it might be found by the jury before their decision.
I didn’t hear back from the journalist/jury member, although he told me that he would look into this new information. There is not much news on the Automotive Ecology website either since the announcement of the award, so I wonder whether they managed to find investors.
Jon Starbuck is probably right in stating:
I really feel for Automotive Ecology, they were scammed by Oil Drum back in about 2008, they probably invested their life savings into this project, they are in so deep that they can’t back out. But the bottom line is that the “technology” cannot and does not work, all the claims on their website are complete nonsense and the more they try to sell the product the more guilty they become of not just being foolish but of being fraudulent too.
The BBC documentary is not longer available online at the BBC website, but can be viewed on my blog, (it is hosted on eco-scams.com).