There is a place in Paignton called De Verde Technologies
. For many years the proprietor, a man called John Hickman, has been developing a little pressurised hydrogen gizmo that eliminates emissions and improves fuel consumption. About a year ago he finally got it onto the market and now he is now retro-fitting them to older vehicles. It takes about two hours (including test drive) and costs £250 for a car or van, less for a motorbike and £500 for a truck up to 7 litres/7.5 ton. It works on both petrol and diesel vehicles and if you change vehicle, you can take it with you. For the skeptical amongst us, it comes with a 30 day money-back guarantee, and the thing itself has a 3 year warranty.
The system comprises a little cylinder of distilled water, wires to the battery, a little electrical sensor thingy, a fuse & holder and a pipe to (in my case) the turbo inlet. It’s a sort of gas thing, and therefore counts for registration purposes as a gas conversion – which then entitles you to a £10 reduction in road tax. It reduces emissions significantly (this is best verified by a ‘before’ and ‘after’ emissions test), and it was originally developed as a strategy to keep older vehicles on the road when they were failing emissions tests but OK in other ways. During the development process,they then discovered it caused a significant improvement in fuel economy. From what I gather, it differs from other systems because it is ‘hydrogen on demand’, which eliminates problems cause by storage of gas etc. The only maintenance it needs is to be topped up with distilled water every couple of weeks, and I think some sort of service every year or two – depending on mileage. It’s all been tested and re-tested and doesn’t do anything weird – in fact it’s supposed to make the engine last longer and run better.
On the test run I was meant to be able to tell that it sounded quieter and pulled better. In fact it wasn’t noisy before and I didn’t notice any difference. It’s hard to tell power-wise: it felt normal, but I think I can probably stay in a higher gear for longer. This means it feels normal, but ‘normal’ is normal in 5th when it would have been normal in 4th. In other words 5th is the new 4th. John did helpfully inform me that it is usually men who notice the difference and women who don’t. I think the subtext was that men know what they are looking for. I have two theories: one is that men are more numbers oriented, always know what gear they are in. I’m sure I can remember stories in the pub that go
“Yeah, I pulled away, changed up to 2nd, really gunned it, up into 3rd, doing x000 revs, up through the gears, into 4th, by the time I put it into top I was doing a ton. Then I really opened it up…!”
My other theory is that it is some sort of ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ situation, where they don’t want to admit that they can’t tell any difference. Anyway, I don’t care, to be honest. If it improves my mpg that’s good enough for me – and I’m pretty sure it is – it’s definitely doing in excess of 35mpg, but it will take up to 500 miles to reach its optimum performance, as it has to sort of flush out the system.
If you are thinking about getting one, there are a few things I’d recommend. Firstly, start measuring your fuel consumption right now. There is a clause in the ’30 day money back’ that requires you to do this for 30 days before fitting. I didn’t know this in advance so they waived it in my case. But also you’ll really want to know how much you’re saving. You need to find a constant: for practical purposes an empty tank is not a good plan, and I find that a completely full tank varies because of how sensitive the little clicker thing is on the pump. So I go for lining up the fuel gauge absolutely with the ’empty’ or ‘half tank’ or ‘full’ marker on my fuel gauge (when parked on a level surface). Then it doesn’t matter how much I put in. I just have to remember to get to a petrol station as precisely as possible. Also remember to reset the trip odometer on the speedo. Then the rest is paperwork, and I have made a little calculator on a spreadsheet which works for me:
Column A: How much you spent on fuel
Column B: Pence per litre as shown on the pump
Column C: Pence per gallon =SUM(B2*4.5)
Column D: Gallons used =SUM(A2/C2)
Column E: Miles driven (since last fuel fill up)
Column F: Miles per gallon =SUM(E2/D2)
To continue further rows, just copy and paste the whole row, and fill in the relevant amount spent and cost per litre (A and B). The rest is automatic. This same calculation works both before and after the gizmo is fitted. The number in column F should be noticeably higher. If not, John might need to tweak the settings.
I have done several test fill-ups now, and at the moment the best mpg has been about 37 (including a run down to Cornwall) and averaging about 34, compared with 27mpg without the gizmo connected (you can easily disconnect the fuse to go back to normal). At the last comparison I put in £20 worth of fuel and did 117 miles with the hydro kit, but only 87 miles without it. Basically that’s like gaining an extra gallon of fuel, or an extra 30 miles of driving, every £20. That’s quite a significant improvement, and won’t take all that long to get my £250 back (even without considering the emission reduction side of it).
If you buy one, I’d be really grateful of you would mention me, or the Permaculture House in Totnes website, as they said will give me a bit of referral commission. At risk of sounding like some sort of Amway nutter, I really do think this is a brilliant thing and if enough people get it it will have a significant effect on the environment. I’m just so lucky it happens to be near to home, because people are travelling down to Paignton from all over the country to get it done. John also exports them to developing countries – who use his training videos to learn to fit them so he doesn’t have to fly anywhere – and presumably it creates jobs for local people.
What I love is that we don’t need to frown upon the older vehicle any more. I’ve always had a problem with the idea that poor people who can’t afford a multi-thousand pound new eco-car are the pollution baddies, and that scrappage schemes etc do not adequately consider the embodied energy in the manufacturing process and how wasteful it is to throw them away rather than pay small local vehicle firms to mend them and keep them on the road. Plus older vehicles are just so much nicer. This is going to be brilliant for Land-Rover owners, classic cars and bikes, live-in vehicles – and of course for anyone who ends up doing a lot of mileage, even if ethically they’d rather not. The price is low enough that it is within the range of normal people, and the savings should be great enough that you’ll realistically get your money back. It is therefore as accessible to people who don’t care about carbon reduction as to those who do.