Homemade hybrid makes big difference in mileage

Nathaniel Smith

Robert Swafford likes his pickup truck.

As a construction worker, he gets quite a bit of use out of it, and when gas prices began climbing precipitously over the last year, he came up with a bold plan to fight the rising cost of fuel.

His 1998 Chevrolet Z-71 was getting only 14 miles to the gallon by his estimates, down from the nearly 17 highway miles per gallon it once registered. His not-so-simple solution? A hydrogen supplement for his engine.

“I’ve followed hydrogen supplementation for many years,” he said. “The first (such) documents I got that I’ve kept are from 1977, detailing running gas engines on hydrogen.”

As gasoline prices began to rise, Swafford’s interest in hydrogen supplements grew.

“More recently I saw a video on Fox News about a Colorado-based company that had driven a nineteen-ninety-three Ford Escort entirely on hydrogen,” he said.

With a little help from his grandson, Mason McCoy, Swafford began researching the topic more heavily in January.

“He does well in school and loves education,” Swafford said of McCoy, “so I asked him to go on the Internet and find some information on hydrogen supplemented engines. He found a book for sale on gas-powered, water supplemented hybrids, I downloaded the book, and have been giving it a lot of thought,” he said.

“There’s a lot of knowledge on the Internet,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right thing.”

Prior to downloading the book, Swafford had already begun construction on a hydrogen converter that could be used on his truck.

“I found that I had room for an extra battery and decided to build something to fit my (extra) battery box.”

Book in hand, Swafford began tinkering with his converter. Despite what he calls a few “successes and failures” along the way, his gasoline-powered, hydrogen supplemented engine has been up and running, and saving on fuel costs, for about three months now.

“It basically works by running an electrical connection through water,” his said of his hybrid converter. “The system is called 'Hydrogen On Demand’ and there’s no danger whatsoever because it’s not storing or compressing hydrogen.”

The process begins with Swafford removing a plug on the unit’s top

and filling the reservoir with water and an electrolyte, such as baking soda or mineral water. The fuel (now converted to gas, rather than liquid) eventually rises to the top of the chamber and is fed into the vehicle’s intake manifold.

“It just mixes with the gas and causes it to burn more thoroughly, creating fewer emissions while giving (the truck) more power,” he explained.

Swafford estimates that his truck now gets 22 miles per gallon with the air-conditioning off.

“The longest run I made with the AC on was to Poplar Bluff (Missouri),” he said. “I got about 19.3 miles to the gallon. But the air-conditioning makes a one to two mile per gallon difference.”

Swafford described his project as a work in progress, noting that he tinkers with the mechanism regularly in an attempt to produce better and better results.

“It’s been such an experience,” he said. “I just learn more about it over time and I expect to get better mileage as I learn more.”

When asked if he’s given any thought to the possibility of performing similar conversions on others’ vehicles, Swafford lets out a hearty laugh.

“I’ve had several interested visitors,” he said. “I share my knowledge. That’s all I can do. I still have a lot to learn and consider myself a beginner.”

Nonetheless, he’s already one step ahead of those waiting in line to fill their own gas-guzzlers.

West Frankfort Daily American