ENTREPRENEUR DEVICE INCREASES
GAS MILEAGE 20 TO 40%
Michael Taylor, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Published Saturday, February 3, 2007
Sitting in the tiny workspace of his Livermore garage, David Jewell is modest enough not to compare his
situation to another small venture -- that would be Hewlett-Packard -- that started out in a garage and
eventually grew into a multibillion-dollar empire.
No, Jewell is simply content to pack one of his miracle fuel-saving devices into a cardboard box and
send it out to another customer. It is a crowded space in his garage -- only 11 by 12 feet -- and just above
his left shoulder are rolls of electrical wire that he attaches to switches on the machine he is selling (edited).
The wire rolls are suspended from a pipe that also holds his wife Pam's clothing and some hanging vinyl
If all goes well -- and he sees no reason why it shouldn't (even if engine experts have their doubts) -- he
could well be making thousands upon thousands of these things, many of them ultimately attached to
long-haul trucks, others to pickup trucks like the one Jewell has parked outside his 1,200-square-foot
house, even more to the cars of all the motorists fed up with paying high prices to power their low-mileage
The core of all this is something called a "hydrogen generator" and is contained in a 15 1/2-inch-long piece
of 5-inch-diameter black PVC pipe that is capped at both ends. Jewell says it can be installed in any car or
truck. You fill the pipe with tap water and hitch the whole thing up to the car's electrical system and to the
part of the engine where air is sucked in. (There's a lot more about this at Jewell's Web site,
"Through an electrolysis process that's been around since the 1800s, the generator generates hydrogen,"
Jewell said, adding that the end result of the process is sometimes called Brown's gas. "Water is hydrogen
and oxygen. The electrolysis separates these two. Then the hydrogen from the canister goes into the engine,
and gets burned as fuel." Jewell says that when he installed the device on his 1992 Ford pickup,
with 240,000 miles on its V8 engine, his fuel mileage "went from 10 miles per gallon to 14 miles per gallon."
He sold one of the devices in November 2006 to Wendy Lang and Phillip Weber, who live in Larkspur,
and they had it installed on their 1984 Mercedes-Benz 300D diesel-powered car. Lang and Weber said
that on a round trip from Marin County to Fresno, they realized a 40 percent savings on fuel. Lang said
in an e-mail that, "Around town before installation, we were getting about 18 to 20 mpg. We checked for
a few weeks before we got it. On the trip (to Fresno) it was 30 mpg. Around town we haven't had time to
check for sure, but it seems to be around 28 mpg."
"I'm thrilled with the hydrogen unit. I get amazing performance, incredible gas mileage and a cleaner planet.
I would install it for any one of these reasons, but to get all three and for such a low cost (like I spend on
my usual trip to the mechanic) makes it the best thing that ever happened to my car."
Hmmm. At first blush, the device sounds a little like something from the age-old ads that have adorned
supermarket weeklies, the ones that shout claims of super-efficient gadgets that get 120 mpg on water alone.
But Jewell has heard all that and he is careful to say, "My claims are nowhere near that. What I can claim is
what I see -- 20 to 40 percent improvement."
And how did we get to this pass? Jewell, 60, is no David-come-lately to the chase after the holy grail of
alternative fuels. "I've been looking into this for five years," he said, and for the last 18 months he's been
"going to trade shows, getting ideas" about hydrogen power. He developed a "vapor generator that makes
steam to heat cold oil tanks and pipes and for cleaning soil."
Then, through a combination of various ventures, he hooked up with an old inventor friend, Mathew
Schadeck of Wellington, Nev. In a telephone interview from his laboratory-cum-home, Schadeck said he
and Jewell "basically studied everything that was out there. We looked at designs all the way back to the
1800s. The big thing people had missed was (putting) plates inside the canister. One is negative,
one is positive. You add water and apply electricity from the engine and voila! Hydrogen and oxygen.
We hit a magic number, and it just boils." Schadeck, 67, said he built a prototype in April and installed it on
a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV's V8 engine, and his fuel mileage went "from 14 and 16 mpg to 17.6 and
Jewell said the hydrogen acts as an assistant, or a supplement to the regular fuel, such as gasoline or diesel.
"Fuel comes in as it normally does, then hydrogen is put into the air mixture as the engine runs," he said.
"We're very careful in how much hydrogen is put in that air stream. As much as 20 percent is hydrogen.
Hydrogen is fuel. It's gas. It's explosive as it goes in and it is being burned as the engine runs." Jewell said
he has sold "a couple of hundred" generators and has given away a lot of them, just to get people
interested. So far, he said, no one has complained. Asked whether anyone in the auto industry has tested
the device, he said, "Any automotive firm that wants to test it, fine. The basic thing is that the product works."
At UC Davis, where they study things like this and other alternatives to gasoline and diesel, Paul Erickson,
professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, said that in concept, a hydrogen generator system
should work. But he wonders about how it works in the real world. The difference between a conceptual
vision of the generator and a practical application "is the amounts of hydrogen you are generating."
"Conceptually, hydrogen can change the overall combustion process. The question is whether you have
enough hydrogen to do that. In practice, it's doubtful whether you have enough hydrogen to change the
combustion significantly, especially if you're generating the electricity, which came from the mechanical,
power, which came from the (engine's) combustion process to begin with. You're chasing your tail.
"I'm not going to say this guy's system doesn't work," Erickson said. "I'm just highly skeptical. I would like
to see the data, the torque power curves, the energy use per mile."
In Reno, Neal Mulligan, chief operating officer of City Engines, a firm that makes heavy-duty engines for
public transit buses, said, "From an overall energy standpoint, it's real hard for me to believe they're getting
a significant increase in mileage." Mulligan said the "one big flaw" is that "the process requires energy.
You have to have an energy balance for whatever proposed technology you're looking at. It's drawing
current from the battery; your engine drives the (car's) alternator. There is no free lunch." Mulligan said that
means that to produce energy you have to get energy from someplace else. Like Peterson, he points out
that Jewell has to get energy from the car's battery and alternator, and those accessories eat up
He did say, however, "On older vehicles, this might have a significant benefit. The vehicle is aged,
everything is loose, worn out." Complete operating efficiency on cars and trucks goes by the wayside
when they age, he said. By adding hydrogen to the combustion process, you're recouping some of the
car's lost efficiency, Mulligan said. "My gut feeling is that for older vehicles it might be applicable."
And Mulligan said he sees nothing wrong with the efforts of Jewell, Schadeck and dozens of others who
are trying to come up with a more efficient way to get cars and trucks down the road.
"We're really in the era of discovery now," he said. "We get approached three or four times a week,
by people who say they have come up with a way to make (better) fuel. People just tinker. There's nothing
wrong with it. That's where discovery comes from. But there are certain laws of physics that apply
to all this."
Back in the Livermore garage, Jewell is musing over the possibility of selling 12,000 generators to a
trucking firm that is thinking of putting them on 6,000 of its trucks. A big tractor-trailer rig needs two
devices, Jewell says. He says he would probably lower the price (edited) but even so, by selling
12,000 of them he'd bring in (edited) millions. "And that's a couple of bucks," he says brightly.
E-mail Michael Taylor at email@example.com.
Comments from others subsequent to the above article's publication:
Regarding the skeptical opinions voiced above by Erickson of UC Davis and Mulligan of City Engines,
Art Burtis of GlobalElectric wrote "The alternator of an engine is always undertaking some level of electric
energy production as the battery is charged to store reserve electric energy as well as accomplishing ignition,
lights, radio ...etc. So long as your electrolysis Hydrogen production process requires less additional
alternator drag than what the hydrogen develops via "explosions" inside the combustion
chambers; then you have truly created a positive-energy return apparatus for motor vehicles."