Maker of water-powered car
still fighting after 30 years
By Joey G. Alarilla
1969 was a landmark year for a number of reasons, including the conquest of space and cyberspace. Even as that year saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon, so was the Internet born
when its earliest incarnation, the United States Defense Department's Arpanet (Advanced Research Project Agency network), went online.
In the Philippines, 1969 was also the year that a Filipino inventor claims to have started tinkering with a revolutionary concept for the automotive industry. His idea: To power cars using hydrogen
derived from ordinary water.
Today, 30 years later, inventor Daniel Dingel is driving around in the only water-powered car in the world, still complaining that Filipino government officials and scientists refuse to support his
"They keep saying that the government is pro-poor, but what they do is sell off the resources and wealth of the Philippines. The government should really support the development of technology
that would help the country pay its huge foreign debt," he said.
At the Inquirer parking lot last Tuesday, Dingel showed off his "concept car"- a red 16-valve Toyota Corolla with the small hydrogen reactor that he invented hooked up to its internal
combustion engine (ICE). Dingel's hydrogen car has actually received media coverage since the late '80s or so, but to date his invention has not yet been patented and commercialized. Dingel attributed this to the
influence of multinational companies, such as the oil companies. A conspiracy theory worthy of the X-Files, perhaps, but if Dingel's idea is real, then the truth is way out there.
How it works
According to him, his reactor uses electricity from a 12-volt car battery to transform saltwater or ordinary tap water with salt into deuterium oxide or heavy water, which is chiefly used as a coolant
for nuclear reactors. Deuterium is actually a hydrogen isotope with twice the mass of ordinary hydrogen, and heavy water is produced when the hydrogen atoms in H2O are replaced with deuterium.
"The electricity from the battery splits the water into its hydrogen and oxygen components, and this hydrogen can then be used to power the car engine. Normally it takes temperatures of about
5,400 degrees Fahrenheit to generate hydrogen from water, but here I am just using an ordinary 12-volt battery," he claimed.
Just how this kind of chemical reaction is possible using an ordinary car battery is, of course, the secret behind Dingel's invention--and the kind of claim that leads people to dismiss him as a
crackpot and charlatan. In fact, while hydrogen is being touted as a viable alternative fuel in the US and other countries, these prototypes do not make use of ICEs but fuel cell engines, nor do they run on ordinary
water but on liquid hydrogen.
For example, DaimlerChrysler unveiled in the US in March the hydrogen-powered NECAR 4 (New Electric Car), which is based on a Mercedes-Benz A-class compact car.
In these fuel cell cars, water is just a by-product of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen ions, which produces the electricity to run the car's engine. In this sense, the fuel cell process is
the reverse of Dingel's discovery. Also, Dingel claims that his reactor can work with any existing ICE-based car.
Dingel said some investors from Taiwan now plan to commercialize his car and help him get an international patent.
In the Philippines, Dingel also partners with Cobis Clean Cars for another invention that his hydrogen car showcases--the so-called electromagnetic fluid (EMF) treatment. While this might sound like
something out of Voltes V, EMF was supposedly derived from such plants as okra, saluyot, ampalaya, langka, and water lily.
This treatment is supposed to improve a car engine's performance and oil life because it produces an "air magnet" to reduce friction to practically zero.
So, is this Filipino-invented hydrogen car for real, and will this idea soon drive the cars we're driving? That's the dream that Dingel has kept alive for 30 years.