This Motorcycle Uses Water!

Doing the rounds among motorcycle enthusiasts for the last week has been a slightly unusual machine variously portrayed as running on water or sea water. This sounds like the stuff of the so-called “Free energy” fringe and definitely not the normal Hackaday fare, but it comes alongside pictures of a smiling teenager and what looks enough like a real motorcycle to have something behind it. So what’s going on? The answer is that it’s the student project of an Argentinian teenager [Santiago Herrera], and while it’s stretching it a bit to say it runs on sea water he’s certainly made a conventional motorcycle run on the oxygen-hydrogen mix produced from the electrolysis of water. The TikTok videos are in Spanish, but even for non-speakers it should be pretty clear what’s going on.

It’s obvious that the bike is more of a student demonstrator than a road machine, as we’re not so sure a glass jar is the safest of receptacles. But the interesting part for us lies not in the electrolysis but in the engine. it appears to be a fairly standard looking motorcycle engine, a typical small horizontal single. It’s running on a stoichiometric mix of oxygen and hydrogen, something that packs plenty of punch over a similar mix using air rather than oxygen. It would be fascinating to know the effect of this mixture on an engine designed for regular gasoline, for example does it achieve complete combustion, does it burn hotter than normal fuel, and does it put more stress on the engine parts?

You can see something of the bike in the video below the break, and there are a few more videos in his TikTok account. Meanwhile this isn’t the first teenage motorcycle project we’ve featured.


#ciencia #salta #escuelaagricola #moto #reciclaje #viral #clubdeciencias #argentina🇦🇷 #mecanica

♬ sonido original – santy herrera

38 thoughts on “This Motorcycle Uses Water!

  1. Ok so yes this is interesting: if you can charge your battery at home with solar, then you can use your scooter/moped to run off water while the battery is electrolysing your water.

    I wonder what the energy ratio of electric power in -> mechanical power out would be.
    Electrolysis takes quite a bit of power, I would guess.

    So I imagine that the moped recharging its own battery while it is doing electrolysis is not going to work because it takes more energy to run the system than it generates back?
    I have honestly no idea. Anyone?

      1. “But the interesting part for us lies not in the electrolysis but in the engine. it appears to be a fairly standard looking motorcycle engine, a typical small horizontal single. It’s running on a stoichiometric mix of oxygen and hydrogen, something that packs plenty of punch over a similar mix using air rather than oxygen.”

  2. I remember reading that hydrogen burns very, very hot, around 2.600 degrees Celsius in oxygen, around 2.000 degrees in air. The normal temperature in a combustion chamber of a petrol burning ICE is around 1.500 degrees.

  3. Correct. The theoretical energy required for electrolysis of water is ~237 kJ/mol. But even the best world-class electrolysis plants can only reach about 80% efficiency, which puts it at more like 295 to 300 kJ/mol at best.

    The heat of combustion of hydrogen is 286 kJ/mol (energy released by perfectly complete combustion), less for incomplete combustion, which will certainly happen with some of the byproducts of electrolysis (oxygen and hydrogen bonding with the electrolyte, anode and cathode). So already the usable energy out is less than the energy in.

    Part of this usable energy will go into producing heat, light, and sound, and some into producing the mechanical motion of the engine, as well as the heat produced by friction in all the moving parts throughout the bike. All this means that the energy required to start the process will always be more than the energy produced in the process.

        1. thanks – so this would be an incredible edge case – someone will need to be very determined to keep using a combustion engine instead of running an electric motor, and has solar power to boot to recharge their battery at home.
          Or perhaps on a boat with tons of panels on the roof so efficiency doesn’t matter much.

    1. Isn’t it the same when processing crude oil into gasoline and diesel – it takes more energy to pump it and process it than what you get out of it when you burn the result?

      1. Yep, exactly, and even transporting and transferring it, and finally pumping it into your vehicle… That’s all energy being put into the system.

        But the end result in all of these of having usable energy on demand is amazing.

      2. No, otherwise we wouldn’t use it.

        At the base of it all, oil is just energy that’s locked into chemical form. We can convert that energy to other chemical forms (gas, diesel, etc.) and/or convert to energy we can use directly (heat, engine power, electricity, etc.). If it took more energy than is stored in a gallon of oil to pump, process, transport, etc. the products, you would get less energy out than you put in. Unless you had some large form of external energy, you’d run out of energy shortly after startup (assuming you start the process with some energy).

        Green hydrogen does give you less out than you put in. That’s why it’s an energy store rather than an energy source. (Blue hydrogen is made from methane, natural gas, which has energy already stored in chemical form).

      3. No. That’s a common myth. If you truck 10,000 gallons of fuel for 1000 miles at 10 MPG, the truck itself consumes just 1% of the energy it carries.

        Refining gasoline and the infrastructure to distribute it is generally about 80% efficient, which means you spend a quarter of the energy to what you get out of it. That however it not the whole story, since much of the energy goes towards making other products than gasoline or diesel – such as bitumen for roads, or precursors for lubricants, soaps, plastics, dyes, pharmaceuticals… so it’s not a fair point to claim that the energy is wasted.

  4. “It would be fascinating to know the effect of this mixture on an engine designed for regular gasoline, for example does it achieve complete combustion, does it burn hotter than normal fuel, and does it put more stress on the engine parts?”

    Back in the good old days you could buy “water” update kits for your car. These used an extra accumulator to split water to hydrogen + oxygen, then feed the gas into the engine trough the air intake. The gas made the fuel burn better and thus the car more powerful, plus the water vapour in the exhaust had some beneficial cleaning effects. Even car makers were looking at the idea, but the gains were not significant enough to allow putting this to mass production.
    An alternative was an extra water intake built into the carburator. That did not needed an extra battery as water was split during combustion by high temperature.

    Yes the above is not a full conversion but may give a hint how a “nomal” engine would react to running on H+O mixture.

      1. The direct answer is that these benefits happen because the water is injected *before* combustion, not created as a byproduct.

        However, this doesn’t have much to do with burning hydrogen; I doubt much, if any water is actually “split during combustion” in direct water injection, although this does happen in the presence of hydrocarbon fuels under some circumstances (look up “water gas”).

        The primary reason to use direct water injection is that it can be used to cool the intake mixture. Among other things this helps prevent hot spots that cause premature detonation (“knock”), which means it can be combined with timing advance and increased boost from turbo and supercharging to generate a lot more power.
        Water/methanol injection is more common as the methanol provides other benefits, but it is common in specialty applications and even used in one modern “street” vehicle – the BMW M4 GTS.

        The steam generated by this process also does a good job of cleaning out combustion byproducts in the cylinder and exhaust, but can also cause rusting, so just spraying a bunch of tap water into your carburetor or intake is not a good idea.

        1. I should clarify that when I say “a lot more power”, we’re only talking about ~5% more power for a “practical” system like the BMW/Bosch design. If you just need a big improvement for a short time (for example in drag racing) you can do better.

          1. Not totally true, my engine was detonation limited on pump fuel to 19psi of boost, water/meth let me run up to 32psi without detonation issues, that was a 1.4 litre engine and a jump in power from about 220hp to over 300. That’s not insignificant.

  5. I think this is a last year technical high school science project, Santiago is 18 years old, and he is thanking a repair shop for the spare (and recycled) parts, and his chemistry teacher for helping him. Usually this projects are done with really low budget here (most of the time with things lying around, and $0 budget) . I think that this kind of things could inspire more kids into mechanics and science in general, so apart from the facts about energy efficiencies expressed above, I think this is great.

  6. I hate to be that “safety guy” but this is less about safety and more about not blowing off your genitals with supersonic glass shards cuz he has that jar mounted is the absolutely worst location imaginable. I’d sooner ride this motorcycle with the jar duct taped to my face than where it currently sits. Look at how much empty space is in that jar to, this guy is a mad man.

    1. I don’t think it’s meant to be ridden.

      Running a stoichiometric oxyhydrogen mix is prone to horrible backfiring and detonation. If it runs, it only runs for a few minutes until the engine gets hot and the gas mixture starts blowing up in the intake manifold, then you can pick up the pieces of your carburetor off the shop floor.

  7. IIRC the theoretical efficiency limit of hydrogen in a conventional engine designed for gasoline is 50% because the flame front speed is so much higher. I don’t think it can be improved much due to requiring higher piston speeds and thus conrod stresses that exceed economical material strengths.

    Another point about small scale electrolysis of water is that if you control the power input very carefully, such that it’s just slightly over the voltage required to initiate (and different metals have different voltages for this) then you can get what appears to be over unity efficiency. It isn’t though, it’s because a large amount of the energy is supplied by environmental heat at typical room temperatures. If you’re in a really warm climate and get 30C ambients it works even better. However, this. does. not. scale. … unless you wanna do something with geothermal or heat scavenging from nuke plants, or solar hot-water. Anyway, you’ll often hear about guys in Florida “running car on water” but do you hear about a guy up in the frozen north doing it? Not very likely.

    In theory though, because the same type of energy and grade of heat is useful as the type of waste energy in an engine is, one could get an IC hydrogen motor working as efficiently as a good electric motor, or possibly retrofit gasoline motors to ~70% or so efficiency. When you’re using onboard electrolysis from battery storage. Even the battery heat can be scavenged.

    However, very tight control of temperature and electrode voltage is required, and the requirement of using an electrolyte rather than very plain water, typically NaOH, means you have to use somewhat spendy materials to stand up to this. It also doesn’t stand up to well to calcification (to be fair, neither did steam power) so there’s a bit of a energy debt to get water pure enough to use long term.

    There is however a lot more that could be done with this type of tech.

  8. I saw something similar on a social media site. They were using calcium carbide and water to produce acetylene. Their reaction chamber was a pressure cooker; probably a poor choice in certain counties as it resembles a VBIED.

  9. If enough electrical energy from a battery is added to water some HOH (“knallgass”) is produced that can be added to any fuel to make the engine run on less gasoline/diesel.The total fuel free solution is to make the process of HOH production so efficient that it can make an engine run without fossil fuels.So far no car has done it.Daniel Dingel from Philippines (1969) claimed to have managed it ,then Stan Meyer in USA claimed the same (1991) Nothing came out of it in commercial terms.Lately on You tube you find a spanish talking video of someone who made a HOH unite that made and 665 MC run without fossile fuel.The video tell you most of the steps how it was done plus some electrical chip tuning (?).If true it has been done!! 

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