While many say a water-fueled car is impossible, the guy who built the first internal combustion engine thought otherwise.

A car that runs on water would change the world, period. From an economy that practically runs on the petrodollar to the oil-rich countries that have grown wealthy beyond measure, a lot would change. That’s probably why many people believe the industrialists and oil tycoons of the world keep suppressing this invention every time it comes out.

Stanley Meyer’s Water fuel cell concept. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The fact that Stanly Meyer, one of the first people to achieve fame by claiming to invent this machine mysteriously passed away in 1998, with his last words being “they poisoned me,” only serves to add fuel to the fire. This has also led to a number of shows, movies, and documentaries of the ’90s featuring a water-powered engine as part of the plot.

2 centuries of water-fueled cars

Isaac de Rivaz. (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Now if you’re thinking 1998 was the first time this invention “supposedly” came out, you’re about 200 years too late. The mysterious water-fueled engine has its roots in 1800, with the first water-powered car being built in 1808! While William Nicholson discovered the process of electrolysis that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen by voltaic current in 1800, Swiss inventor and politician, Isaac De Rivaz used this method to build a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine in 1807, described in a French patent.

In 1807 Francois Isaac de Rivaz (French engineer) designed the first internal combustion engine that ran inside the first automobile. The Rivaz car stored compressed hydrogen gas in a balloon and it had an electrical Volta cell ignition. (Image Credit: Wroclaw Universify of Science and Technology)

What’s even more interesting is that this is officially the first successful internal combustion engine as the gasoline-powered engine was only invented much later. Within a year he also designed and built an automobile to be powered by his engine making it the world’s first internal combustion engine-powered automobile in 1808.

While history only remembers the first commercially successful internal combustion engine of 1860 and the first modern internal combustion engine of 1876, this is just the beginning of a long list of people who claimed to have built an engine that runs on water. For a complete list, you can go here, or here, and one common theme you will notice along the way is how they are all either discredited, imprisoned, fined, disappeared, or dead.

While many on the list may no doubt be frauds, some are definitely not. Charles H Garrett, for instance, along with his father Henry Garrett, built a water-powered car and even gave a private demonstration which was reported on in the Dallas Morning News on September 8, 1935, stating the car worked for several minutes.

Charles H. Garrett’s Electrolytic Carburetor. (Image Credit: Rex Research)

Mysterious deaths

Charles himself claimed that he operated the engine for 48 hours with a number of starts and stops without any problems. What’s interesting here is that his father Henry Garrett was a known inventor and was credited with setting up the world’s first municipal radio station, the world’s first car radio, as well as the world’s first automatic traffic signal.

What’s even more interesting is that there are specific diagrams for all the parts used like the electrolytic carburetor used as well as stories about how he and his dad blew up the garage twice while trying to store the hydrogen fuel. They reportedly solved this problem by not storing the hydrogen at all but instead feeding it to the engine as and when it was created.

While the internet only mentions that both father and son passed away a long time ago, there is no mention of what eventually happened to this invention. In 1995, a guitarist named Carl Cella who played for a heavy metal band called Rampage wrote an article on how to modify an engine to run on hydrogen extracted from water, he included very specific diagrams and even pictures of his own modified engine that you can see here. Carl Cella died in prison.

Similarly, Hector Pierre Vaes reportedly demonstrated his version of the water-powered car in the parking lot of the Tribune de Genève with a number of journalists present. It is also noted that his engine was checked by a bailiff. Hector Pierre Vaes also died under suspicious circumstances.

223 years and counting

While the world today is moving toward electric vehicles and other renewable sources of energy, there are many who still believe in the water-fueled car. Earlier this year, Iranian scientist Allaedin Qassemi unveiled his invention, a car that runs on water by splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Genepax is a Japanese company that unveiled a water-powered car to the media with much fanfare and then recently went silent. There are also water car inventors in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and the Philippines, all listed on Wikipedia, and all of whom have been either proven to be frauds, fined, or forgotten.

While many say a water-fueled car is impossible because the amount of energy required to split atoms is equal to the amount of energy released, apparently the guy who built the first internal combustion engine thought otherwise.

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With a background in Linux system administration, Nigel Pereira began his career with Symantec Antivirus Tech Support. He has now been a technology journalist for over 6 years and his interests lie in Cloud Computing, DevOps, AI, and enterprise technologies.

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