Home / Gas Savers / Dateline NBC Declares HHO Industry a Scam

Dateline NBC Declares HHO Industry a Scam

Because one product from one manufacturer didn’t work as advertised Dateline NBC has declared the whole HHO industry a scam. Let’s face it, the TV show Dateline NBC has a lot of credibility with viewers. Chris Hansen the host and his guests usually have much credibility as well.

But, last night on Dateline they decided to profile Dennis Lee the manufacturer of the Hydrogen Assist Fuel Cell (HAFC) and declare all HHO generators everywhere are bogus, scams, fraudulent and not only worthless but criminal as well. Now, I don’t want to stick up for HAFC in particular since I have no first hand knowledge of if they work and if so, to what degree. And I don’t want to stick up for Dennis Lee since he has a decidedly checkered past.

But, the short story is that Dateline NBC decided to test one car fitted with an HAFC device and since this car, a Honda Accord, didn’t pass muster on testing, they declared the whole HHO industry a fake bunch of liars and frauds. To Dateline’s credit, thought, they did the right thing in testing this one particular car.

They took it to an EPA-approved testing center first and it was rated as 24 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Then they took it to a small time mechanic who sold and installed an HAFC device. This mechanic declared the Honda now was getting 96 mpg with one passenger inside and 57.7 mpg with four passengers. Dateline then took the car back to the EPA testing center which declared the car was still only getting 24 mpg and 34 mpg as it had before the HAFC device was installed.

Now, even though the testing may have been sound (we’ll assume so) the conclusions based upon this testing are anything but sound. One person installing one device from one manufacturer in one car does not speak for the entire industry.

If the computer monitor I bought from someone on eBay does not work as advertised, I do not condemn all manufacturers everywhere of fraud. This is a ridiculous conclusion. What is needed is large scale testing of many different HHO generators from many different manufacturers in many different cars and from many different EPA approved testing centers. Once this testing is completed we’ll be able to make sound conclusions about the industry of HHO generators.

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Kevin is both an environmentalist and a tech guy and has been writing, editing and publishing this blog since 2007. He answers questions related to how you can use tech to go greener.

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  1. As a scientist and a leader in the sustainability field, I am constantly on the lookout for new and promising alternatives. That said, HHO generators are simply a scam. No matter how you slice it, the physics and mechanics do not even come close to working, period.

    As you suggest, Dateline’s piece was not a comprehensive test of all devices on all vehicles. But you had the head automotive editor of Popular Mechanics and a Ph.D. physicist both making the point that HHO generators do not work. Whats more, this car was tested with a product installed by a person trained by Dennis Lee’s and you had multiple folks saying that their devices did not work either.

    Having looked at this issue for a while, I really wonder if there will ever be enough evidence to convince those who buy into the HHO or any free-energy schemes to understand that they do not work.

  2. admin

    The Popular Mechanics columnist has been a critic long before he even tested one device, so he went into testing with a predetermined bias.

    The courts believed HAFC’s expert witness more than the FTC’s PhD physicist which is why HAFC won the case.


    Like I’ve said before NASA, the U. S. DOT, the National Hydrogen Association and another EPA approved automotive testing facility all say HHO works.

    I don’t put HHO into the same category as free energy as I don’t believe in free energy schemes either.

  3. Where was the bias? The unit was not tested by Popular Mechanics but the independent lab. it was installed by a mechanic that was trained by Dennis Lee’s folks.

    You need to read and understand the court proceedings better. The FTC wanted to shut Dutchman down immediately. The level of proof required to do that is extremely high. The judge gave Dennis the benefit of the doubt and wanted the FTC to use an expert in internal combustion engines and to actually test the device.

    If you read the ruling you will see that the judge acknowledged Dennis’ checkered past and also said that he doubted that Dennis would be able to prove his claims. In addition, Dennis claimed that he had twenty or so satisfied customers. If you watch the Dateline piece again you’ll see that most of those folks were not satisfied with the product. As to Dennis’ expert witness, the fellow was not actually a factor in all of this. In point of fact, if you look at his resume, he would not be qualified to teach junior high shop class in many states.

    On the NASA, DOT, etc. front you are comparing apples to oranges. The NASA studies were looking at injecting lots of hydrogen into engines. That works and has an impact. These HHO generators don’t do that–they make about 1 liter of HHO per minute. If you have a 2 liter engine running at 3000 rpm that means you are chugging through 12,000 liters of air and fuel. How is 1/12,000 of that possibly going to change the results by 50-150%? It simply defies all logic. Hydrogen has great potential as a storage medium for energy but that is not what is going on with HHO.

    I put HHO in the same category with free-energy because they both claim to yield more energy than they use. In the case of HHO, the energy drawn from the alternator is so miniscule compared to gallons and gallons of gasoline that these folks claim that they can save that it is literally laughable.

    I am sure that your intentions are good but you need to do more primary research.

  4. admin

    The bias I am referring to was the Popular Mechanics test that was run several months ago and not the Dateline test.

    Like I’ve already stated, I’m not defending HAFC. The only reason I brought up the court decision is to point out that the court did not see a PhD Physicist as an expert witness (as per your first comment) compared to the HAFC witness.

    As far as the NASA document, here is a quote from the document, “Adding small amounts of hydrogen to gasoline produced efficient lean operation by increasing the apparent flame speed and reducing ignition lag.”

    What I resist is the “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach to disproving HHO technology works by citing one small specific example then generalizing it to the whole industry.

    I’m sure you mean well, too. This is just a fundamental disagreement where there are no clear cut answers on either side at the current time. I’m just asking for more definitive testing and research into this subject.

  5. OK. Let me be clear. Any, and I mean any, HHO system that relies solely on the electricity generated from a car’s alternator to split water into its constituent parts cannot possibly increase fuel efficiency by 50%, period.

    Yes, small amounts of hydrogen can be injected into gasoline and function as a fuel and likely improve efficiency a few percent. But what we are talking about from these on-board, alternator-powered generators is so small that it cannot possibly materially influence what is happening in the cylinders. What we are arguing about here is not the chemistry or the process but rather the physical limitations of how much hydrogen can be produced by these devices as they are designed.

    This is not a condemnation of hydrogen or HHO but rather a specific class of HHO generators that take a small amount of electricity and too slowly convert it into too little hydrogen.

  6. admin

    I agree that some manufacturers of these devices make outlandish claims that make me cringe and shake my head. But, the general trend over the past year for other manufacturers has been to increase the LPM output for their HHO generators. Of course the other part of the equation is the EFIE to lean the gasoline / O2 mixture after the HHO generator is installed. And the leaning of the mixture is what the NASA document was referring to as well.

  7. You are still having troubles with the issue of scale. The liters/min are limited by the output of the alternator which would max out at about 1900 BTUs per hour (assuming 100% efficiency). In contrast, an average car is likely burning about 330,000 BTUs during that same period. Fifty percent of that is 115,000 BTUs. That means that total output of the alternator is about 1.5% of what is needed. Since hydrolysis is commonly 30-40% efficient we are looking at about .5 % of the energy needed to gain this efficiency.

    In terms of leaning the engine down–which there is not enough HHO produced to do–you can lean the engine down and make some headway but you screw up your catalytic converted in the process which is why these devices are illegal in CA. And you really don’t need an HHO device to do that, just adjust the computer and save yourself a couple of grand (I am not suggesting that you do that because running lean increases the NOx emisions.

  8. admin

    Here is a company that is legal in California.


    The electrolyze water, separate the hydrogen and feed this into the ICE.

  9. My question is If this is a scam and does not work, how did Ronn Motors deal with the new Scorpion?

    I have had dealings with Dateline on an entirly different field. They had their story before even contacting us and set about “proving” their story regardless of what they saw, heard or experienced. The only promise they didn’t break was the time and date that they said they would come to interview us.

  10. admin

    Yes, Dateline did not try to give a “fair and balanced” news report, which is not what they do. They take a position first and then try to prove their position. I think the Ronn Scorpion will be key in resolving this matter since it is so high profile. If it works as advertised this will put much debate to rest.

    If it doesn’t this will add another cloud over the whole HHO industry. But, no matter which way it goes Ronn Motors stands to be a high profile key player open to intense public scrutiny when they start rolling out their products.

  11. I guess I am assuming that Ronn Motors has done road tests to determine MPG I read an article this morning that gave the details of what it looks like inside and out, plus a description of driving it.

    Seems to me that most of the debate is between people who have never had one installed then compared MPG with their “before” MPG. Of course you can do a bad job of installing it, but the link you gave before my first post should get you to someone who knows what they are doing.

    I’m pretty old school and determine my MPG by odometer and the amount of gas I put in when I fill up. That’s all I need and don’t really care about the “science” of it.
    Robert Fulton’s steamboat didn’t work either.

  12. I’ve listened quietly to the arguments, and agree with most of the math and laugh at others. First, let us take a look at that “small” amount of HHO that does this incredible amount of work:

    If you were driving a 18-wheeler that gets 6mpg at 60 mph. you would go thru a gallon of gas every 6 minutes, or every 6 miles. 1 US gallon of diesel = 3.875 ltrs per 6 minutes.

    During that same 6 minutes, a decent HHO unit will produce at 20 Amps around 1.5 – 2.0 ltrs of HHO gas per minute. So with this math… we use 3.875 liters of diesel and enrich it with 9-12 liters of HHO gas. Pretty close to 3 to 1 anyway that you slice it.

    It is so easy for people to overlook the power that is in an extremely small amount of diesel because they have accepted it and been around it all of their lives. We multiply that volume by 3, but people don’t see that or even register it into their arguments.

    I’m used to hearing about the “Laws of Thermo-Dynamics” yes, they are valid arguments, but the gains in economy aren’t because of the HHO gas alone. It is because of that large amount of fossil fuel that isn’t burned in the combustion chamber. That is wasted BTU’s of energy. By getting a better and more complete burn of your fossil fuels we are getting our efficiency. Our gains in Horse Power and fuel economy are coming from the fossil fuel that was previously wasted.

    The other benefits that people don’t recognize because they aren’t in the industry is that HHO actually “cleans” the inside of the engines. Carbon and soot after 3-4 months nearly completely disappears from the inside of engines. Injectors become clean and spray better, valves actually begin to seat the way they should, and rings are no longer clogged. Your engine flows air thru it the way it did when it was new. That is why gains in fuel economy increase gradually over a few months after installing HHO on your equipment. No longer will EGR, and DPF’s kill engines from soot and poor eficiency.

    Enjoy the cleaner emissions thru better burning of the fuel.

  13. Dear HHO Fan,

    Unfortunately you are exactly the type of person Dennis Lee targets. I suspect that when you pressed the send button that you were pleased with having made a cogent and well argued response. The problem is that you didn’t listen well enough in chemistry or physics class and have made the fundamental mistake of confusing liquids with gases.

    One liter of liquid diesel contains roughly 36500 BTUs and one liter of hydrogen gas contains 9.54. Your first clue in all of this should be weight. Pick up a liter of diesel or gasoline and you are moving about 8 lbs of fuel. A liter of hydrogen is for all practical purposes lighter than air.

    So going back to your 6 minutes, diesel is bringing 141437.5 BTUs to this fight and your hydrogen is bringing 114.48 or less than one tenth of a percent. Those are the numbers you should be looking at.

    As to displacing fuel, that is just not possible either. Look at a simple 2.0 liter engine running at 3000 rpm. That engine goes through 6000 liters of gaseous mixture a minute. And you are telling me that by adding 2 magic liters or 0.03333% of the mix that you will see drastic changes.

    There just isn’t enough hydrogen produced to make any difference by a long shot. This isn’t even a very close race.

  14. admin

    You and many others keep making the classic mistake of thinking that the hydrogen in HHO is supposed to replace gasoline. People keep talking about volume and BTU’s as if the gasoline or diesel powered vehicle was supposed to run on hydrogen. It isn’t.

    Hydrogen has a lower flame speed and acts as a catalyst to help the fossil fuels burn more cleanly and completely. This is why only a small amount of hydrogen is needed. Hydrogen isn’t supposed to displace gasoline. A small amount of hydrogen causes a chain reaction with gasoline which burns more completely with less carbon deposits and runs cooler than without HHO.

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