POSTSCRIPT / July 9, 2000 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Dingel’s water-powered car offered for AFP use

HERE we go again!

We finally saw again inventor Daniel D. Dingel after about a year of having sort of drifted away from each other. He was at the ABS-CBN trying to win converts to his hydrocar that, according to his fantastic claim, runs on nothing but water!

Dingel was being interviewed in the “Bantay Kalikasan” program over DZMM by media environmentalist Bong Faustino together with Rudy Lantano, who was discussing on phone patch his concoction of gasoline mixed with alcohol to make it cheaper and environment-friendly.

With the way Dingel and his troupe reacted when I walked into the DZMM booth, I doubt if he had any inkling that he was to see my shadow again that day — particularly at a time when he is making a sales pitch.

Without telling him, Bong invited me to sit with Dingel, I sensed, to balance his presentation.

* * *

WITH the previous program “Jeepney ni Erap” anchored by Korina Sanchez having eaten into Bong’s time slot and with his loads of ads to shoot down the listener’s ear, I lost no time in driving home my main point.

Sitting across the desk from Dingel, I reiterated my old challenge to him: If it is true that his car runs on nothing but water, let’s prove it to the whole world by driving it in a supervised 1,000-kilometer demonstration cruise up and down the South Luzon Expressway, from Magallanes to Calamba and back.

I made this suggestion last year, because of lingering suspicion that Dingel’s red Toyota Corolla (UGA 222) still secretly uses gasoline aside from his electrolysis gadget that produces hydrogen gas to feed into his engine.

Even granting it has a secret gas tank, the gasoline (or whatever extra fuel it is) would run out in 1,000 kilometers and reduce the car to exclusive dependence on the water fuel used by Dingel’s invention.

* * *

SUCH suspicion of a secret extra fuel is not without basis. At some demonstrations, some engineers checked the exhaust and sniffed the smoke coming out. It smelled of gasoline fumes!

At the Department of Science and Technology, scientists went beyond their noses and actually subjected the emission to scientific tests. They reported traces of carbon oxides, the type one would find in burned gasoline.

Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, nothing more, nothing less. Where did the carbon oxides (oxidized or burned carbon) come from?

To cut short the endless debate about a secret gas tank, we asked Dingel last year, and we repeated the suggested yesterday on the air, that we take the car on a 1,000-km run, continuously feeding it nothing but water.

* * *

DINGEL refused, worrying aloud about the monumental security problem involved in having him and the monitors driving up and down the expressway exposed to the world.

Maybe he had a point. Although he is thousands of miles from Sulu, who knows the naughty Abu Sayyaf might just plant a land mind in his tracks nga naman! Or some Lost Command might hijack him and his precious invention!

At that point I was hoping the gods of ABS-CBN would come rushing through the door to assure Dingel that if he would agree to such a road test, they would guarantee his safety and that of his invention.

* * *

IF I owned ABS-CBN, I would make such an offer to settle the issue once and for all.

Imagine the media scoop, the spectacle: Dingel’s red hydrocar cruising down the expressway accompanied by a mean-looking security phalanx and the network’s Radyo Patrol reporting live a kilometer-per-kilometer report on the progress of the road test.

President Estrada, besieged as he is with price issues, would do well to order the presidential security unit to help protect the car that might yet free us from the clutches of the oil cartel. During the run, it won’t hurt if Press Secretary Dong Puno, an ABS-CBN alumnus, slips in a Dingel paragraph or two in his news briefing.

The other media won’t be able to ignore the event. Advertisers would scramble to get into the bandwagon. Mother Lily might sign a contract for exclusive rights to the life story of Dingel. The possibilities are endless!

* * *

BUT Bong Faustino does not own ABS-CBN and could not commit, right then and there, the attention and the resources of the giant network. So Dingel got away, again, with that lame excuse of lack of security.

The truth is that Dingel never looked like he had a security problem. During those times when he would still talk to me because I was writing about him and his gadget, we would meet at the McDonald’s at BF Homes in Parañaque and chat endlessly while his car is parked blatantly in front of the burgerhouse.

On some occasions, we would even leave his car in the McDo parking lot and use my van to go some place. We had no guard for the car or for his person. Nobody touched his Corolla.

The car is an easy target, even for amateurs. It has markings all over its body announcing that it is Dingel’s water-powered car.

When I saw the car again yesterday at ABS-CBN, it was still the same demo unit. And Dingel was still the same salesman with the same spiel about fantastic dollar offers from some foreign entities scrambling to get first crack at his revolutionary invention.

* * *

ASIDE from one ever faithful sidekick whose name I cannot now recall, there is now a small coterie of new converts who look like businessmen smelling of snake oil.

While Dingel was demonstrating his hydrogen-loaded popgun shooting a canister with a loud bang into the air, one of his new devotees told us that their group has convinced somebody in Malacañang, somebody surnamed De Guzman, to have the armed forces adopt the Dingel invention into their motor vehicles and navy craft.

As a taxpayer, I should have butted in with “Teka muna!” — but what the heck. If our countrymen cannot have peace, jobs and food, they can use some entertainment.

* * *

WHILE Dingel was demonstrating his hydrogen popgun in the ABS-CBN parking lot, this businessman who told me about the armed forces deal was trying to explain to me how the hydrocar works.

I did not have the heart to tell him that I’ve been there before him. But when he kept referring to Dingel’s device as a “nuclear reactor,” I simply had to react.

I pointedly told him that the demo car did not have a nuclear reactor. I had to explain to him what a nuclear reactor was and that Dingel’s contraption did not touch the nuclei of the hydrogen and the oxygen taken from the water.

This is a simple case of electrolysis, I said, the type of experiment we did in high school science class. An electric current is passed through the water and the water is broken up into its hydrogen and oxygen components.

* * *

IN the case of Dingel, he feeds the resulting hydrogen and oxygen into the combustion chamber of the retooled Toyota engine. With the spark plugs triggered, the gaseous mixture explodes, sending the pistons moving and the shafts turning as in a conventional car.

The difference is that instead of the vaporized gasoline-air mixture in a regular car, Dingel uses hydrogen with traces of oxygen. He gets the explosive hydrogen and the combustible oxygen directly from the electrolysis done with his device.

In many similar experiments and inventions in Europe and the United States, they first store the hydrogen gas generated and feed it into the engine as needed. Dingel pipes it directly from the electrolysis process into the engine without storing it first.

* * *

ONE of the sources of doubt on the part of DOST scientists is Dingel’s using an ordinary 12-volt car battery to initiate and continue the process of generating hydrogen gas under the hood.

Dingel displays a certification that he uses only 5 amperes to do that, whereas many incredulous engineers say we need more than a thousand times that to accomplish the same work.

They also cite the law of thermodynamics saying in effect that we cannot create matter or energy. They cannot accept that Dingel, with an input of only 12 volts, can generate an output of enormous energy to run a regular combustion engine. How did he create that much energy, they ask.

That’s when they slip in the suggestion that he is probably also using gasoline from a secret tank.

* * *

THIS brings us back to our ultimate test: Let’s just run the car for 1,000 kms. on nothing but water, stopping briefly every 100 kilometers to check its vital signs. If there is some other fuel secretly being fed into it, as its critics allege, this hidden fuel should run out in 1,000 kms.

The big question is why Dingel is scared of a public test that will, theoretically, prove precisely his point that it’s just water running his car.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 9, 2000)

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