As an elementary school student in the Bahamas, Tony Ruiz read in a 1940s textbook that one day cars would be able to drive above 60 miles per hour. By the time he was an adult, Ruiz was cruising around in a Jeep, which could clock speeds well over 100 mph, in his new hometown of Sag Harbor.
Ruiz, however, isn’t interested in merely driving vehicles, he would also like to revolutionize the way cars run. After leaving behind a successful career in research and development for the Disney Corporation, Ruiz produced a preliminary version of his hydrogen generator for vehicles. The machine, subsequently dubbed the “Env-E,” is a para-hydrogen hybrid retrofit generator. The “Env-E” does the job of gasoline in a vehicle, but with the generator the combustion is caused by hydrogen.
“When I first started this, people would tell me not to hold my breath for hydrogen technology,” said Ruiz. “I heard it was 50 years away from being a reality.”
In two short years, however, Ruiz and his partners have produced three generations of the “Env-E.” The machine is currently available for purchase and installation at Fireplace Auto Collision, an automotive repair shop in East Hampton.
During those years, Tony Ruiz worked tirelessly to produce the first model of the “Env-E.”
“[At that time] 70 hour weeks seemed like a vacation,” said Ruiz. Once a preliminary model was ready Ruiz and his partners, Ted and Fran Schiavoni of Sag Harbor and James Swinkin, tested the limitations of the generator. David Wisner and Steve Obraitis, co-owners of Fireplace Auto, also helped with the project.
“We wanted to see what it would take to make one of [the systems] explode,” said Ruiz. The team became a motley crew of mad scientists as they ran a battery of experiments. One vehicle short-circuited. Another’s wires were found completely singed. The team tried to make one particular car explode, but only the release cap blew off, denting the hood of the car. After a year of trial and error, a finished product was available for the public.
The current generation of the machine works by simply adding water into the generator. It separates the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the water, and this hydrogen, which is extremely reactive, is then circulated to the combustion chamber of the engine.
Although, the hydrogen doesn’t completely eliminate the need for gasoline, most vehicles with a generator see a 30 percent reduction in the use of gasoline. According to Wisner, drivers might be able to reduce their gasoline usage by up to 50 percent, depending upon how they maintain their vehicle. Water must be added to the generator every 300 miles, though one can also purchase a separate water tank.
The initial price for installation is steep and ranges between $1,500 to $2,000, depending upon which system you purchase. Wisner, however, claims the expense of installation is recouped within a year due to gas savings.
Ruiz’s product also appeals to a wide demographic of vehicle consumers.
“There are three kinds of people who install the system — one, the conservationists who are concerned about the environment, two, the car buff, and three, the financial people who just need or want to save money,” said Wisner. So far the team has installed almost 70 systems. Wisner and Orbraitis have even installed a unit into a Dodge Dakota V8, a stereotypical gas guzzling truck.
The generator, says Ruiz, is a great alternative to other hybrid vehicles. With high price tags and months-long waiting list, hybrid vehicles are often unattainable for many working people.
“I love the idea of hybrid cars,” said Ruiz. “It’s great to see people putting their money where their mouth is; but I also think that it is a band-aid for a larger problem.”
Wisner added that the electrical batteries found in many hybrid vehicles present a host of environmental problems.
“They produce so much waste to mine the lead for the batteries in those cars. You also have to replace those batteries every couple of years, which costs thousand of dollars,” said Wisner.
Despite the “Env-E” system’s track record, Ruiz believes his generator is still in the beginning stages.
His system, however, has garnered a great deal of local support. Currently, all of the emergency vehicles in East Hampton Town are outfitted with the generator. Several other municipalities around the country have also expressed interest in the generator.
When the global economy is repaired, a whole new era of technology and entrepreneurial initiative will likely be ushered in. The straightforward product Ruiz, and his partners, engineered will surely be along for the ride.