Dallas Morning News (September 6, 1992), Page 48A
"Early Inventor Builds Water-Powered Auto"
The late Henry "Dad" Garrett was a multi-talented Dallas
inventor with a bent for electrical contrivances, and in 1935,
he and his son, C.H. Garrett, patented and exhibited an
automobile that ran on water -- actually, on hydrogen after the
water was broken down by electrolysis.
Dad Garrett was already famous for his work. In 1920 he set up
WRR in Dallas, the world's first municipal radio station, and
was its first announcer. He was the first man to build a radio
in his car, and he developed radio transmission from the car for
police use. He also invented an automatic electric traffic
signal, possibly the nation's first.
Eugene P. Aldredge recalled the Garretts: "I had rented a small
office on the seventh floor of the Allen building in downtown
Dallas for my letter service, and one of my early customers was
the eighteenth floor National Electric Signal Co. owned by Dad
Garrett and son C.H..
"I was informed that the two were experimenting with an
automobile that used water for fuel, that they carried on their
experiments in a workshop adjacent to their office on the top
floor, and that two separate explosions (from dangerous
hydrogen) had nearly blown a hole in the roof of the
building...Neither was hurt."
On September 8, 1935, The Dallas Morning News first
announced that the water-fuel concept worked -- at least it
worked for "several minutes," the article reported.
A few months later, Pathe' News filmed the car driving along
Garland Road with the driver stopping at White Rock Lake to fill
the fuel tank with water before cruising off. In 1970, Karen
Klinefelter wrote, "Aptly enough, the film was shown on Pathe's
Stranger than Fiction feature program."
C.H. Garrett said the only items needed to convert a
gasoline-engine auto to a water burner was an electrolytic
carburetor and installation of a generator of double normal
capacity for the breaking down of the water.
He claimed instant starts in any weather, no fire hazards,
cooler operation and plenty of power and speed. The car was not
marketed, and no one seems to know its ultimate destiny. Both
Garretts died a number of years ago.
[A.C. Greene is an author and Texas historian who lives in
The Dallas Morning News (September 8, 1935) ~
"Dallasite Patents Invention Which He
Claims Substitutes Water for Gasoline as Fuel"
C.H. Garrett, Dallas inventor, gave a private demonstration
Saturday of a recently patented contrivance which he said
substituted water for gasoline as fuel for internal combustion
He said it broke up the water by electrolysis into its
component gases, oxygen and hydrogen, using the highly explosive
hydrogen for fuel in the motor cylinder.
The working model operated a four-cylinder engine for several
minutes in the demonstration, at varying speeds and with several
starts and stops. Garrett said he had operated the engine
continuously for more than forty-eight hours.
The inventor said the idea itself was not new. He explained
that difficulty had been encountered heretofore in attempts to
store the dangerously inflammable hydrogen. He claimed to have
avoided that trouble by making and exploding the gas in the same
process without a storage chamber in which the flames from the
motor cylinders might react.
Water, he explained, is broken down into its component gases by
passage of an electric current through it from electrodes
immersed in the water. Hydrogen collects at the negative pole
and oxygen at the positive. The hydrogen, Garrett said, is mixed
with air and introduced directly into the cylinders..
The inventor said he had been working on the device for eight
years, assisted by his father, Henry Garrett, traffic signal
engineer for the city of Dallas, inventor of the traffic signal
system, now in use here and holder of several patents on such
Garrett said attachment of the electrolytic carburetor and
installation of a generator of about double normal capacity to
furnish power for the breaking down of the water were the only
changes needed to convert a gasoline burning automobile into a
He said the electrolysis chamber would have to vary in size
with the size of the motor used, one of about a quart capacity
being big enough for the ordinary automobile.
He claimed instantaneous starting in any weather, elimination
of fire hazards, cooler motor operation and fulfilling of all
motor requirements in power and speed.
US Patent # 2,006,676
( July 2, 1935 ~ Cl. 204-5 )
Charles H. Garrett
This invention relates to carburetors and it has particular
reference to an electrolytic carburetor by means of which water
may be broken up into its hydrogen and oxygen constituents and
the gases so formed suitably mixed with air.
The principal object of the invention is to provide in a device
of the character described, a mechanism by means of which water
may be readily decomposed into its constituents, and the
constituents intimately mixed with each other and with air.
Another object of the invention is to provide means whereby the
electrolyte level in the carburetor may be maintained at a more
or less constant level regardless of fluctuations in fluid
pressure at the fluid inlet of the carburetor.
Another object of the invention is to provide means whereby the
relative amount of air mixed with the hydrogen and oxygen may be
regulated as desired.
Still another object of the invention is the provision of means
to prevent loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases during periods in
which these gases are not being drawn from the carburetor.
Still another object of the invention is the provision of means
whereby the hydrogen and oxygen resulting from electrolysis may
be formed in separate compartments, and a further object of the
invention is the provision of means to periodically reverse the
direction of current flow and thereby alternate the evolution of
the gases in the separate compartments, to be later
With the foregoing objects as paramount, the invention has
particular reference to its salient features of construction and
arrangement of parts, taken in connection with the accompanying
drawings, wherein: -
Figure 1 is a view in vertical section of one form of
Figure 2 is a modified form.
Figure 3 is a diagrammatic view of a pole changer, showing its
actuating mechanism, and
Figure 4 is a wiring diagram for the modified form of
carburetor shown in Figure 2.
Continuing more in detail with the drawings, reference is
primarily directed to Figure 1 in which the reference numeral
1designates the carburetor housing, which is preferably
constructed of bakelite or other suitable insulating material.
The housing 1 is so designed as to divide the carburetor into a
float chamber 2 and gas generating chamber 4, connected by a
fluid passage 3.
Water under pressure is forced into the carburetor through an
opening 5 which communicates with the float chamber 2 through
the medium of the sediment chamber 6 and the needle valve
orifice 7, which is closed by a needle valve 8 when the device
is not in operation. A float 9 surrounds the needle valve 8 and
is free to move vertically relative thereto. Depending from the
cover 10 to the float chamber 2 are two ears 11, located at
spaced intervals on opposite sides of the needle valve 8. The
members 12 are pivoted to the ears 11, as shown. The weighted
outer ends of the members 12 rest on top of the float 9, and
their inner ends are received in an annular groove in the collar
13 which is rigidly attached to the needle valve 8.
Within the gas generating chamber 4, a series of spaced,
depending plates 14 are suspended from a horizontal member 15 to
which a wire 16 has electrical contact through the medium of the
bolt 17, which extends inwardly through the housing 1 and is
threaded into the horizontal member 15.
A second series of plates 18 is located intermediate the plates
14 and attached to the horizontal member 19, and has electrical
contact with the wire 20 through the bolt 21.
A gas passageway 22, in which a butterfly valve 23 is located,
communicates with the gas generating chamber 4 through an
orifice 24. An air inlet chamber 25 has communication with the
gas passageway 22 above the orifice 24. A downwardly opening
check valve 26 is in control of the openings 27, and is held
inoperatively closed by means of light spring 28.
An adjustable auxiliary air valve 29 is provided in the wall of
the gas passageway 22, which air valve is closed by the
butterfly valve 23 when the butterfly valve is closed, but
communicates with the outside air when the butterfly valve is
The operation of the device is as follows :
The chambers 2 and 4 are first filled to the level 'a' with a
solution of weak sulphuric acid or other electrolyte not changed
by the passage of current therethrough, and the opening 5 is
connected to a tank of water, not shown.
The wire 16 is next connected to the positive pole of a storage
battery or other source of direct current and the wire 20 to the
negative pole. Since the solution within the carburetor is a
conductor of electricity, current will flow therethrough and
hydrogen will be given off from the negative or cathode plates
18 and oxygen from the positive or anode plates 14.
The butterfly valve 23 is opened and the gas passageway 22
brought into communication with a partial vacuum. Atmospheric
pressure acting on the top of the check valve 26 causes it to be
forced downwardly as shown in dotted lines. The hydrogen and
oxygen liberated from the water at the plates 18 and 14 are
drawn upwardly through the orifice 24 covered by the check valve
30 where they are subsequently mixed with air entering through
the openings 27 and through the auxiliary air valve 29.
When it is desired to reduce the flow of hydrogen and oxygen
from the plates 18 and 14, the current flowing through the
device is reduced, and when the current is interrupted the flow
ceases. When the butterfly valve 23 is moved to closed position,
the check valve 26 is automatically closed by the spring 28. Any
excess given off during these operations is stored in the space
above the fluid where it is ready for subsequent use.
Water is converted into its gaseous constituents by the device
herein described, but the dilute sulphuric acid or other
suitable electrolyte in the carburetor remains unchanged, since
it is not destroyed by electrolysis, and the parts in contact
therewith are made of bakelite and lead or other material not
attacked by the electrolyte.
The structure shown in Figure 2 is substantially the same as
that shown in Figure 1 with the exception that the modified
structure embraces a larger gas generating chamber which is
divided by means of an insulating plate 31and is further
provided with a depending baffle plate 32 which separates the
gas generating chamber 33 from the float chamber 34 in which the
float 35 operates in the same manner as in Figure 1. Moreover,
the structure shown in Figure 2 provides a series of spaced
depending plates 36 which are electrically connected to the wire
37, and a second series of similar plates 38 which are
electrically connected to the wire 39 and are spaced apart from
the plates 36 by the insulating plate 31.
Gases generated on the surfaces of the plates 36 and 38 pass
upward through the orifice 39a into the gas passageway 40 where
they are mixed with air as explained in the description of
A pipe 51 bent as shown in Figure 2 passes downwardly through
the housing of the carburetor and has a series of spaced
apertures 'a' in its horizontal portion beneath the plates 36
and 38. An upwardly opening check valve 53 is in control of the
air inlet 54. When a partial vacuum exists in the chamber 33,
air is drawn in through the opening 54 and subsequently passes
upwardly through the apertures 'a'. This air tends to remove any
bubbles of gas collecting on the plates 36 and 38 and also tends
to cool the electrolyte. The check valve 53 automatically closes
when a gas pressure exists within the carburetor and thereby
prevents the electrolyte from being forced out of the opening
In order to provide for alternate evolution of the gases from
the plates 36 and 38, a pole changer 41, shown in Figure 3 is
provided, which is actuated periodically by the motor 42 which
drives the worm 43 and the gear 44 and causes oscillations of
the member 45 which is connected by a spring 46 to the arm 47,
thereby causing the pole changer to snap from one position to
In operation, the carburetor shown in Figure 2 is connected as
shown in the wiring diagram of Figure 4. A storage battery 48 or
other suitable source of direct current is connected to a
variable rheostat 49, switch 50, pole changer 41 and to the
carburetor as shown. Thus the rate of evolution of the gases can
be controlled by the setting of the rheostat 49 and the desired
alternate evolution of the gases in the compartments of the
carburetor is accomplished by means of the periodically operated
pole changer 41.
Manifestly, the construction shown is capable of considerable
modification and such modification as is considered within the
scope and meaning of the appended claims is also considered
within the spirit and intent of the invention.
KeelyNet BBS Commentaries ~
Garrett Electrolytic Carburetor
(24 Jun 2001)
This is a letter I received based on a file first posted on the
KeelyNet BBS in 1993 and now posted at http://www.keelynet.com/energy/garrett.htm
77 year old Norman Green in the UK writes;
I enjoy your stuff printed in the magazine 'Nexus'. I am sorry
that you receive rude or insulting letters. The June-July 2001
'Nexus' gives your address, so I would like to give a delayed
comment on your article in 1998, Nexus Volume 5, issue 3, about
Charles Garrett's Electrolytic Carburetor.
You did a great job in digging up the patent, and finding
newspaper coverage. I now write entirely from memory, as I threw
away that issue of 'Nexus'.
> Thank you for the polite introduction and compliments,
however, I have often found when people begin a communication
with unusual politeness or
> 'schmoozing', it usually indicates they are up to
something, so my radar goes on and shields go up...
You were impressed by the plan for the electrolytic carburetor.
Sadly, I thought then you had not studied physics or
thermodynamics. Because regretfully, if you were impressed,
Garrett had you 'suckered' --- unwittingly perhaps.
> I still believe Garrett did produce what he said. I wasn't
'suckered' into the idea that hydrogen and oxygen can be
produced 'on the fly' as needed to keep a four cylinder engine
operating as witnessed by many at the time who knew Garretts
reputation AND WERE THERE. Your information is incomplete as
well as based on faulty premises 'reinforced' by a faulty memory
as I will explain. I wrote then to Nexus, but my thoughts were
not presented as clearly as they ought to have been, they ere
just initial ramblings.
> After studying your letter, unfortunately nothing has
Will you allow me to write you now an analysis of Garrett's
Carburetor, with greater clarity than my 1998 ramblings? This is
all from memory, I'm not going to check figures again:
Charles Garrett describes an electrolytic carburetor which can
be attached to an ordinary automobile engine.
A SMALL automobile engine uses around one gram of petrol per
second. In one hour this is 60 X 60 grams, 3.6 kg. That is
AROUND one gallon.
Now if the same engine were supplied with HYDROGEN as a fuel,
it will require the same ENERGY content. From memory, I think
0.6 gram of hydrogen has the energy of 1 gram of petrol. Fair
enough, so far.
> Mistake #1 - Garrett was not using JUST hydrogen, he was
also mixing it with oxygen and outside air which radically
changes the power, combustibility and amounts of hydrogen and
oxygen gas needed to be produced which of course determines the
amount of current required, add to that the addition of outside
air and it is a quite different set of conditions than just pure
hydrogen. Aside from that I have received emails from two people
CLAIMING they do run both 6 and 8 cylinder vehicles from
hydrogen with no problems and with the gas generated 'on the
fly' from several parallel batteries.
Now, hydrogen is the worlds lightest substance. What VOLUME of
hydrogen weighs 0.6 grams? (From memory) I think it was 3.6
litres. So Mr. Garretts carburetor needs to supply 3.6 litres of
hydrogen EVERY SECOND.
Now Mr. Garrett in his description says an electrolytic chamber
of 1 quart capacity is suitable to supply an automobile. His
patent drawings show an electrolytic chamber apparently smaller
than this, judged by the engine manifold connection size.
But consider his 1 quart electrolytic chamber. 1 quart is near
1 litre. The plates between which the electric current flows
extend nearly to the bottom of the chamber.
If in a 1 litre chamber, 3.6 litres of hydrogen are produced
every second, 1.8 litres are from the bottom half of the
Well, 1.8 litres of gas every second from the bottom of a 1
litre chamber would blow the surface liquid out. Garretts 1
litre chamber is quite quite inadequate.
Bubbles rise only at a certain rate through a liquid. Between
the plates must be more liquid than bubbles, to allow the
electrolytic current to flow.
Now I did not do any CALCULATIONS of the following:
But if from an electrolytic tank comes 3.6 litres of hydrogen
every SECOND, then the tank must be pretty big to accomodate the
rising bubbles without displacing the liquid.
At a wild guess, I could imagine a tank THE SIZE of a ROOM
would be needed. If so, the liquid to cover the electrolytic
plates would weigh TONS.
> Unfortunately, you DID give a 'wild guess' and you DID
imagine based on faulty premises...
So here is the first impracticability of Mr. Garretts idea.
The laws of electrolysis are known with great precision.
From memory, I calculated that to produce 3.6 litres OF
HYDROGEN EVERY SECOND from acidulated water would need 130,000
amperes. This current would need two cables as thick as a human
> That depends on the degree of 'acidulation', he does not
specify the acid to water mix but I took the information from
the Horvath patent which recommends 25% acid to 75% water,
let's also completely the fact he also mixed hydrogen with
oxygen and outside air
Assuming that the potential required between plates would be
about 3 to 4 volts, say 3, this would be 390 kilowatts of power.
> You can produce hydrogen and oxygen on as little as 1.3
volts, but generally 1.5 volts is used, so much for memory and
OH MR. JERRY, my memory must be at fault, it must have been
30,000 amperes (I'm not going to get my book of physics and
everything, as you may not be interested anyway.)
> All based on using pure hydrogen as the only 'fuel' so
yes, all this is interesting but not valid because your memory
did not recall all the details from the magazine you threw
away...the article is on the net and I have referenced it since
it was first posted in 1993 and only printed in Nexus 5 years
30,000 amperes at 3 volts (and it might need more than 3 volts)
= 90,000 watts
746 watts = 1 horsepower
90 kw = 120 horsepower
Yes, I remember 'getting that' in 1998 year. So a generator
absorbing 120 horsepower must be driven by the car engine;
a) the generator would be as big as the engine b) the engine
could not give that much power, as the average automobile in
motion often needs less than 30 horsepower (to cause consumption
of 1 gram of petrol per second)
The generator would need more power than the engine could give.
Obviously it must. A petrol engine is only about 25% efficient.
75% of the heat in the fuel goes out of the exhaust and be
carried away by the engines cooling system.
So to provide fuel for a 30 horsepower engine (in steady
running) would need 120 horsepower of energy supply to 'make'
the fuel. Quite logical.
So Mr. Garrett's idea of 'something for nothing' is completely
> Here we go again. That was the very reason I wrote the
article which made you send the OTHER letter about Yogis etc..
Garrett NEVER CLAIMED his carburetor produced 'something for
nothing'...I am surprised you would revert to that old
chestnut... it was to convert electrical current initially from
a battery to start it then from the 'double sized generator'
which passed through the water/acid electrolyte mix to produce
combustible gas, that doesn't remotely create 'something from
nothing'...you must have this confused with the Yogi letter you
The Garrett automobile is not going anywhere, with an
electrolytic tank bigger than itself weighing tons, and a
generator 'killing' the car engine.
> Pure assumption based on hydrogen gas alone...a house of
What about the granting of Garrett's patent? The patent office
merely have to confirm that no one else previously has
registered the same idea. NOT that it will work.
> That is quite true and unfortunate that EVERY invention
does not require a working model before being granted, we should
all work to change this.
What about Garrett's demonstration to the press? I would say
that in his fanaticism Garrett was sure that he could equal
petrol fuelled propulsion, when he had got his invention 'just
right'. So meanwhile he could use an ordinary petrol fuelled
automobile to demonstrate.
> You do a disservice to a man you never knew or studied, he
was well respected by his peers as a prolific and excellent
inventor, you weren't there and assume everyone present was an
idiot incapable of detecting fraud. I think if Garrett was a
fanatic about it, this would have been noted and he would not
have dropped it so easily, we are not the only 'smart' humans to
have ever lived. Speaking of accomplishments and critiques
against respected inventors, what have YOU DONE?
His patent showed exactly how this thing would need to be made,
why did he refuse to let the reporters look at his automobile
> Patents RARELY give specific instructions for building as
everyone who builds should know, we do. In most patents I have
seen key items are left out and/or additional material is added
to confuse the design, so if you expect the patent to give you a
blueprint for perfect construction, I must inform you that you
are living in a dream world. You ASSUME again, none of the
articles state that he refused to let anyone examine the engine,
the carburetor or anything else. You have apparently worked
yourself into a frenzy of irrationality over this and begun
projecting your own views which are not supported by history or
facts. If its because Nexus would not publish your letter in
1998, I will forward this to Duncan as a charity case, perhaps
he will post it but I have nothing to do with whether they print
something or not. However, I have been a fan of Nexus and Duncan
since it first began and was sold only in Australia.
Garrett was deluded, near crazy, we never heard why his
invention never went into general use.
> Again ad hominem, undeserved and completely unwarranted
attacks against a well known and respected inventor of his time,
it never 'went into general use' according to the story told to
me by A.C. Greene because he felt cheated on his invention of
the 3 way automatic traffic light which was not covered by
So you will appreciate that when I read your 'Garrett' article,
I laughed to myself when you said you were considering trying to
make one. Did anyone else tell you?
> So too did I laugh to myself on reading the incredible
amount of time you put into this based on faulty memories and
lack of information where; 1 - you assume Garrett used only
hydrogen; 2 - you assume he cheated on the demonstration and
everyone then was too stupid or gullible to have checked out
possible fraud; 3 - you assume he was crazy and/or deluded based
on what??? 4 - you assume all the people and reporters at the
time were idiots; and would not have checked any of his claims
or his reputation; 5 - you assume you can only produce
electrolysis based on laws of 'great precision' which you quote
as using 3-4 volts but which in fact can run as low as 1.3 volts
generally 1.5 is the most efficient voltage; 6 - you mention
acidulated water but do not express the amount; which changes
the conductivity considerably as it increases; 7 - you fail to
realize he describes components to deal not only to adjust for
pressure but also vacuum; 8 - you assume a storage tank where
none exists since he made it 'on the fly', meaning as it was
required where current flow to the plates was controlled by a
throttle type rheostat; 9 - you conveniently ignore the
statement of a double sized electrical generator to provide
> In a PS, he writes many narrow pages that aren't properly
sequenced; Mr. Garrett never described any separation of the
hydrogen and oxygen gases from the differing potential plates.
Well, if the electrolytic tank was as big as his automobile, and
had hydrogen and oxygen in their most explosive proportions in
it, imagine a 'flash back' into the big tank. It would go off
like a bomb. I'm so sorry I was not there to save Mr. Garrett
from a lot of heartbreak and expense. The patent agent did a
good job on presenting the patent specification and drawings.
Cables to carry 30,000 amperes would be of area of copper of at
least 1.5 square inches, almost 4 inches square, if square, as
thick as your arm. How utterly ludicrous to think of two cables
as thick as your arm being bolted to Garrett's patent drawing of
his carburetor, or even to a 1 quart tank.
It would MELT at that current, IF it were able to pass. Oh dear
Jerry, you were 'impressed'.
> I remain impressed with Garrett because I can read the
details and not assume so much as to build a house of cards
which tumbles from its own incredible confused memories, almost
none of which are based on what Garrett really said or did or
what was reported clearly in the original document. I still want
to build one of his carburetors as closely as I can to the
patent but having the common sense (well, over here in the US at
least) to realize he probably left some detail out which the
article says took them 8 years to figure out completely. Now,
what have YOU DONE that remotely equals Garretts
accomplishments? It always sounds a warning bell for me when no
one can produce the same phenomena witnessed by so many and
under the same conditions yet are the first to yell fraud.
Thanks for writing, you are the weakest link, g'bye!
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