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The EPA issued new rules to increase fuel efficiency by nearly one-third for cars and light trucks by 2026. (AP) The EPA issued new rules to increase fuel efficiency by nearly one-third for cars and light trucks by 2026. (AP)

The EPA issued new rules to increase fuel efficiency by nearly one-third for cars and light trucks by 2026. (AP)

Michael Majchrowicz
By Michael Majchrowicz August 31, 2022

Claim of water-fueled dune buggy defies physics

If Your Time is short

  • Late inventor Stanley Meyer claimed to have invented a means to convert water into usable fuel. But the process he detailed has never been supported by science, and physicists say it’s an impossibility.

An Instagram post showing dated news footage of late inventor Stanley Meyer talking about his "water fuel cell" is recirculating a decades-old claim by Meyer that water could be converted into fuel to power automobile engines.

Beyond that, the post — via superimposed text stretched across the video — echoes a statement Meyer made during the news interview in which he claimed 22 gallons of water could fuel a dune buggy enough to drive from Los Angeles to New York.

"Water has always been considered a precious commodity, but Stan Meyers’ invention may make it even more valuable. He has developed what he calls a water fuel cell," the interviewer says in the segment. "It has taken the place of his old gas tank. The water fuel cell breaks down water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is used to run his dune buggy."

Not so fast, say energy wonks and physicists.

This post was flagged as part of efforts by Facebook, which owns Instagram, to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Iterations of this claim have been debunked numerous times by fact-checkers (such as here and here) and debunked across the board.

"Water cannot be burned as hydrocarbon fuels (petrol, ethanol, natural gas) or hydrogen," Hua Zhao, vice provost and dean of the engineering college at Brunel University London, told Agence France-Presse in 2019.

Zhao said the hydrogen atoms in water molecules are bonded to oxygen atoms and it would take energy (typically by electrolysis) to release these hydrogen atoms so they could be burned as motor fuel.

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"The energy required to break those bonds between hydrogen and oxygen in water will always take more energy than the energy needed to get them together in a fuel cell or produced by the engine," Zhao said.

Meyer, who had no formal scientific experience or credentials, died of a brain aneurysm in 1998. He claimed that his "water fuel cell" worked by taking the water and breaking itf hydrogen and oxygen and that the hydrogen could be used to fuel a car engine.

Meyer’s claim seemed to defy thermodynamic principles. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can’t be created or destroyed, and that when it’s transferred from one form to another, the final state can't be greater than the original state.

"Water is not a fuel. It never has been one, and it never will be one," longtime science writer Philip Ball wrote in 2007 for the London-based scientific journal Nature. "Water does not burn. Water is already burnt — it is spent fuel. It is exhaust."

Our ruling

An Instagram post showing a dated news broadcast in which inventor Stanley Meyer claims his "water fuel cell" could convert water into fuel and power an automobile engine. Meyer insisted someone could drive from Los Angeles to New York on 22 gallons of water using his invention.

The claim has circulated in varying forms over the years and has been consistently debunked.

We could find no evidence that water can be used as a fuel source. Such a feat would contradict thermodynamics.

We rate this claim False.


Our Sources

Instagram post, Aug. 30, 2022 (archived)

YouTube, original WTVN-TV newscast broadcast on unknown date. Republished Aug. 8, 2015, accessed Aug. 31, 2022 

Nature, "Burning water and other myths," Sept. 14, 2007

Britannica, "Thermodynamics: Laws, definition, & equations," accessed Aug. 31, 2022

Climate Feedback, "A ‘water-powered’ car still requires other forms of fuel to work; it cannot run solely on water, contrary to viral Facebook video claims," March 15, 2021

PolitiFact, "No, Stanley Meyer was not assassinated by the Pentagon," June 3, 2021

Agence France-Presse, "No, a car cannot be run on energy produced from water," Jan. 29, 2019

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Claim of water-fueled dune buggy defies physics

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