Stanley Meyer panned to rock the world, making headlines with his claim of having invented a car that could run solely on water. He called it “water fuel cell technology” and said that his invention could revolutionize the way we use energy.
Meyer’s story quickly gained attention and sparked curiosity among scientists and engineers worldwide. But did his invention really work? Was it even possible, and was there any science behind his claims at all?
Most ominously, were Meyer’s claims connected to his mysterious death? Was the scientific community right to be skeptical about his water-powered car? Or had he cracked the puzzle of alternative energy and was he silenced for his discovery?
The Science Behind His Invention
Anyone interested in car technology will tell you that engine design has been largely iterative, if not entirely stagnant, since the days of Henry Ford. We’ve made combustion engines more powerful (and sometimes more efficient) but that’s about it.
Stanley Meyers claimed to change this with his water-fuel cell-powered car. The science behind it sounded impressive and threatened to revolutionize the car industry well before the likes of Elon Musk came onto the scene and popularized electric power for cars. Unfortunately, almost everyone agreed that the science behind his technology was also impossible.
Meyer’s technology revolved around his “water fuel cell”. It was designed to take in minimal amounts of water which then ran an electric current run through it. This divided the water molecules into their respective elements of hydrogen and oxygen.
The hydrogen molecules were then captured and burnt, producing clean emissions that caused no damage to the environment. These emissions were then reconstituted with the oxygen molecules to produce water. This water then had an electrical current run through it again to split the molecules and then the hydrogen was once again burnt to produce energy. Rinse. Repeat.
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Essentially, Meyer had invented a perpetual motion machine where he kept burning the same hydrogen molecules to provide energy. The only problem was the science behind his invention was impossible. The process Meyers was using is called electrolysis and Meyer’s design performed it using less energy than conventional science stated was necessary.
The bigger issue was that his design violated several established Laws of Thermodynamics, never a good look in the scientific community. Specifically it broke both the first law, which states energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and second law which states that no process is 100% efficient, some energy is always lost as heat.
Simply put, anyone who has ever so much as glanced at a physics textbook knows that all such perpetual motion machines are impossible. There have been thousands upon thousands of attempts without a single success: Meyer’s car was just a more sophisticated version of the same impossible machine.
None of this stopped Meyer from touring the US displaying his impossible car. And, despite the fact it was clearly impossible, he soon drew the attention of investors. It seems that greed trumps science, and that there is one fool born every minute.
It took Meyer’s investors a little while to cotton on to the deception, but they were not happy when they did. In 1996 his investors sued him for fraud when they realized that his claims were false and that he was actually using someone else’s fuel cell technology and passing it off as his own.
There was also the fact that there was no evidence that his car actually ran. In court his fuel cell was examined by three expert witnesses who confirmed that his claims of a perpetual motion machine were false and that he was using pre-existing technology, adding fantastical claims, and claiming it as his own. Meyer lost the case and was found guilty of “gross and egregious fraud”.
A Strange Death
An investigation was held by the Grove City police force with the aid of the Franklin County Coroner. The coroner’s report ruled that Meyer had died of a cerebral aneurysm due to natural causes; Meyer did have a history of high blood pressure.
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As such, there was nothing particularly surprising about Meyer’s death on the surface. A 57-year-old businessman with a history of high blood pressure dying from an aneurysm after being sued by two of his investors for fraud doesn’t sound particularly suspicious. Right?
Well, many of Meyer’s supporters disagreed. Despite the scientific evidence that Meyer’s invention was impossible, and that Meyer was essentially a conman, lots of people had fallen for his ruse. Even after the court case, they refused to believe he was a fraud.
They honestly believed Meyer had built something that would bring big oil to its knees and revolutionize the world. It was clear to them Meyer’s invention had gotten him murdered.
It was claimed that Meyer was assassinated to suppress his inventions and to stop his fuel cell technology from being made public. As such, the suspects range from the boards of major car manufacturers to oil companies and even the government.
Some people suspected that it was his two Belgian investors themselves who carried out the hit. Phillipe Vandemoortele, one of these investors, has always been puzzled by this. He has stated that he’d been supporting Meyer for years and considered him a close friend. He had no reason to kill him and is genuinely confused as to why so many people suspect him of killing Meyer.
So, what’s the truth? Death by natural causes or foul play? This conspiracy theory seems clear-cut. Meyer died of natural causes. Yet another middle-aged victim of a stressful lifestyle and unhealthy eating.
Of course, his followers believe to this day that he was murdered for his technology. But the simple fact is Meyer’s patents have all expired and his inventions are in the public domain. So killing him to suppress the technology makes no sense, it achieved nothing. His death hid nothing and only brought more attention to his work.
Even ignoring the fact that this technology was impossible (and repeatedly proven to be fraudulent), it’s now available to use and develop, royalty-free. To this day no engine or vehicle manufacturer has incorporated any of Meyer’s designs into their products.
Top Image: Stanley Meyer promised the car of the future, with investors seemingly undeterred by the fact his designs didn’t, and couldn’t, work. Source: Travel Drawn / Abode Stock.