The Car That Runs

Pak­istan’s in­fa­mous car that runs on wa­ter has run into harsh criticism from sci­en­tists and ex­perts around the world, de­spite be­ing sup­ported by some at home.

Southasia - - Science and technology - By Suha Jafri

Pak­istan of­ten finds it­self bat­tling hard against neg­a­tive in­ter­na­tional per­cep­tions. Most re­cently, a ground break­ing sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery once again brought this strug­gling coun­try in to the lime­light. Though na­tional play­ers in­stantly ap­plauded the dis­cov­ery, the medi­ocre sci­ence and fraud­u­lent meth­ods be­hind it, soon be­came ap­par­ent.

Some two months ago, Agha Waqar Ahmed, an en­gi­neer from Khair­pur, a small town in Pak­istan claimed that he could run a car on wa- ter. The news spread like wild fire and im­me­di­ately caught al­most ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion, locally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. Waqar as­serted that he had suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped a kit that splits the molec­u­lar com­po­si­tion of wa­ter into its parts: hy­dro­gen and oxy­gen. The hy­dro­gen and oxy­gen atoms are then com­bined again thus gen­er­at­ing the suf­fi­cient en­ergy re­quired to power a car on its own. Em­bold­ened by his in­ven­tion, Waqar went onto to pub­licly claim that the en­tire coun­try could be run on this model, pro­vid­ing re­lief to the peo­ple of Pak­istan, in­stantly solv­ing the pro­longed en­ergy cri­sis as well as cre­at­ing thou­sands of jobs.

The claims of the pro­fessed in­ven­tor and a grad­u­ate in me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing from a small tech­ni­cal col­lege in Khair­pur have re­ceived a mixed re­ac­tion. Heav­ily crit­i­cised by in­tel­lec­tu­als and sci­en­tists around the world, Waqar’s dis­cov­ery has also been en­dorsed by well-es­tab­lished sci­en­tists, po­lit­i­cal and me­dia fig­ures at home. So what has caused this ar­ray of re­ac­tions and on what ba­sis are some ex­perts con­fi­dently claim­ing that the con­cept is flawed?

Sci­en­tific ba­sics state that com­bin­ing hy­dro­gen and oxy­gen gen­er­ates en­ergy. The wa­ter-kit claims to first use the wa­ter from the car’s bat­tery to break down the wa­ter mol­e­cules and then use an­other process to com­bine them, thus gen­er­at­ing en­ergy. De­spite ap­pear­ing as a rea­son­ably sim­ple process, it has never been used be­fore or ever be­cause it is in­deed im­pos­si­ble. The law of con­ser­va­tion of en­ergy clearly states that en­ergy can­not be cre­ated or de­stroyed, but can only change from one form to an­other. For a car to move, stored en­ergy from fuel is con­verted into ki­netic en­ergy. En­gi­neers re­fer to this as the first law of ther­mo­dy­nam­ics. The wa­ter kit, how­ever, seems to be in vi­o­la­tion of this be­cause, as men­tioned above, it claims to be cre­at­ing en­ergy rather than con­vert­ing it.

To most peo­ple this the­ory comes across as too sci­en­tific and ex­tremely com­pli­cated. In sim­ple terms then, the wa­ter kit is crit­i­cised for go­ing against the ba­sic laws of sci­ence, which are also the ba­sic laws of na­ture.

De­spite the flaws out­lined by na­tional and in­ter­na­tional crit­ics, some in Pak­istan read­ily ex­pressed sup­port for this car that runs on wa­ter and hailed Waqar as a suc­cess­ful in­ven­tor. No­tably, Min­is­ter for Reli­gious Af­fairs, Syed Khur­shid Ah­mad Shah ex­pressed sup­port for Agha Waqar Ah­mad on tele­vi­sion and made him a na­tional hero. Sev­eral other fed­eral min­is­ters also ex­tended their sup­port for the idea. Sur­pris­ingly, even some of the finest Pak­istani sci­en­tists, in­clud­ing A.Q.Khan en­dorsed the ‘dis­cov­ery. ‘It is ap­palling how men of high aca­demic cal­i­bre can con­ve­niently dis­miss the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples that this con­cept is said to be vi­o­lat­ing. The field of sci­ence has wit­nessed ma­jor break­throughs over the past few decades and surely the con­cept of wa­ter serv­ing as a source of fuel has been put to test many times, yield­ing at­tempts that re­main fu­tile.

What is in­ter­est­ing is that this tiny ‘ray of hope’ emerged amidst a very del­i­cate sit­u­a­tion: the power ri­ots.

Peo­ple across the coun­try were vent­ing their frus­tra­tions over pro­longed power cuts and load shed­ding with vi­o­lent street protests erupt­ing left right and cen­tre. Dur­ing such trou­bled times, a dis­cov­ery that could po­ten­tially elim­i­nate the peo­ple’s most press­ing woes, served the pur­pose of a tiny ray of hope that was des­per­ately needed. Is that the rea­son why prom­i­nent per­son­al­i­ties went to such great lengths to en­dorse an al­most im­pos­si­ble idea? It makes sense that peo­ple saw Agha Waqar Ah­mad as a na­tional hero be­cause he seemed to be the only per­son who had a so­lu­tion to their mis­ery, no mat­ter how flawed. The cur­rent gov­ern­ment, and many oth­ers be­fore them, have tried to find a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to the en­ergy cri­sis that Pak­istan faces, but no one be­sides the en­gi­neer from Khair­pur has had any an­swer.

Are some sci­en­tists and lead­ers then sim­ply ig­nor­ing sci­ence and the laws of na­ture or is em­brac­ing such a non-plau­si­ble the­ory the only a way of pre­vent­ing fur­ther ri­ots? Some wise aca­demics in Pak­istan, in­clud­ing Dr Pervez Hoodb­hoy, have con­sis­tently been highly scep­ti­cal of the claims made by Agha Waqar and have pub­lished ar­ti­cles pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence that fal­si­fies this con­cept.

The in­ter­na­tional world has also crit­i­cised the claims laid by Waqar. Var­i­ous sci­en­tists across the globe have in­vested their time and re­search in try­ing to use wa­ter as a source of en­ergy and have con­cluded, af­ter sev­eral failed at­tempts, that wa­ter alone can­not be a source of en­ergy. The in­ven­tion of hy­brid elec­tric ve­hi­cles is def­i­nitely a step for­ward in sav­ing the planet but those too re­quire a com­bi­na­tion of gasoline and elec­tric­ity. They too are not en­tirely pol­lu­tion free but are cer­tainly a more promis­ing, re­li­able and econ­omy friendly modes of trans­port.

No one has so far been suc­cess­ful in us­ing wa­ter as the sole source of en­ergy pro­vi­sion and if Agha Waqar is able to prove his break­through dis­cov­ery, then hats off to him for that! Suha Jafri holds a BA Hon­ors in Pol­i­tics and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions from The Univer­sity of Manch­ester. She is cur­rently pur­su­ing a pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ism qual­i­fi­ca­tion in the UK.



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