Monte Davis doesn’t look like a magician.
The Surprise resident doesn’t carry a wand and prefers a ballcap to a top hat. He can’t pull a rabbit out of his hat.
However, the 62-year-old retiree may have a way to make those high prices at the gasoline pumps disappear.
“My wife likes what I’m doing,” said Davis, who moved from South Dakota to Surprise in October. “It keeps me out of the house and in the garage.”
Davis uses simple household items such as baking soda, distilled water and Mason jars to build hydrogen fuel cells, which he installs as fuel-saving devices on vehicles.
The Surprise man does it all out of the garage at his home on Ironwood Street.
“I’m not in this as a get-rich proposition,” said Davis, who worked for 34 years as a federal prison system employee in South Dakota. “I started looking into this in 2001 when gas prices went up.”
Davis lived on a farm in rural South Dakota and began researching ways to save money for his personal vehicles.
He initally thought about pursuing diesel, then discovered several Internet articles extolling the virtues of hyrdrogen-enhanced vehicles.
“I started messing around in my garage, and my first attempts were terrible,” Davis recalled. “I was using stretched wire and it didn’t work well.
“Then, I switched to stainless steel parts, and that changed everything.”
Davis attached the fuel cells to his own vehicles and noticed immediate improvements in gas mileage. The hydrogen fuel cells also help the car engine burn cleaner, emitting water out of the gas pipe instead of carbon dioxide.
“There’s no footprint in the sky,” Davis said. “It’s more efficient, and it’s better for the environment.”
Word of mouth spread to neighbors in South Dakota.
One of his clients was Tom Stritecky, who owns Waterbury Heating and Cooling in Sioux Falls.
“My wife heard him speak at a luncheon, and she told me I needed to check him out,” Stritecky said. “His units were still pretty primitive at the time, but we saved 2 to 3 miles per gallon on six to eight of our vehicles.
“That may not sound like a lot, but it is when you consider the big picture.”
Davis’ move to Arizona last October also coincided with a rise in gas prices.
That’s when he went back to his garage to build more fuel cells. He’s improved on his original designs and now calls his business Arizona Hydrogen.
In addition to his own vehicle, he also installed the hydrogen fuel cells on his brother’s car, a 1999 Pontiac Bonneville.
“When I first heard about it, I thought he was a con artist,” Bill Davis said. “But then he showed me how it’s done, and I’ve seen the results.”
Prior to the installation of the hydrogen fuel cells, the Bonneville averaged 17.6 miles per gallon of gas. Now, the same car is averaging 27 miles a gallon.
“If gas were $4 a gallon, I just made a 60 percent improvement in fuel efficiency,” Monte Davis said. “That’s like saving $1.25 a gallon.”
Costs vary for installation, ranging anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on the vehicle. The fuel cells work for diesel, as well as gasoline-powered engines.
Davis said maintenance must be performed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles on the hydrogen-fuel cells, basically adding some of the mixture of baking soda and distilled water to the Mason jars.
“I show everyone what they need to do, and they can do it themselves,” Davis said. “On the plus side, since their vehicles are running cleaner, they won’t need an oil change for 10,000 to 12,000 miles.”
Davis welcomes interested persons to contact him to learn more about hydrogen-fuel cells. His goal is to help wean Americans off fossil fuels and leave a better environment for the next generation.
“This doesn’t work on every car, and it may not be everyone’s cookie,” Davis said. “But I’m willing to help anyone who wants to learn more about it.”’
Davis may be reached at 623-242-9024 or 480-427-1213. He’s also available at firstname.lastname@example.org.