2008 Kawasaki Hydrogen-Powered ZX-10R - Homemade Hydrogen Bomb

Derby City Customs does what no OEM has dared do yet By Tim Carrithers
Photography by Derby City Customs

In the spirit of The Astronaut Farmer, bathtub fusion and better living through chemistry, we present every ninth-grade science geek's second-string fantasy: the hydrogen-powered ZX-10R. If you thought hydrogen propulsion was only for fuel-cell engineers, theoretical chemists and other pocket-protector types, think again. Vaguely dissatisfied with the standard '08 Kawasaki, Jeremy Cantwell and the other insurrectionists at Derby City Customs in Louisville, Kentucky, built something meaner and greener for this year's SEMA Show.

That's no margarita mixer sticking out of the extended swingarm. It's a handmade hydrogen generator that liberates hydrogen from distilled water through the natural miracle of electrolysis. Just add a little baking soda every 2000 miles as an electrolyzer and you're good to go. "We took it beyond the Mason-jar level," Cantwell tells us. As opposed to more complicated on-demand systems, this one produces the highly flammable diatomic gas as long as the ignition is switched on. Vacuum-fed hydrogen theoretically allows the engine to produce more power with less fuel, producing nothing more obnoxious than water when it's burned.

According to Cantwell, enhancing internal combustion with hydrogen bumped the stock ZX-10R's peak horsepower from 165 to an impressive 179. Average fuel mileage also jumped from 40 to 55 miles per gallon.

We freely admit that a steady supply of a flammable gas flowing into the airbox makes us nervous, so unless you're keen on a suburban reenactment of the Hindenburg disaster, don't try this at home. But good on the Derby City boys for working out all the details. A K&N; filter keeps incoming atmosphere clean, and an M4 pipe gets rid of exhaust effluent with maximum efficiency.

Better him than us.

A swingarm-mounted hydrogen generator boosts this hot rod hybrid.