Vroom!

By Phil Plait | November 12, 2007 3:33 pm

Via Kos comes the story of Johnathan Goodwin, a guy who may revolutionize cars: he’s tricked out one car to get 600 horsepower, 60 miles to the gallon, 2,000 foot-pounds of torque, and will do 0 to 60 is five seconds.

Did I mention that car is actually a 5000 pound Hummer?

If this story is true (and it appears to be so) then this is amazing. The mods this guy makes retrofit cars to use biofuel, which is fraught with controversy… but if the efficiencies quoted are accurate, it will still make a huge impact on the car industry.

I have owned American cars in the past, and found them to be far too much trouble. Even when we bought new cars there were bad issues right off the rack, customer service was awful (with one issue we got buck-passed constantly between the manufacturer and the service station, each blaming the other for the problem… once we got them to admit there even was a problem), repair times long, and even minor fixes expensive. I now own a Volvo, which I love. I wish the gas mileage were higher, of course, but I hardly drive it anyway. It’s not hard to imagine a lot of people in my situation, though.

I’d prefer to drive an American vehicle all things being equal, but all things are not equal. I have heard too much whining from Detroit and not enough innovation. Maybe Goodwin can change their attitude. If not, I bet a lot of folks at GM and Ford will be working for him someday.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff

Comments (85)

  1. Eric A

    Er, BA? You do know that Volvo is mostly owned by Ford?? So technically you do own an American car…

    Dr E

  2. Lettuce

    Yeah, what the other poster said….

    You realize that’s a Ford, right?

    In fact, it may be a Ford Focus.

  3. Sespetoxri

    Phil, don’t feel bad. It’s not like your ‘American’ cars are necessarily American anymore, nor your ‘foreign’ cars built elsewhere. Many imports are built here in the USA and most American cars are built in either Mexico or Canada.

    Take a look at the Vin number on your car- if it starts with a ‘1’, it’s built in the USA. If it’s built in Mexico, it gets a 3. 2 would be in Canada. Amazingly enough when I worked for Nissan I sold a line of vehicles built predominately here in the USA and while I worked for Chevy, I was shilling cars built in Mexico and Canada.

    Your Volvo country of origin could be determined by looking at the first number in your Vin and consulting this chart – http://www.autohausaz.com/volvo-auto-parts/volvo-vehicle-identification-numbers.html

    So, basically you either supported the USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea, England, Germany or Italy. Or if you bought it used, you supported the guy in the cheap sports coat (like me!).

  4. If you want to simulate buying an American brand vehicle, simply buy an East Asian one, drive it off the lot, withdraw several thousand dollars in cash from the bank and set fire to it.

  5. John

    So, he’s going to make a 20+ year old surplus turbine engine super-efficient, so exponentially more efficient even that by adding a whole ‘nother layer of energy losses in electrical conversion, charging, motor controller, etc., that he’ll still wind up with 600 hp at the end of it all, while using a minor fraction of the fuel energy as the piston engine that was in there… You’d think Boeing or someone might have figured this out by now. Thank God we have uneducated backyard mechanic nut jobs to set them straight.

  6. JB of Brisbane

    It’s a pity Ford America doesn’t design and build cars as good as Volvo does. Heck, even Ford Australia and General Motors-Holden build cars better than most of what comes out of the Good Ol’ U.S. of A.

    What worries me about this revoloutionary new power source is that it is a turbine. Turbines have been tried out in various land vehicles before, from racing cars to the Union Pacific’s “Big Blow” units, with limited success. Piston engines usually attain their best torque, and therefore their best economy, at a much lower rev count than where they generate their best power, whereas turbines get their best torque at zero rpm and become more and more efficient the faster they can spin. This is why we don’t have turbine-powered cars, or diesel-powered airplanes. Perhaps it might work as a turbine-electric hybrid…

    Other contributors, feel free to put me right if you think I have the story back to front.

  7. Daffy

    I just read that Iceland is using hydrogen fuel cell cars. Interesting, that.

  8. Crux Australis

    Bring back the nuclear powered car!

  9. Eric Gunnerson

    So, turbines are very fuel efficient, because with heat engines efficiency goes up as temperature goes up. Gasoline engines are somewhere on the order of 20-30% efficient. Turbines can get into the 60% range when used for power generation.

    So, *at best*, you could get something like a 3x improvement in fuel economy, so the idea that you could get 60 MPH out of a hummer seems impossible.

    In reality, you have to start up the turbine, heat it up, and then shut it down – during those times it’s less efficient – and you’re going to pay the conversion efficiency from mechanical to electrical and back again.

    So, perhaps you can get 2x out of it, though I’m not sure you can. But turbines aren’t known for their low cost.

    I’d really like to see a real analysis on this.

  10. I only buy Honda now. They last forever and have little problems. My wife’s Honda Civic is a 1998 and it’s only been to the shop for oil changes and other regular checks. They could get better gas mileage, but I’m not complaining.

  11. Kyle Huff

    The needle on my B.S. detector just broke. Thanks a lot.

  12. Quiet_Desperation

    CERT ADVISORY! SKEPTICAL BREAKDOWN ALERT ON BAD ASTRONOMY SITE!

    What happened to extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence????? Even Kos has a subsequent article questioning the original story. Maybe he has had a breakthrough, but when a Google search’s first 100 hits are amateur blogs, I’m inclined to wait and see.

    Y’all realize there is a hard, physical limit to how much work a gallon of gas can do in the form of moving a mass from one place to another, right?

    And Chrysler built a turbine car in the 1960s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Turbine_Car

    And it sounds like you had a bad dealer, Phil. I could give my friend’s horror story with a BMW dealer, but it’s all anecdotal.

    Current top 5 midsize cars in dependability

    1. Buick Century
    2. Buick Regal
    3. Mercury Sable
    4. Honda Accord
    5. Toyota Camry Sedan

    It you want a real adventure in quality problems, buy a Mercedes. I can’t figure out what happened to them, and the MB owners at my work ALL have service tales from the darkside. They’re all going Japanese or Buick or Cadillac for their next cars.

    >”But turbines aren’t known for their low cost.”

    Or their load following, which seems a more important factor in this claim, but I shall leave it to the experts as I have reached the end of my meager expertise on the subject.

  13. Quiet_Desperation

    > “My wife’s Honda Civic is a 1998 and it’s only been to the shop for oil changes and other regular checks.”

    http://www.mycarstats.com/auto_Complaints/HONDA_CIVIC_Complaints.asp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence

  14. LarrySDonald

    Wacky thing is Volvo were (and perhaps are) entry level cars back in Sweden. The old junkers we’d work on were all volvos, kind of the ’73 fairlane I started with here, new enough to not be a classic, old enough that you could still reach around the parts without taking apart a 3d jigsaw puzzle. That was all pre-ford o’course.

    I was going to yell instant BS on the specs, but then turbines are crazy efficient, possibly to that point on those particular key numbers. I wonder about startup time (turbines don’t start on a dime) and response though. I’m sure there’s more to it, but internatl combustion can in no way compete with turbines on the key numbers. Perhaps using them for a hybrid, perhaps with CVT will aleviate the normal problems. They’re great for high HP/fuel but not so splendid for generating low HP when needed. Still, skeptical. Sure, if he can demonstrate that he can actually drive 30 mph with start and stops without going at the same MPG as with full blast bottom out, I’ll cheer. Turbines usually don’t swing that way, but with the right combo of intelligent design (wow, I said it, but here from actual human intelligence) and shut down/start up leveraging into electric, well.. Ok, I’m still skeptical – need more but good luck and I’m not dismissing out of hand. I doubt it’d be a true hybrid in the sense of running off the turbine though, unless he has some very novel tech, running at crazy loads or only using it at the very very peak. That’s the main issue with turbines, if you *need* HP and torque out the.. you know what, then they’re very efficient. Don’t need it, well, they’re pretty much going to generate it anyway unless you care to rebuild it first.

  15. Bob Atchison

    Folks this is the real deal, no BS. The guy was on the cover of Fast Company magazine last month. You can see detail here: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/120/motorhead-messiah.html

    He has apparently done mods for Ahnold The Governator and several movie stars.

    – Bob

  16. Dave M

    I remember way back to the 60’s and 70’s when every other week some crackpot would announce that he had invented a carburettor that would do 100MPG in a full sized sedan.

    When pressed for proof, the crackpot would say that he had sold the secret to an oil company and was forbidden to ever speak a word about how it worked.

    This is a real piece of deja-voodoo.

  17. DLC

    I am reluctant to comment, but :
    Phil, this is just another “80MPG Carburetor” story.
    First off , used cooking oil is not ‘grease’ and is not more viscous than petrochemical oil of a similar weight. Nor is it “more lubricating.”
    Nor would this “Additional lubrication” silence a diesel engine.
    Diesel engines work by compression ignition, which is the source of the noise you hear when a diesel powered vehicle rolls by. This source of sound can be muffled, but would not be nullified by using biodiesel.

    As for the 60MPG turbine-electric : I’ll repeat what was posted before — Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    for those interested in diesel engines, wikipedia has a messy but somewhat complete article here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diesel_engine

  18. Richard L

    I think these results need proper verification over a few thousand miles. I doubt that used vegtable oil has the energy content to produce the figures claimed.

    I must say I am a bit suprised the BADAstronomer hasn’t questioned the results a bit more. By the way, I hope I am wrong and it can produce the figures claimed.

  19. Ktesibios

    Back in the late ’70s I read an article in either Popular Mechanics or Popular Science about a professor of mechanical engineering at a midwestern university who, with a team of grad students, had converted a van into a turbine-electric hybrid as a research project.

    His theory was that in normal service the only times a car engine comes anywhere close to delivering its full rated power is when accelerating quickly- jumping on the freeway, passing at highway speeds, etc. Most of the time the engine is loafing and not operating at maximum efficiency. The article said that simply keeping the van moving, even at freeway speeds, required only about 20 hp.

    The turbine engine-generator combination ran at a constant speed calculated to yield its maximum efficiency and could produce somewhat more than the power needed for ordinary driving continuously; the excess energy was stored in the van’s battery bank and could be drawn on for short bursts of high-power operation, as when passing or getting on the freeway. Series-wound traction motors can produce lots and lots of torque and also can produce outputs several times their continuous rating for a short period. This is why the starter motor in a car can do its job- cranking the engine would be a grievous, destructive overload if done continuously, but normally the engine starts before the starter motor can heat up to dangerous temperatures.

    I don’t know how that van ultimately worked out, but the idea of a turbine-electric hybrid isn’t brand new and there’s at least some theory which predicts some advantages to it.

    BTW, I do remember that the article said that the professor got pulled over a lot- by curious cops who wanted to know how his van could be so quiet.

  20. He has apparently done mods for Ahnold The Governator and several movie stars.

    And yet again the people who CAN spend money get to spend less, and those who don’t have much disposable income can’t afford the switch.

    Ah, America.

  21. Bob Atchison says: “Folks this is the real deal, no BS.”

    I don’t believe it, but I’m willing to be convinced.

    I didn’t think that gas turbines are as efficient as some of the posts above me mention. I thought the overall efficiency was 45% to 50%, not 60%.

    The biggest problems with a turbine for a consumer product are, as previously mentioned, start-up and shut down. You aren’t going to be able to hop in, twist the key and drive off. Conversely, you can’t just pull into the garage, twist it the other way and start unloading the groceries. Even if they could automate these operations to the point that you don’t need an engineering degree from the Mojave Test Pilot School to operate it, I doubt very seriously that the average car buyer would tolerate a five minute start-up and one minute shut-down procedure.

    Also, one of the biggest problems with the Chrysler turbine, according to the average drivers selected to test it, was “throttle” response (I put throttle in quotes because turbines don’t have one). They make huge amounts of power…eventually, but getting going from a stop feels like a 4,000 lb Yugo.

    Turbines have minor problems with noise and exhaust, which are sort of related. They “process” huge amounts of air while operating, which has to be dumped outside someplace where it won’t blow nearby pedestrians off the sidewalk. And muffling this, uh, jet stream can’t be done by conventional methods of baffling the flow since it will choke off the exit.

    There’s also the not-so-minor problem of safety. If someone runs a standard recip engine off the red end of the speed scale, the worst that can happen is a thrown rod through the side of the block. Expensive, but not especially dangerous. A turbine, though, spins in the high tens of thousands of RPM (maybe higher depending on size). When I was at Applied Materials, I was part of a safety project to see how much we had to guard against a catastrophic turbo pump failure (the rotor section of a turbo pump is just like a turbine compressor) when the semiconductor industry was migrating to 300mm wafers in their chip making equipment (bigger wafers mean bigger chambers and bigger pumps to evacuate them).

    We were testing a pump with a rotor approximately 250mm in diameter. Several of the blades had been weakened at their roots to cause them to fail once the pump reached speed (about 60,000 RPM). The test was really to see how well the mating flange would survive when 40 Kg of spinning rotor suddenly came to a screeching halt. The test setup was surrounded by sheets of 1″ (2 cm) thick plywood for shielding. When the pump hit speed, the weakened blades separated as expected…then proceeded to fly through the armored pump casing, the plywood “shield” and embed themselves in the metal walls of the test room. They were joined by not a few members of their non-weakened brethren as those sheared off when contacting the inner case wall.

    But in the case of the 5,000 lb, 60 MPG, 5 second 0-60 Hummer, I am, as I said, willing to be convinced. All you have to do is show me a regular driver get those numbers over, say, six months of driving.

    – Jack

    PS – For the list of turbine powered ground vehicles, don’t forget the Abrams M-1 main battle tank.

  22. TW

    A odd paradox for many is that when you give them more energy efficient technology they use it more so the net consumption remains unchanged. Best seen in construction where improvements in heating led to bigger houses.

  23. One Eyed Jack

    Very disappointed, BA. Whether this article is true or not, you seem to have tossed your skepticism aside.

    Like others, I hope it is true, but it just has that suspicious smell about it.

    OEJ

  24. Chip

    I got to ride in the Chrysler turbine at the 1964 World’s Fair. Of course as a kid I didn’t care about or notice slow acceleration – it just sounded cool and “looked modern.” It was very much of its time – the smell of fresh vinyl inside. The Chrysler was never offered to the public but I think Rover built and marketed a turbine powered car. My family owned MGs and old Jags, so I know all about cool-but-temperamental motoring, and oil stained driveways.

  25. My biggest question about the turbine-electric hybrid is the “super-capacitor” batteries. Who makes them, how good are they, and what do they cost?

    That said, the whole concept seems perfectly viable to me, assuming cost as no object.

    If you want to factor in cost, it’s legitimately possible to build 30+mpg full-size hybrids today, but they wouldn’t be sexy in the marketing department, so they’d be a tough sell to the average American.

    (Just put in an electric motor and some batteries for use while accelerating, and a very small, efficient 4-cylinder engine to keep the car at a set cruising speed. It should be possible to build a perfectly drivable 40+mpg chevy blazer, or a 25+mpg crown vic this way. More if you use something like a motorcycle v4 as the power.)

  26. Jack Hagerty: One thing I’d note about your post, you seem to be talking about vehicles where turbines provide the power directly. The article implies that the turbine would simply be auto-fired as a way to recharge the batteries for the electric motors.

    I’ve been familiar with this guy’s work for a while, and I do believe it’s legitimate.

  27. Paul G

    Wow, disappointing post from the BA. As a Engineer, these type of stories are just horrible to read. This must be my equivalent of someone asking Phil, “Why don’t they just point Hubble at the Apollo landing sites?” It’s just so wrong on so many levels that you don’t even know where to start.

  28. Greg

    I heard about those 100mpg scams and that’s usually what I think of when I see this (I’m not en engineer, not even close.) But hasn’t this guy actually produced drivable vehicles using his ideas? I admit it, I’d love for something like this to be true.

    “After five days’ worth of work, the Hummer was getting about 18 mpg–double the factory 9 mpg–and twice the original horsepower. He drove it over to a local restaurant and mooched some discarded oil from its deep fryer, strained the oil through a pair of jeans, and poured it into the engine. It ran perfectly.”

    If this is true it’s amazing. Is it true? Did he feed the writer a good story? How can this be verified? Here’s another one, same questions.

  29. Kevin Way says: “Jack Hagerty: One thing I’d note about your
    > post, you seem to be talking about vehicles where turbines
    > provide the power directly. The article implies that the turbine
    > would simply be auto-fired as a way to recharge the batteries
    > for the electric motors.

    You are correct on both counts, but my post was getting too long so I didn’t address it. If you want to add the mechanical–>electrical–>mechanical conversion then your overall thermal efficiency drops to about 80% of what it was with the straight mechanical drive (mechanical/electrical and electrical/mechanical conversions are both about 90% efficient). This also implies you’d need a sizable battery pack to let you drive in pure electric mode while the turbine is warming up, but what’s another half ton in a Hummer? The real hit is in efficiency. Putting the electrical–>chemical–>electrical conversion path into the the previous one drops your efficiency even more. Both of those conversions are the worst part about electric cars as it’s about 85% both ways, or about 74% of the straight-to-the-motor electric path.

    Bottom line:

    Straight mechanical drive: 50% thermal efficiency (i.e. half the energy in the fuel goes to moving the car, the rest goes out the exhaust and radiator as heat). By comparison, modern piston engines are about 35%.

    Mechanical–>electrical–>mechanical drive: 50% x 90% x 90% = 41% thermal efficiency.

    Mechanical–>electrical–>chemical–>electrical–>mechanical drive: 50% x 90% x 85% x 85% x 90% = 29% thermal efficiency.

    By adding the electric motor you’re down to about half of the efficiency of the straight mechanical drive. You do, however, get some of this back through regenerative braking.

    > I’ve been familiar with this guy’s work for a while, and I do
    > believe it’s legitimate.

    Like I said, I’m willing to be convinced.

    Just for the record, my automotive stable consists of:

    1974 Alfa GTV – My college graduation present to myself and my daily driver for 33 years. Noisy, rough, harsh and I love every minute I’m driving it! Planning to roll over 500,000 miles next year.

    1984 Saab 900 – Solid as a rock, safe as a bank vault. They way Saab built them when they were really “born from jets”, before being absorbed into the evil empire (GM). Served 21 years as family transportation. Currently my son’s ride.

    2005 Toyota Prius – The wife’s car and the current pinnacle of production automotive technology. I call it my spaceship. Not even a key to twist! Just sit down, push a button and drive off. Everything is drive-by-wire. It gets an honest 48 mpg under all conditions for the two years we’ve had it. Those of you waiting for “The Saucer Fleet” will get a peek at it in the author’s mug shot.

    – Jack

  30. Alex

    Chip:-

    “I think Rover built and marketed a turbine powered car”

    In fact a whole series of them from the late forties, one of which took part in the Le Mans race and finished (unofficially) in the top 10.

    The Rover Jet-1 has been on display in the Science Museum in London for years.

    There’s more on them here:-
    http://www.rover.org.nz/pages/jet/jet5.htm

    I think one of the big developments since those days is the ability to make much smaller turbine engines, even small enough to power model planes. There’s been interest in using these in hybrid vehicles, including buses, for some time now.

  31. Shoeshine Boy

    I’d personally take anything written in FastCompany with a grain of salt. My previous employer joined the FC bandwagon in the late 90’s and promptly drove the company into the ground…before the dot-com crash! FC may not have been the main reason, but I’m convinced that the BS slogans and platitudes contributed to the downfall.

    To add my voice to the chorus, I’d love for this story to be true but find the BA’s lack of skepticism unsettling.

  32. Dan

    I agree that the claims this guy is making are a bit outlandish, however theres one minor issue with turbines engines that I’m surprised nobody has brought up yet. Turbine engines are not very practical because they are VERY LOUD. I have the misfortune of living next door to a harley owner, but If you think thats bad, imagine waking up every morning to the sound of a jet engine. Also the energy content of biodiesel is less than regular diesel so his claim about the energy output improvement is very suspect.

  33. Tom

    Hope its true, but doubt it. Hope that there was more than a quick Google search to verify it before posting. The fact that the mechanic has been featured on magazine covers and worked for celebrity politicians makes me doubt it more. Thanks to the others who posted their skepticism first.

  34. Murff

    Starting and stopping a jet engine is not a very in-depth process as some of you seem to think. It take 2 actions, press the starter button, and when you reach a certian % N2 RPM, turn the fuel on…

    …and thats on a 40 yr old aircraft! On newer aircraft, the fuel is automatic.

    Biggest problem to me seems to be the safety and the noise. 20 years as a jet engine mechanic and I have never heard a quiet jet engine. I’ve seen “quieter” than the standard, but it’s still a noisy jet engine.

  35. Tom

    Bill B: Don’t let any of your realities get released to the SUV Owners of America! (http://suvoa.com/). That’s some entertaining reading, and a good lesson in spin.

  36. Dunc

    Folks this is the real deal, no BS. The guy was on the cover of Fast Company magazine last month.

    Sure. Because, as we all know, everything that’s printed in a magazine must be true…

  37. Luckily for everyone, I actually do a lot of work in jet engines and the nacelles that house them. What worries me is this:

    “Whenever the truck’s juice runs low, the turbine will roar into action for a few seconds, powering a generator with such gusto that it’ll recharge a set of “supercapacitor” batteries in seconds. ”

    It’s already been noted that turbines don’t “roar into action for a few seconds” unlike piston engines, which means the thing will have to be idling if it needs to recharge the batteries. There’s also a distinct difference between a capacitor and a battery, mostly in that capacitors are generally better for quick-release applications.

    So this is what I’m thinking the system setup to be: drive batteries, ‘impulse’ capacitors (used to drive the wheels for quick accelerations), turboshaft (?) engine used to charge both (?). With automatic fuel regulation the turbine can spin up and recharge the batteries and capacitors in short time, then spin back down, but to minimize the spin up-fire-spin down cycles on the turboshaft that would require a lot of batteries/capacitors.

    Which takes up a lot of weight and space, and reduces available weight and space for cargo. Which is why these things are mounted in doomboxes like H3s (yuck).

    Also note the numbers don’t match up. 50% increase in diesel efficiency doesn’t break my mind, and neither does making an H3 go from 9 MPG to 18 MPG. 60 MPG on the other hand? That’s just silly. That’s hype. This will not get 60 MPG, Doctor. I’m sorry.

    From what I know of turboshafts and whatnot, this power system is only really applicable on large vehicles that encourage unsafe driving (I am in a mobile fortress, I am invincible!) and tiny econoboxes will still get superior mileage off of purely conventional internal combustion engines.

  38. Skepterist

    Bill Bones said, “All the fantasies I had about driving a “mere” 4×4 met a harsh end the day I saw a little TV report. ”

    Yes, absolutely. You should always base your buying and driving decisions on a TV show. ;)

    Now, for those of us that actually know how to drive a truck, and need to pull a 3-horse goose-neck trailer uphill thru the mud, we’ll keep buying and using those “mere” 4×4’s. And while Toyota and Nissan are making fine quality vehicles, sometimes raw horsepower, raw torque and appropriate weight are required, and so far the 3 major US automakers still have the upper hand there. You definitely can’t pull a horse trailer down the road with a Civic.

    By the way Phil, anecdotal evidence it may be, but let us know how you like you Volvo after it reaches 80,000+ miles.

    B-)

  39. Reading through the article some more, apparently he gets an additional doubling (18 MPG to 36 MPG?) through hydrogen injection. So you need the same hydrogen infrastructure as fuel cell cars, and a biofuel infrastructure at the same time. Engine fires would not be pretty in these vehicles, what with having a biofuel tank AND a hydrogen tank.

    At this point, he’s converting to a hydrogen fuel infrastructure while still pumping out carbon into the atmosphere, which defeats the purpose of going to a hydrogen fuel infrastructure in the first place. That’s just silly.

    Plus, I have doubts about the “it’s okay pollution” when it comes to biofuels. Plants don’t get their carbon solely from the atmosphere, and I’m thinking generally it’s better to try and sequester carbon inside plants than sequester them momentarily, then burn them because “oh, it maintains the status quo” …

  40. Tomas

    The story is way too good to be truth. Perhaps I’m seeing this wrongly, but:

    Let’s start with the efficiency: if you look at a somewhat comparable electrical power plant (open cycle gas/fuel turbine operating on a stationary regime as best proxy for optimal thermal > mechanical > electrical power conversion), you get 150cc HP, ~35 mpg and ~13 secs to reach up to 100mph. Thats good enough for me!

    It is true that the basic ‘noise’ generator is the vibration of the frequent compression-triggered explosions. You cannot eliminate part of that, but today’s cars make up for that with multiple solutions (common-rail, electronic injection, etc. to control the engine’s regime, insulation materials to control the extra noise). Frankly you hardly notice that my car is running, so not hard to believe the story.

    What you cannot do is to put whatever you think of in the diesel tank! It will run, for sure, I’ve seen several stories on local media of ‘inventors’ that use cooking oil or similar to power their cars. But it will ruin your engine quick enough: current diesel engines are quite demanding in what you put inside and if you do not obey to the specs you will pay a visit to the repair shop. I’ll believe in this only when I see something running with mixed fuel for 50k miles or longer.

    But good effort! Just by raising attention to diesel he is being helpful!

  41. Scott

    Bill Boneson –

    >The 4×4 took 40% more braking distance on dry road, and 60% more >on wet road. And that’s the difference between “Phew!!” and a visit to >the hospital.

    >So, keep buying heavy vehicles that store kinetic energy ready to >unleash it on your clumsy bones and flesh at the next emergency >brake, whereas the guy by your side in his Euro toycar (weighting less >than half as yours but actually sturdier) says “that was close”… but it >doesn’t seem smart to me.

    Lets do a slightly different test. Lets drive your 1500lb Euro Toy car at 70MPH down I-10 with me following behind you in my 5500lb Chevy Suburban. Now, let the 18 wheeler in front of you lock up his brakes. Your light little eurocar easily comes to a stop behind the 18 wheeler and instantly gets crushed like a tin can between my 5500lbs of rolling thunder and the 18 wheeler. The truck driver feels a slight tap at the back bumper of his trailer, I crunch the front end of my ‘burb but my passengers are ok thanks to your Eurocar cushioning the impact for me and you and your passengers are mush dripping out the crack under the crumpled door. We can hit your 1500lb euro car from any direction you like at any speed you like with my full sized truck or one of my big heavy american cars. I’d bet dollars to donuts that nine times out of ten the guy in the 1500lb euro car gets hurt worse then the guy in the big old american iron.

    I agree that fuel economy and motor efficiency is a huge problem that needs to be solved but the solution is not to put everyone in identical little econoboxes. Where I live in the Portugese Azores probably eight out of ten cars on the road are Renault Clio’s. My American spec Toyota Tacoma feels like a monster on the road around here but I know if someone hits me, or I hit someone I’m very easily going to come out the winner. I was actually thinking about buying a Smart car to carry around in the bed so when i have to go into town I can just drive the truck to the outskirts of town, unload the smart and drive it throught the tiny streets and allyways in the city… LOL

  42. Erik

    No way. The only way I could see it is if this was a plug-in system so the vehicle is running off stored electricity long enough to jigger the numbers to get 60mpg. Not that he could do that with current supercapacitators. If we had ultracapacitators good enough to manage that, the market would be full of ultracapacitator based plug-in hybrids in a hurry.

  43. Quiet_Desperation

    > “I’ve been familiar with this guy’s work for a while, and I do believe it’s legitimate.”

    But is practical? That’s the other half of the engineering equation.

  44. Tomas

    “By the way Phil, anecdotal evidence it may be, but let us know how you like you Volvo after it reaches 80,000+ miles.”

    Just to inform that my father owns a 150k miles diesel Volvo (built in the EU 7 years ago). No problem whatsoever so far.They are actually known in Europe as reliable cars…

    It is interesting how you perceive car quality. In Europe, German is the best (Mercedes > BMW > VW), on par with Japan (although these look a lot uglier). Nordic brands (Volvo, Saab) rank afterwards (although it is believed that quality started to decrease after the Ford and GM take-overs). Then you probably have the French (Renault, PGA) and the American (Ford, Opel/GM). Finally the Italian, Polish, Spanish, etc… And last, the Korean and other Asian. BTW, 90% of these have diesel!!

  45. Tomas

    Scott, Bill Bones was referring to 1500 kg, not lb… do the conversion for better numbers. Besides, if we are to argue with ‘specific scenarios’, I can make up a whole lot of them :)

  46. Doc

    Jack Hagerty,

    Your notes about the efficiencies of the various engines are very helpful, but I have one question: where do steam engines fit into the scheme of things?

  47. >> I was actually thinking about buying a Smart car to carry around in the bed so when i have to go into town I can just drive the truck to the outskirts of town, unload the smart and drive it throught the tiny streets and allyways in the city… LOL

    Now if you start referring to the bed of your truck as a “shuttlebay” and the Smart car as a “shuttlepod,” then we think much alike.

  48. Lance

    Turbine engines, as has been pointed out by several previous posters, do not respond quickly to changing power requirements. While the energy storage by battery helps eliminate some of the problem it by no means eliminates it.

    Also, as pointed out by several people, converting mechanical energy to electrical energy is not 100% efficient. The turbine would have to be idling along at fairly high rpms to be ready to deliver energy efficiently to recharge the batteries. This is would require fuel. Then when energy was transferred to the battery there would be energy lost. When that energy was used by the electric motor there would be further loss.

    One could not hope to even match the efficiency of the steady state operation of the turbine engine alone, thus I find the 60mpg figure to be highly suspect if not outright ridiculous. Parasitic losses from the electrical motor/generator and batteries would not be miniscule. Of course regenerative braking would recover some of the lost energy, but not enough to attain anywhere near 60 mpg.

    Also the guy claiming long term 48mpg performance for his Prius must be really limping around. Long term tests, by Car and Driver among others, have resulted in far lower mileage figures. The car is basically a 1.5 liter gas engine hooked to an electric motor/generator that recovers some of the energy usually lost in braking.

    While driving on the highway the electric motor/generator becomes expensive ballast. The little gas motor is doing all the work and is not going to do better that the little conventional econobox in the next lane. (My old Ford Fiesta used to get 40 mpg with me ripping through the gears on a regular basis.) Of course the econobox owner doesn’t get to wear that smug, “I’m saving the planet” sneer.

  49. DennyMo

    Scott –
    >Lets do a slightly different test. Lets drive your 1500lb Euro Toy car at >70MPH down I-10 with me following behind you in my 5500lb Chevy >Suburban.
    [snip]

    Well you both were obviously following too close behind the vehicle in front of you, and you and your ‘burb will be properly sued by the victims’ survivors for wrongful death, if not criminally charged with negligent homicide, vehicular manslaughter, etc.

    I’ll join the chorus of folks expressing surprise that BA would link to something like this. I’ve seen turbines in cars and vans, don’t see how they can be made to run quietly enough to be streetable.

  50. DennyMo

    Regarding the Prius, 48mpg is quite believable, especially if most of your driving is short trips or city driving. Lots of highway driving will drive fuel mileage down, that’s a known fact on hybrids. With a blend of mostly town and some highway (and no eggshells between the gas pedal and his foot, I might add), one of my coworkers is getting ~46mpg.

  51. jrkeller

    Chuckle, Chuckle, Chuckle, …..

    I grew up in the Northern Suburbs of Detroit, near Pontiac, and I heard these types of stories many times over the years. Of course it was always the evil car companies in league with the evil oil companies that are holding back these super high mileage cars. Of course none of these stories were ever true. The only truth was that investors lost their money.

    Don’t you think that if one of the Big Three or some other car company around world could produce a 60 mpg Hummer they would?

    But since this is suppose to be a science board, let’s look at some numbers (gasp)

    The rolling resistance for a car is given by,

    Fr = Weight * friction factor.

    For most cars, the friction factor is around 0.02, so a Hummer H3 would have a rolling resistance of 100 lbf. I suspected that a Hummer with its larger tires would be higher and after a bit of googling, I found that its rolling resistance is 125 lbf.

    The drag force can be determine by,

    Fd = 1/2 (air density)*(drag coefficient)*(area)*(velocity)^2

    For a Hummer H3 (drag coefficient)*(area) is 16.8 ft2 and with an air density of 0.075 lbm/ft3 and a velocity of 60 mph, the drag force is 151 lbf.

    Therefore the theoretical force to keep a Hummer moving at 60 mph is 276 lbf. This of course assumes, no losses whatsoever. No bearing losses, AC, alternator, flat surface, no starting or stopping.

    A gallon of Diesel fuel contains 130,000 BTUs of energy. Using the theoretical limit of 276 lbf for a Hummer H3, a gallon of Diesel could move a Hummer H3 70 miles. So in other words the guy is claiming that he can get 86% of the energy out of the fuel with 14% going to heat and friction losses. Also this assumes perfect combustion and no formation of any pollutants. Not possible. I doubt it’s possible if he went 5 mph.

    BTW to achieve an 86% efficiency, you would be to reach temperatures over 3100F.

  52. Anthony

    Let’s try some physics. Per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_drag_coefficients, a Hummer H3 has a CdA of 16.8 square feet or 1.56 square meters. Aerodynamic drag is equal to 0.5 * rho (density of air; use 1.225 kg/m^3) * V^2 (use 60 mph, or 26.8 m/s) * Cd * A (Cd*A = 1.56). This gives a total drag force of 686N. Cars are subject to additional inefficiency due to rolling resistance, typically 0.03 for automobiles on asphalt; this gives a resistance of 150 lb or 668N, for a total resistance of 1354N. Now, energy = force * distance, so the energy to travel 1 mile (1609M) is 2.18 megajoules. Now, per http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ageng/machine/ae1240w.htm, vegetable oil has a heat of combustion of about 130,000 btu/gal or 137 megajoules, so the theoretical limit of fuel efficiency is 137/2.18 or 63 mpg (actual EPA testing procedures average a lower speed, but chop 22% off of the final figures, so the net is probably similar).

    If someone has a 95% efficient turbine, they have a market way beyond automobiles (since it’s a heat engine, it’s subject to the Carnot limit, meaning the ignition chamber must be operating at around 6,000K, which is impressive in its own right).

  53. Saburai

    Scott,

    Maybe I misunderstood your post. May I paraphrase, and then you can correct me if I misrepresent?

    “Wimpy Dude says buy a small car that can stop on a dime instead of a gigantic phallus on wheels, like I have, because Wimpy Dude says small cars stop faster. Well, Wimpy Dude, if we were both on the highway, and you were driving safely (i.e. not driving so close to the vehicle in front of you that you couldn’t perform an emergency stop) and I was behind you and NOT driving safely (i.e. driving so close on your tail that I COULDN’T perform an emergency stop), then if we had to do an emergency stop, I’d kill you and everyone in your car, and barely even feel it! HA! I win THAT argument.”

    Or, to condense your point even further: “I could commit vehicular homicide on you, so my taste in cars is obviously superior. PS: I think I’ll start driving around with one of your cars loaded up INSIDE my truck, just for kicks!”

    But who knows; maybe I misunderstood you. I’m sure you’ll be happy to clarify.

  54. DennyMo says: “Regarding the Prius, 48mpg is quite believable, especially if most of your driving is short trips or city driving. Lots of highway driving will drive fuel mileage down, that’s a known fact on hybrids.”

    Well, I don’t know what we’re doing wrong (or actually right), but our Prius gets better mileage on the highway, just like any other car.

    As you can probably tell by my previous posts, I’m a fairly nerdy engineer, and keep a VERY close eye on these things. Around town, we get ~45 mpg, but on long trips (say at least 100 miles) the average is in the low 50’s. Of course, I leave the cruise control set at the speed limit, and steady load is the best mode for efficiency.

    Things are completely different when I’m driving the Alfa :-)

    – Jack

  55. Lance says: “Also the guy claiming long term 48mpg
    > performance for his Prius must be really limping
    > around. Long term tests, by Car and Driver among
    > others, have resulted in far lower mileage figures.

    That guy was me, and I’d be happy to send you my mileage logs. We don’t “limp around” but we do drive it like a regular family car. The guys at C/D (and I have a complete collection dating back to when they were SCI) flog cars pretty mercilessly.

    > While driving on the highway the electric motor/generator
    > becomes expensive ballast. The little gas motor is doing
    > all the work and is not going to do better that the little
    > conventional econobox in the next lane.

    Not true at all. The electric traction system is completely integrated. The coolest thing about the Prius (at least to a techno-nerd) is the center display that shows the energy flow real time. The electric motor is in constant play, even on the highway. Believe it or not, the world is not really flat and it is constantly regenerating on the down-slopes and assisting on the up-slopes. If you’re not looking at the screen you don’t even know it’s happening. That it does so in such a seamless and transparent manner is a marvel of production engineering.

    > My old Ford Fiesta used to get 40 mpg with me ripping
    > through the gears on a regular basis.) Of course the
    > econobox owner doesn’t get to wear that smug, “I’m
    > saving the planet” sneer.

    I’m thinking of having my upper lip permanently sewn into full “greener than thou” mode. But for ripping through the gears, I’ll take my 25 mpg Alfa and save the planet later.

    – Jack

  56. fos

    Turbines are a great idea. Unfortunately, there is no way to mass produce something that spins at 60,000 rpm. It requires a lot of human intervention in the manufacturing process. I would love to have one if they can ever get within a teacher’s budget.

    My Chevy Impala has actually been a good car. We purchased it used a number of years ago. It gets an honest 35 mpg (gps verified) on the highway, only 1 mpg less than my daughter’s Civic which is far smaller and less comfortable.

    I once owned a Volvo (back when I was a professional chemist). It was ok but had more maintenance problems than many cars I have owned. They were not engineered to repair. After five years or so we had to sell it when the cost of repairing the windshiedl wiper motor housing cost more to repair than the car was worth. Access was the problem, not the cost of the expensive part.

    Overall, the Hondas have been the most reliable and cost effective of the many cars I have had in my 50+ years of driving.

  57. Doc says: “Jack Hagerty, Your notes about the efficiencies of the various engines are very helpful, but I have one question: where do steam engines fit into the scheme of things?”

    Oy! You’re going to make me drag out my thermo books and unfold my Mollier diagrams! :-)

    In general, external combustion engines are less efficient than internal because you have losses in transporting the working fluid (in this case steam) to the point where it does the work. However, for stationary applications, like power plants and ship propulsion (well, not stationary but big enough that the installation can be the same), the transfer pipes can be super insulated. Generally, they are around 30% efficient, although there all sorts of recouperative, regenerative and economizing tricks you can do to improve that. I’m pretty sure that you’ll never get above 40%.

    Steam does have one big advantage in that it scales up really well. If you want more force/torque on your output shaft, just make the pistons or turbine bigger. Internal combustion doesn’t do well in this regard since the amount of time to burn the fuel is limited, and as the combustion chambers get bigger (think marine diesels) it gets harder for the flame front to move through all of that mixture before the piston drops so far that it’s not worth pushing anymore.

    – Jack

  58. Regarding the Prius, 48mpg is quite believable, especially if most of your driving is short trips or city driving.

    My wife and I bought a 2004 Prius about 2 months ago and, over all sorts of driving — mostly highway — our long term average is 47-48 mpg. This is based on actual fuel usage, not just the computer readout on the dash (though they do agree quite closely). The best stretch I remember recently was a drive to Fort Collins and back (about 70 miles) where it was a hair under 50 mpg. This was mostly highway at 65-70 mph except for a few miles in town.

  59. Dave Morton

    I declare shenanigans!

    If I’m wrong then this guy has just won the Automotive Ansari X prize.

  60. > If I’m wrong then this guy has just won the Automotive Ansari X prize.

    I want a car that will take me to suborbit. :(

    It’s the twenty-first century, and we have no:

    1) atomic rocketships
    2) robot butlers
    3) flying cities
    4) jetpacks
    5) mutants
    6) robot overlords.

    Instead, we have:

    1) global warming
    2) oil-based energy infrastructure
    3) culture conflict
    4) political correctness
    5) Ray Kurzweil futurism
    6) a highly advanced telecommunications infrastructure which has revolutionized how the average person can produce, disseminate, and obtain pornography.

    Global warming would be totally worth it if we had atomic rocketships, but nooooo.

    This future sucks. I want to turn it in for a refund.

  61. Lurchgs

    I’ll skip the “BA, how could you?” and engineering comments – for the first.. well, I’m not the first. For the second, I’m not qualified..

    But I think the true point of the whole thing isn’t that he *expects* to get 60Mpg out of the Hummer – but that he DOES get (According to the story) twice the factory mileage (or better) now. Apply this technology to the vehicle you drive now and see how you react.

    Lessee.. what else..

    Oh.. Big car vs Small car. Sorry – definitely big car wins. In April of 2006, there was a snow storm.. I was driving my 1995 Lincoln Continental (more in a bit) down highway 36, heading toward Denver when I hit a terroristic bit of slush. All of a sudden, I was doing 45 miles an hour… backwards down the highway. I eventually hit the jersey barrier at about 30.

    Right behind me came this Acura.. hit the same slush at about the same speed. He hit the wall a few feet down from me. I drove away and had some body work done. He called the tow truck for his totaled car.

    Over the years, I’ve been hit by 5 other drivers, and hit one other (who ran the stop sign and pulled out in front of me). In virtually every instance, I turned the key and drove away – the one exception being when I was broadsided by a drunk mailman while I was driving my boss’ VW van. I have ALWAYS owned some form or other of lead sled, and will continue to do so.

    Now – why do I insist on big cars? Not just for safety reasons. Because I tend to not fit into small cars. I’m 6’6″ tall (more, if you add any kind of sole on the bottom of my shoe). There are no known Japanese cars I can drive. There are no known economy cars I can drive. In every instance, I either cannot get behind the wheel (or easily move my foot from gas to brake) or the roof is too low and I look like Quasimodo after a drive.

    I’ve tried a LOT of cars. I’d love to burn less gas money. I tried the Prius and the like. It’s just not happening. What IS on the horizon is a motorcycle. Probably the BMW R1200RT – but that’s a year away. For now, I’ll just have to make do withi 25Mpg highway and 10Gpm city.

    It’s worth it to be able to get out of the car and not crawl to the house.

    Fast Company is.. questionable at best. I was given a subscription, and a fair number of the stories I read were… optimistic, IIRC. Within just a few months of getting my first issue, the magazine had a decided track through the house.. mailbox to dining room table (mail sorted here) to trash can. I’d rather read the New York Times or the Post.

  62. jest

    I have to laugh whenever someone sees me driving my 2000 Civic coupe, and they scream bloody murder, “YOU SHOULD BE BUYING NORTH AMERICAN! YOU ARE THE REASON PEOPLE ARE LOSING THEIR JOBS HERE!!”

    It’s ironic. My Civic was built in the USA. LOL. But it was also built to HONDA specs, which are much more stringent than GM. I have a superior at work who informed me of this as he used to work for one of the Big Three companies and was aware of the specs.

    I’m glad that someone here in North America has come up with a design that might cause a motor revolution. It’s definitely a long time coming..

  63. jrkeller

    Lurchgs,

    From the article,

    He laughs. “Think about it: a 5,000-pound vehicle that gets 60 miles to the gallon and does zero to 60 in five seconds!”

    Yes, he clearly believes that he will get 60mpg from a hummer

  64. Yep, it seems our Bad Astronomer checked his skepticism at the door. The claims being made here are closer to supernatural than supernormal.

  65. > But I think the true point of the whole thing isn’t that he *expects* to get 60Mpg out of the Hummer – but that he DOES get (According to the story) twice the factory mileage (or better) now. Apply this technology to the vehicle you drive now and see how you react.

    You can’t, not without sacrificing practically all of your cargo space. A turboshaft engine isn’t exactly dinky, and neither is hydrogen fuel storage at the time being. You can fit one into an H3, sure, but there isn’t much you can’t fit into an H3 short of maybe WW2 heavy tank diesel engines.

    I hyperbolize for effect.

  66. Matt

    “By the way Phil, anecdotal evidence it may be, but let us know how you like you Volvo after it reaches 80,000+ miles.”

    Mine has 228,000 so far. About another 10,000 or so to catch up to Neil and Buzz, and then some people can start conspiracy web sites about how my car is OBVIOUSLY A FAKE and I could never survive the radiation from the Van Allen… fan belt.

    Or something.

  67. JB of Brisbane

    Vehicle safety does NOT relate to how little damaged the vehicle is in a collision – it is all about how little damaged the vehicle’s OCCUPANTS are in a collision. Your two-and-a-half-ton SUV is not a safe vehicle if it squashes the other car and everybody in it. Modern cars (as opposed to the trucks masquerading as daily drives) are built to absorb the forces of impact by crushing where the people aren’t, and remaining rigid where the people are, a design philosophy pioneered by – surprise, surprise – Volvo. Any vehicle run into by a big, solid SUV will generously provide the crush zone for both vehicles. Sure, something big, heavy and powerful is required to tow a horse trailer, but not necessarily to take the kids to school or the shopping home from the mall, an increasing use for SUVs here in Oz as well as in the U.S. And who comes out in front when two SUVs collide head on? Little flimsy boxes on wheels are what MAKES big, heavy SUVs safe.

  68. Dave Hall

    I won’t believe this guy’s claims until Kevin Trudeau confirms them!

  69. JB of Brisbane says: “Your two-and-a-half-ton SUV is not a
    > safe vehicle if it squashes the other car and everybody in it.
    > Modern cars (as opposed to the trucks masquerading as
    > daily drives) are built to absorb the forces of impact by
    > crushing where the people aren’t, and remaining rigid where
    > the people are,

    Well stated. My attitude is that “there’s always something bigger.” Sure, your Suburban will take on a standard sedan, no problem, but will come out second best against a semi. And the big truck is no match for a train. I’d rather have something small and light that can avoid the impact in the first place.

    > a design philosophy pioneered by – surprise, surprise – Volvo.

    Actually, surprise, surprise, it was Rover in the mid ’60s. Saab had a head start in the early ’70s with their aircraft design research (ever wonder WHY the key is on the floor?) that was incorporated into the 99, but Volvo was close behind with a slightly different tack. They went with more mass and larger crush zones on the 240 series.

    – Jack

  70. Lurchgs says: “Big car vs Small car. Sorry – definitely big car wins…Over the years, I’ve been hit by 5 other drivers, and hit one other. In virtually every instance, I turned the key and drove away – the one exception being when I was broadsided by a drunk mailman while I was driving my boss’ VW van. I have ALWAYS owned some form or other of lead sled, and will continue to do so.”

    I know it wasn’t the intent of your post, but my first reaction when reading this was, “I’d better stay away from big cars, they get into too many accidents!”

    I’d rather have something small and light that can avoid collisions in the first place. In the 33 years and nearly 500,000 miles I’ve been driving the Alfa, I’ve had quite a few close calls, but always managed to maneuver out of the situation before impact with one exception.

    In 2001 I was in the center lane of a freeway and there was a college kid in an Oldsmobile 88 a few hundred yards ahead of me in the lane to my right. On the shoulder ahead of him I saw a car and a service truck. The truck was still stopped but the car was starting to move. I didn’t like the look of things so I glanced over my shoulder to see if the lane to my left was clear to move over. In the one second I looked away, the car from the shoulder pulled straight out onto the freeway like he was on a city street (i.e. no acceleration, just straight into 70 MPH traffic going about 10). The kid in the Olds mashed his brakes and swerved to the left directly in front of me. As I looked back from my over-the-shoulder glance, I saw the tail of the big 88, nose down hard on the brakes less than 100 feet away and I’m closing at something like 40 MPH!

    After three decades of driving this car, it’s pretty much wired directly into my nervous system. I didn’t have to think. I just snapped off a lane change that Mario Andretti would be proud of, but it wasn’t quite fast enough. My right front fender planed along the Oldsmobile’s left rear corner like Titanic scraping the iceberg. The fender was pushed in so far that the tire was now out in the open and the leading edge of the passenger’s door was rolled up, but everything still drove fine. In fact, I drove it that way for about three months while waiting for a donor car to show up at the local Alfa dismantler that could donate a fender and passenger door.

    Had I been driving a “lead sled”, like, say, another Olds 88, I would have simply plowed into him, at high speed and most likely caused a huge mess for all the others on the freeway.

    – Jack

    PS – The guy who caused the accident just motored away, probably unaware of the grief he caused.

  71. Scott

    Saburai –

    As is so often the case on this blog I made the mistake of forgetting that so many posters here have the internet fed into thier ivory tower where everything is kept in a constant state of labratory sterility. Unfortunatly, I live in thr real world where, like it or not, it does rain, snow, sleet, freeze the roads with black ice and people do speed, tailgate, get road rage and drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Because those things do in fact happen, some people like to factor them into thier choice of vehicles they drive. Some people feel perfectly safe in a Volvo. There’s nothing wrong with that. Volvo has a fantastic safety record. Some people are perfectly happy driving a Clio. There’s nothing wrong with that either. The newer Clio’s that fill this island from top to bottom are actually a decent looking car. Unfortunatly, I regularly have to pull a 6500lb trailer and I can’t do that with a Clio or a Prius so I have to have a truck. Since I’m single and I move every few years because of my job its not practical for me to have two vehicles and it would be even less practical to rent a truck every time I had to pull the trailer.

    If you could quote the section where I used the phrase “wimpy Dude” in my first post I’d appreciate it. I know I’m far from the smartest person posting to this blog but I do have enough social skills not to say something so openly argumentitive. Someone typing something like that would appear to just be flexing his E-peen trying to goad someone into an e-slap fight… No thanks.

  72. Bill Bones

    Wow, many answers… but reality check..

    – Smaller, lighter cars brake better, turn better and stay out of trouble better. That’s Physics. That’s real. That’s the difference between crashing your wheeled phallus and stay out of trouble.
    – European cars are designed to fit EuroNCAP security tests. EuroNCAP are volunteer tests, but nobody would buy a car with less than 3 (out of 5) stars. Many American cars began wiht 3 stars, then mobed into 4, and now that they’re designed in Europe some American cars get 5 euroNCAP stars. Actually euroNCAP tests are goign to be hardened so the 5 stars ar more dificult to get -thus pushinh builders into making safer cars.

    The point is, EuroNCAP measures what happens to the passenger in a collision. The car may be totalled, as long as its engine doesn’t smashes your legs, you’re not trapped by a collapsing door, and the tail gets annhilated in its deformaiton to absorb the energy which otherwise would sling your neck and break you a vertebra.

    Europen cars are built with a hardened frame to protect passengers and a deformable frame to absorb impact energy. This means they get smashed so the passenger is not smashed.

    This said, your chances to survive to a crash are higher on a smaller lighter euro car than on a big american car. The car may be total wreck -but, once you begin turning kynetic energy into work, better be the work of smashing your deformable frame than the work of smashing your bones, or pushing things (like an engine) inside the cockpit…

    Plus, you and your massive wheeled phallus will need 40% more distance to avoid the collision, any collision, even not rolling over a pedestrian. ;)

    And by the way, if I had to murder someone with a car, I certainly would use one of those big american cars where the craneum splatters on the engine cowl… with a European car, the bastid may just fly over my roof. ;)

  73. I’ve been in several accidents, both as passenger and driver, and survived them all. The one that nearly killed or paralyzed my brother was a single-car rollover at freeway speeds. In a Lincoln Continental Mark VII.

    A big, heavy car is no protection against the deadliest of accidents, and even a Dodge Colt provides adequate protection against the rest.

  74. Clearly everyone should drive main battle tanks. Okay, so owning an M8 Greyhound scout car has always been a private dream of mine, but that’s more of a “vroom vroom ratatatatatat pow bang wheeee!” inner man-child thing than a “it clearly makes me a superior source of genetic material” or a “it makes me feel safe” thing.

  75. I’m naturally extremely suspicious of anything that comes over Daily Kos, but I looked at the article anyway.

    Look at the fine print (emphasis on the * words):

    “… 2005 H3 Hummer that’s *up on jacks*, its *mechanicals removed*. He *aims to use* the turbine to turn the Hummer into a tricked-out electric hybrid. Like most hybrids, it’ll have two ….. second *will be* the [jet] turbine … turbine *will* roar …”

    Not just bad science, that’s bad engineering. Let’s just sit back and wait till he has the “mechanicals” back in and the car off the jacks.

    Try a litlte physics: How much energy does it take to accelerate a 5000-pound car to 60mph in 5 seconds? Now work out how much energy you get from how much fuel, and see if there’s any kind of match. Next, see how much energy you get from a gallon of whatever fuel, and see if it’ll take a 5000 pound car 60 miles.

    I admit, I’m a pragmatist. If he can pull it off, then I’ll get my hat ready to eat. Until then, I’ll stick with what we know about physics.

    A little more caution and a little less hype, a little less running for the magic butterfly, is called for here.

  76. LS

    “By the way Phil, anecdotal evidence it may be, but let us know how you like you Volvo after it reaches 80,000+ miles.”

    My family’s been driving Volvos longer than I’ve been alive. They tend to go and go and go without problems well into the 200,000 mile range, and thus three of the five car-replacements happened for non-breakage related reasons — family outgrowing 1 two-door car, an accident that resulted in higher repair costs than insurance would cover making it actually cheaper to buy a ‘new’ good used car, and totalling a car. The other two replacements were for the cars starting to break down such that repairs were more costly than replacement, but given that one had 310,000 miles and the other 250,000+, that’s not surprising.

    Incidentally, the time the car got totalled is the poster child for why the family drives Volvos, and the European engineering Bill Bones was talking about: Brand-new teenage driver panics, steps on gas instead of brake, front to side-front collision, ending up with the cars both turning 90 degrees, so that we were on the street the teen had been on, and the teen was on the one we’d been on. You could literally draw a straight line from the driver’s side mirror to the passenger side headlight. The battery was a smear over the engine block. Passenger compartment damage? … The driver’s door needed to be jiggled and shoved hard to get open. Worst injuries received — whiplash and bruising.

  77. Ford own the stocks guys, not the car, Volvo does. Well, actually, Phil does, but the stuff in it mostly comes from Volvo.

    So, it’s a Swedish/American car, though I have one question. Why would you like to drive an American car if all things were equal Phil?

  78. Brad V.

    I posted a comment near the top of the page about my wife’s ’98 Honda Civic and some of you didn’t believe me. Yes, it’s a great car. The only time we take it into the shop is when it needs oil change, tire rotation, etc. Normal wear and tear kind of stuff.

    Of course Honda’s don’t really last forever, but for the money they are good dependable cars. Maybe some people have had problems with the Civic. Okay nothing is perfect. But in my personal experience, Honda makes a good car. That’s all I’m saying.

  79. Scott

    >Plus, you and your massive wheeled phallus will need 40% more distance
    >to avoid the collision, any collision, even not rolling over a pedestrian.

    That still doesn’t change the fact that you can’t pull a 6500lb trailer with a little econobox. When they start building a fuel efficient hybrid vehicle which can pull my tailer I will quite happily trade my current truck in on it. Like, maybe the 2008 Chevy Silverado Hybrid which is going to be hitting the dealership floors soon. Wait, thats still a huge full sized hunk of rolling death on wheels so I guess i’m still the devil incarnate… Wait, the devil doesn’t exist so I guess i’m ok:)

  80. Saburai

    Scott,

    Obviously, you didn’t use the term “wimpy dude.” I happily concede the point. However, you DID use the phrases “your 1500 lb Euro Toy car” and “my 5500lbs of rolling thunder”; I will equally happily allow the reader to decide whether my (admitted) paraphrase was an accurate representation of your tone and purpose. That’s what paraphrasing is for.

    To your second point, that I am a reader fed the “internet … into thier (sic) ivory tower where everything is kept in a constant state of labratory (sic) sterility”, well, I frankly only wish that were true, since I live in New Orleans, which has probably never in history been subjected to the particular insult of clinical sterility. In any event, the ivory tower criticism is a non-sequitur. Lots of folks in the south need, and use, lots of giant pickups, and I’d never think to tell them not to. Nor would I tell YOU not to, whether it’s because you haul around giant trailers or because you drive on muddy roads or … whatever. People can buy trucks for any reason at all.

    But I will certainly call someone out if their best argument for driving a Suburban (which, in fairness, you were presenting as a hypothetical) is that WHEN they fatally rear-end the driver of a sensible sedan, the sedan’s driver and wife and kids will be “mush dripping out the crack under the crumpled door” while the Suburban driver chuckles all the way home. Frankly, that comes across as the smug, disjointed speculation of a pathological madman. It made me sick to my stomach. Again, this was the meat of your argument, and it is a TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE argument. I asked you to clarify in the vague hope that you were making a poor-taste joke. Your reply suggests that you were quite earnest.

    Pulling a 6500 lbs trailer is a good reason to buy a truck. Being able to rear-end people with impunity is a BAD reason to buy a truck. Maybe the WORST reason. You presented it as a positive. That is my one and only point of contention with you.

    As far as I can see, I paraphrased you very accurately, though if my putting the words “wimpy dude” in your mouth caused you pain, I humbly apologize.

  81. Saburai

    PS:

    Scott, I’d like to clarify that I don’t actually think you are “disjointed … pathological madman”. I think your argument SOUNDED pathological, but I can and should separate a perhaps tongue-in-cheek comment from the otherwise moral person making it. I’m sure you’re a decent person. I’ve made a lot of bad argumentative decisions, and I’ll make more, no doubt. Still, the “dripping under the door” comment utterly mortified me. I’ve seen many accidents (two locally in the past year) where an idiot in a pickup who doesn’t know how to drive defensively kills a housewife or grandfather in a Toyota and walks away with a sprained ankle and a ruined conscience. The idea that someone would use an event like that to promote buying a big truck REALLY grates on me.

    If I let that disgust over the content of your post translate into attacks on you as a person, I’m sorry. Phil has a right to expect more restraint on these forums.

  82. Bill Bones

    Just curious… you mean that big trucks are bought only by people with an objective need for them? That all big bulky cars are owned by fat bulky people who needs that additional elbow room? That all big massive cars are bought by people too tall to fit in even a German car (engineered to fit people less than 6’4″ tall, aka 97% the population)? And that everyone buying a 400 h.p. vehicle plans to drive it at top speed in a racing track? ;)

  83. Nigel Depledge

    Scott said:
    “Lets do a slightly different test. Lets drive your 1500lb Euro Toy car at 70MPH down I-10 with me following behind you in my 5500lb Chevy Suburban. Now, let the 18 wheeler in front of you lock up his brakes. Your light little eurocar easily comes to a stop behind the 18 wheeler and instantly gets crushed like a tin can between my 5500lbs of rolling thunder and the 18 wheeler. The truck driver feels a slight tap at the back bumper of his trailer, I crunch the front end of my ‘burb but my passengers are ok thanks to your Eurocar cushioning the impact for me and you and your passengers are mush dripping out the crack under the crumpled door. We can hit your 1500lb euro car from any direction you like at any speed you like with my full sized truck or one of my big heavy american cars. I’d bet dollars to donuts that nine times out of ten the guy in the 1500lb euro car gets hurt worse then the guy in the big old american iron”

    Yeah? Well, I guess you shouldn’t tailgate, then, should you? Are you saying you would be happy to live with that driver’s death on your conscience?

    BTW, 1500 lb is around 681 kg, which applies only to the smallest of European cars. Most European cars (if you don’t count MPVs and SUVs) are about 1000 – 1200 kg.

  84. Nigel Depledge

    Going on a bit about European cars here. . . .

    When Top Gear (BBC) did a survey to find Britain’s highest-mileage car (about 12 or so years ago), they couldn’t find one with 500,000 miles on the clock. However, someone did have a Volvo with a genuine 420,000-ish miles on it.

    I used to run a 1989 Fiat Uno (1100 cc, 60 hp [when new], 730 kg dry weight). It would easily do 40 mpg on 95 RON petrol, it would tow a trailer with a motorbike on it, and its load space was hugely versatile (not only did the back seats fold down to make a larger load bay, but you could make even more space by taking them out altogether, a process that required only the undoing of three bolts). Its load space was quite conveniently accessible too.

    Anyhow, when we finally gave up on it (due to a rusting body panel caused by living in Scotland for 3 years without washing the salt off the car), it actually went to the scrapyard under its own power. At that time, it had 193,000 miles on the clock. It was the easiest car in the world to maintain. All it needed was, every 6,000 miles, an oil change and a new air filter, plugs and leads; and, every 12,000 miles, a new distributor cap and rotor arm. That engine even survived a timing belt failure (Fiat cunningly designed the pistons to have little cut-outs in the top so they wouldn’t impact the valves). Oh yeah, and my partner and I actually did that timing belt change, re-setting the timing by ear. She changed the radiator and alternator herself when those failed, too (it started out as her car, you see).

    Anyhow, I am currently enamoured of Japanese cars, particularly Lexus. Each year, Top Gear team up with JD Powers for a survey of car-customer satisfaction. For about the last five years (IIRC), the top three have always been Japanese (Honda and Lexus) and the bottom three have always been French (Renault and Peugeot).

    Recently I test-drove the new Lexus GS450h. It has a big battery to drive its electric motor; and, for those rare occasions (*ahem*) when you need a little bit more, it also has a 3.5 L V6 petrol engine. Not only does it come with more toys than you can shake a stick at, but its performance figures are quite pleasing, too. 0-60 is 5.2 s; combined fuel consumption is about 30 mpg (which is what I currently get from my IS200), which ain’t bad for a car weighing about 1.9 tonnes. Top speed is far faster than you can go in Britain anyway.

    Its chassis is very nicely balanced, and it doesn’t feel big or heavy when you chuck it through a few bends, either (which is something I was afraid of).

    Plus, because it is a hybrid, you won’t have to pay the London congestion charge if you wish to drive it about our nation’s captial.

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