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Talk about fuel efficiency

November 6, 2007 in Green

Ever since I moved to the US 2 years ago I have asked myself why there are so many gasoline powered cars, vans and trucks, and why almost nobody runs diesel cars. There are a few of the big pick-up trucks, and occasionally some VW Jetta, but otherwise it’s all gasoline. And I know that diesel has higher energy content, and that modern technology has made diesel engines just as good to drive as gasoline. On top op that the emissions are of a less nasty kind.

Then a while ago I spotted this company called Lovecraft Bio-Fuels in Wired Magazine, and they showed that you could easily convert a diesel engine to run on normal vegetable oil. Talk about renewable energy source, especially in a country where deep frying is popular. You can use the oil more than once. And to be honest, I’m considering switching to a diesel and convert it next time I change cars.

Then two days ago I was reading Fast Company, and I came across an article about Johnathan Goodwin, a self taught car mechanic wizard. This is how the article opens up:

“Check it out. It’s actually a jet engine,” says Johnathan Goodwin, with a low whistle. “This thing is gonna be even cooler than I thought.” We’re hunched on the floor of Goodwin’s gleaming workshop in Wichita, Kansas, surrounded by the shards of a wooden packing crate. Inside the wreckage sits his latest toy–a 1985-issue turbine engine originally designed for the military. It can spin at a blistering 60,000 rpm and burn almost any fuel. And Goodwin has some startling plans for this esoteric piece of hardware: He’s going to use it to create the most fuel-efficient Hummer in history.

What this guy has done is outright amazing. He is experimenting with putting GM semi-truck engines in GM cars and are getting 2 to 4 times the miles per gallon rating of the standard off the factory line cars. And that is even before starting to play with hybrid technology. What excites and outrages me at the same time is that Goodwin has managed to create all this using mostly off the shelf equipment, most of the time from the same car manufacturers who say that we cannot create anything but gasoline cars until a few years from now, and whose first step towards alternative fuel is an ethanol-gasoline mix. Not exactly the most forward thinking solution.

Another telling quote from the article is when Goodwin had a by chance demonstration to some GM engineers.

One engineer turned and said, “GM said this wouldn’t work.”

“Well,” Goodwin replied, “here it is.”

And that captures a lot of his gusto. I hope I will be able to join Neil Young in driving a nice 100+ mpg car in the not too distant future. Read the article and join me in wishing for a more fuel efficient, and greener, future.

Quote of the Day:
You are not what you own.
–Fugazi, American rock band

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