If you haven’ heard of the Motorhead Messiah, Jonathan Goodwin, let me introduce you: he hacks cars for a living, and he can get 60 mpg out of an H3 Hummer while doubling the horsepower and cutting emissions in half. Unbelievable? Yes, but this is no joke, and it’s doesn’t defy the laws of physics either. The hacked H3 is a hybrid with the gasoline fuel system removed. In its place, Goodwin installed a biodiesel-burning jet turbine to recharge the electrical system:
Goodwin leads me over to a red 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 engines, including an electric motor. But in this case, the second will be the turbine, Goodwin’s secret ingredient. 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.This means the H3’s electric motor will be able to perform awesome feats of acceleration and power over and over again, like a Prius on steroids. What’s more, the turbine will burn biodiesel, a renewable fuel with much lower emissions than normal diesel; a hydrogen-injection system will then cut those low emissions in half. And when it’s time to fill the tank, he’ll be able to just pull up to the back of a diner and dump in its excess french-fry grease–as he does with his many other Hummers. Oh, yeah, he adds, the horsepower will double–from 300 to 600.
Power and Efficiency? The notion seems contrary to everything we’ve seen from the auto industry in the last 20 years. But Goodwin is disproving the ‘status quo’ by concrete example, the Hummer hybrid being one of many. He’s gotten 100 mpg out of a Lincoln continental and developed a bolt-on kit for diesel engines that doubles fuel economy and reduces emissions by 80%. Goodwin’s a model iconoclast, with a love for the environment and big vehicles.
So Goodwin decided to prove that environmentalism and power could go together–by making his new lemon into exhibit A. First, he pulled the gas engine so he could drop in a Duramax V8, GM’s core diesel for large trucks. Diesel technology is crucial to all of Goodwin’s innovations because it offers several advantages over traditional gasoline engines. Pound for pound, diesel offers more power and torque; it’s also inherently more efficient, offering up to 40% better mileage and 20% lower emissions in engines of comparable size. What’s more, many diesel engines can easily accept a wide range of biodiesel–from the high-quality stuff produced at refineries to the melted chicken grease siphoned off from the local KFC.
Goodwin’s endorsement of diesel engines makes sense, and he has a 3-part plan to wean the nation from gasoline. First, aggressively mass-produce diesel passenger vehicles. Converting just 1/3 of our nations passenger vehicles and light trucks to diesel would eliminate Saudi Arabian oil imports. Second, start producing diesel-electric hybrid cars, the holy-grail for biodiesel enthusiasts. After reading this article I’m convinced it’s possible (the whole ‘diesels are too heavy argument’ is ridiculous). And third, produce hybrids with a dual fuel mode, such as hydrogen or propane injection. I’ve heard of propane injection, which shoots a small amount of propane into the combustion chamber along the diesel fuel, increasing mileage, horsepower, and decreasing emissions.
“Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to,” he adds.
For a thoroughly interesting read, see the FastCompany.com article (November 2007).
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