Recently the BS-o-meter of many forum members was tripped by a guy claiming to get 110 mpg out of his 1987 Ford Mustang. Though the claim seems a little ridiculous, and I think most people would be quick to dismiss it, the fact that it’s getting some media attention warrants a debunking.
The first thing to say is that conspiracy theories will not be considered here. I am not on the payroll of big oil, the government, Saudis, terrorists, or any of that. Nor is there any real evidence that any of these agents are going above and beyond normal business tactics to keep the US addicted to oil. Sure, the Saudis may produce more oil to lower prices and make the need for alternatives less pressing, but is Exxon assassinating the “water4gas” internet spammers? I think not. So, if your argument for the feasibility of this device is that it’s always been possible and the man is keeping it down, then don’t waste your breath arguing.
Now on to this specific case. Here we have a mechanic named Doug Pelmear with an ’87 Ford Mustang that he claims gets 110 mpg, 400 horsepower, 500 ft-lbs of torque, and can do 0-60 in 3 seconds. According to Doug, the builder:
“My grandfather had the idea back in the 40’s that he can make a difference then,” Pelmear says, “There was quite a need at that time also with the war going on and everything, there was quite the need then.” And quite a need now.
This should throw up our first red flag. His grandfather had an idea back in the 40s that this guy has remade into some sort of miracle device 60 years later? Nevermind the fact that automakers spend billions of dollars working on having the best of the best in terms of both power and efficiency, and that to date the Honda Insight holds the mileage crown at with a combined EPA rating of 53 MPG. Doug Pelmear claims to more than double that using something his grandfather thought up 60 years ago? Engine technology from that period is nothing like the fuel injected, computer controlled tech of today, but this device still works wonders?
Those this technology could be working to increase the thermodynamic efficiency of the engine, as one ecomodder pointed out, thermodynamic efficiency can only be increased so much before it is at 100%, which would be impossible. Given that car engines are typically 25-30% efficient, there is only so much gain to be had before you’re claiming to have broken the laws of physics.
As for the car itself, 1987 Mustangs come with EPA ratings from 17-24 MPG, with 17 being the number assigned to the V8 variety. Completely disregarding the performance claims Doug is making, if we are to assume he’s using the 5.0L V8 as a base, he’s claiming a 640% increase in fuel economy. While ecomodders regularly report increases of 50% to 100% on the extreme side, does such a huge improvement seem feasible? And if so, how could it be done while dramatically increasing power output?
The next red flag comes up when we learn that Doug won’t tell anyone what he’s done to the car or what technology he’s using:
While Pelmear won’t let us look under the hood, he says the technology can easily be applied to smaller engines for even better gas mileage. He’s entering the car in the prestigious Progressive Automotive X competition; a race where inventors from around the world compete for the best mileage with a car that is the most marketable. Pelmear says, his technology is very marketable because it will allow people to drive large cars and SUV’s without sacrificing gas mileage.
As the original report notes, the X-Prize is a prestigious competition, but to me it seems like he is only using the name in order to make his claims appear more legitimate. While his plan to sell his design to automakers in order to make it big certainly could explain why he wouldn’t want to make a DIY and post it online, but he can’t expect anyone to believe his claims if he’s not even willing to drive the car around and fill it up at the pump to throw a little weight behind his claims.
And even that brings up another question. Evidently Doug’s job was recently cut in Ford’s latest round of lay-offs. If he intends to use this invention to bring back the US automotive industry, why didn’t it see the light of day during the years he worked for billion-dollar manufacturer? This kind of technology would have definitely gotten him a nice promotion, a fat paycheck, and position as the savior of his company. Instead, he doesn’t mention until he’s out of a job.
If you watch this video from CNN, you will see a few more interesting things:
The first thing that I notice is that he’s running (or at least claiming to run) E85. While E85 is higher octane, it is also known for returning lower fuel economy in flex-fuel vehicles. Wikipedia notes that the flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe is rated for 18 mpg with regular gasoline, but only 13 mpg using E85. That’s 38% less fuel economy in a vehicle designed to run on E85.
Secondly, when the 110 mpg image pops up, you’ll note that it actually says “MPGe.” This stands for “miles per gallon energy equivalent,” which, coupled with the knowledge that he is running E85 suggests that he is getting less that 110 mpg and using a conversion factor to make the number sound more impressive than it otherwise would. Using the previous Chevy Tahoe example as an analogy, this means that he might only be getting 80 mpg while deceptively claiming 110 mpg. Though his website does show “MPGe” and state that it means “energy equivalent,” he neither explains this to readers nor to the reporter. This, at least, seems as if he is trying to mislead us and makes me question his other claims.
Finally, you’ll notice that even though the two men behind the scenes are talking up the performance of this car, we only see it peacefully cruising the neighborhood streets. Were the reporters to daft to ask for a ride or is that another one of Doug’s secrets? Surely a muscle car like that would be capable of a few burnouts or revs to show off for itself. However, we’re left knowing nothing more than that it actually runs under its own power.
In the end, Doug Pelmear doesn’t give us any reason to believe his claims. All his website states is that on the 14th of June the car will be tested at a race track. Sadly, that was posted on the 16th of June, and there were never any results. There are plenty of reasons to believe this is nothing more than a fuel price-related scam cooked up by someone pissed off that he got fired from his job at Ford, and unless there is some great revelation, I’m calling this a hoax. As always, feel free to disagree.
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