The 500mpg Carburetor and the 250mpg Hybrid

The AP is doing its best to spread the ever growing “250mpg hybrid” myth. Back during the first gas crunch the stories were everywhere that someone had developed a carburetor that would give 500mpg but the greedy oil companies killed him [bought him out etc] and refused to let the technology come to market. Even respected publications like Popular Science and Popular Mechanics hinted that this technology was out there “somewhere.”

Fast forward to the preset gas crunch and the AP is running wild headlines and downright bogus infographics.

“Experimental Hybrid Cars Get Up to 250 Mpg “


I want a modified Prius that gets 250mpg, don’t you? Ironically, so does the guy in this story.

CORTE MADERA, Calif. – Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.

It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret — a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car’s high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.

Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car. …

The extra batteries let Gremban drive for 20 miles with a 50-50 mix of gas and electricity. Even after the car runs out of power from the batteries and switches to the standard hybrid mode, it gets the typical Prius fuel efficiency of around 45 mpg. As long as Gremban doesn’t drive too far in a day, he says, he gets 80 mpg.

Ok so Mr. Gremban spent an extra $4000 or so on his car, then an ADDITIONAL $3000 tinkering and he is getting a whopping 80mpg — IF he doesn’t drive real far. That’s not quite the 250mpg the inforgraphic described.

Where did they get that figure from???

Others are modifying hybrids, too.

Monrovia-based Energy CS has converted two Priuses to get up to 230 mpg by using powerful lithium ion batteries. It is forming a new company, EDrive Systems, that will convert hybrids to plug-ins for about $12,000 starting next year, company vice president Greg Hanssen said.

So now if I spend an extra 4000 on the car and an ADDITIONAL $12,000 (next year supposedly) I’ll be able to save a ton at the pump! Great! I bet they’ll be beating customers away.

But still a vaporware claim that someone will make a 230mpg car next year does not make a 250mpg car today, for that we must read on….

University of California, Davis engineering professor Andy Frank built a plug-in hybrid from the ground up in 1972 and has since built seven others, one of which gets up to 250 mpg. They were converted from non-hybrids, including a Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Suburban.

Frank has spent $150,000 to $250,000 in research costs on each car…

So Professor Davis has spend about $1.5 million on research and presumably years of his life. So far he has produced exactly 1 car that can get “up to” 250mpg and I suspect that only happens when it is going down hill.

To get to my problem with this story, just return to the first 2 sentences: “Politicians and automakers say a car that can both reduce greenhouse gases and free America from its reliance on foreign oil is years or even decades away. Ron Gremban says such a car is parked in his garage.”

Clearly this article shows that yes, this technology is years away. We are nowhere near 250mpg and won’t be any time soon. You can’t go buy a Prius and hack in an extension cord to get 250mpg.

The story makes it sound like we’ll have them in a year or two…. When today the only way to get them is to spend a million dollars in research and a few dozen years of your life. This is one of those “accurate but fake” stories like last weeks story about online dating.The facts in it may be right but it paints a completely inaccurate picture of where this technology stands today.

Saying that some experimental hybrids get 250mpg is sort of like saying some experimental aircraft can achieve orbit.

One day we’ll have 250mpg cars and it will be thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Professor Davis and Ron Gremban, but as for today, it is no less mythical than the 500mpg carburetors.

via OTB

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And I didn’t even get into the fact the reporter was just being a politcal hack.

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