Jesse James with hydrogen land-speed record contender, by Spencer Weiner - Los Angeles TimesEnlarge Photo
We always liked watching Jesse James on "Monster Garage." He was quiet, and usually brought a needed touch of reality to the hype, jumpy editing, and quick-and-dirty projects his shop cranked out for Discovery Channel's cameras.
Which is why we're disappointed that the mechanic / husband-of-Sandra-Bullock seems to have shot off his mouth on an area he doesn't know much about: alternative fuels.
James says people involved with electric cars are "dorks" and "Dungeons & Dragons freaks". (Like, say, Bob Lutz, a key mover behind the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, who once buzzed GM proving grounds in his ex-USSR MIG jet fighter?)
James also piles on to Tesla Motors, calling the electric 2009 Tesla Roadster a "not-as-nice Lotus Elise." Instead, he feels the answer is hydrogen, the fuel he used to set a land-speed record for a hydrogen-powered vehicle at the Bonneville Salt Flats in June despite its less-than-promising future for fueling cars.
But he's not going to use that hydrogen to power a fuel cell that generates electricity to run the car. Instead, he heads straight off into la-la land. The kind not necessarily supported by, ummmm, the laws of physics.
"Someone's gonna invent a car that you can dump water right in. It will have a battery storage system like a hybrid...used with electrolysis to convert water to hydrogen right on-site," he says. "You'll be able to run it with water and it'll be fully self-contained, self-sufficient." Oh, and we'll have one in a year.
Now, we have to assume you plug this into a wall to get the energy to convert the water to H2 and O2. Otherwise you've got perpetual motion. (You know, add nothing but water forever ....)
In other words, instead of using electricity to recharge a battery to move the car with an electric motor, James wants to use the energy (and a LOT of it) to electrolyse water to create hydrogen. Then he wants to burn it in a much-less-efficient combustion engine.
Sigh. As commenter Alistair Wardrope says, "I respect him for his determination, but his engineering leaves something to be desired." Even James himself--who attended junior college for two years--nods to that, saying, "I'm not a scientist."
We think James is just posturing for publicity, to tout his new show, "Jesse James Is a Dead Man," on a new network, Spike TV. After all, in Season 5 of "Monster Garage," he ran an 11-second quarter mile in a 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air converted to pure electric power. He knows more about electric vehicles than he lets on.
Not, of course, that Hollywood stars are known for keeping their mouths shut on topics outside their specialty. Even those a rank or two below the A-list, George Clooney level. Especially those a rank or two below the A-list.