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B-List Star-Mechanic Mouths Off: Jesse James On Green-Car Tech

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Jesse James with hydrogen land-speed record contender, by Spencer Weiner - Los Angeles Times

Jesse James with hydrogen land-speed record contender, by Spencer Weiner - Los Angeles Times

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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.

[BrandX (Los Angeles Times) via Ecorazzi]

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Comments (2)
  1. Being a fan of Jesse James, I too was very disappointed. Especially bashing Tesla. The Roadster has single-handedly changed the automotive landscape with its brute performance and incomparable efficiency, which has forced the major manufacturers to convert to Lithium/electric power for future models. His street sense may be second-to-none, but his sense of reality is severely compromised. Makes me wonder who paid him to say it, because he definitely has jumped the shark lately...especially after marrying Sandra. The sad result is the millions of minions who follow him, who have the same lack of knowledge of EV, will automatically agree, and dismiss Electric altogether. Has someone told him it takes electricity to make a hydrogen car work?!?! Anyone?!?!

  2. Not a huge fan of Jessie James, but I'm even
    less of a fan of snarky comments made by people
    who don't research their posts/articles. The
    tesla IS based on a lotus, and does SOME things
    less well than the car it is based on. More
    importantly, the method of hydrogen generation
    that Jessie refers to may NOT be as far fetched
    as you think.
    The tesla roadster is a wonderful
    achievement. It is a real zero-emmissions
    sports. It's based on the Lotus Elise, and
    it is able to out accelerate the lotus. Of
    course, the tesla roadster is longer and a
    half ton heavier, and thus doesn't corner
    as well. It's also around three times the
    cost of the lotus.
    Most Americans who purchase a lotus do so
    because they want a car that corners and
    handles well. If they are in the market for
    a lotus,they probably won't pay three times
    the cost for a lotus-based car that is heavier,
    has a smaller range, and doesn't handle as well.
    Perhaps that's what Jessie James was refering to.
    John Woodall, a professor at Purdue University,
    has been working on an aluminum-gallium catalyst
    that breaks water into hydrogen and oxygen without
    needing electrolysis to function. You just pour
    water onto it, and hydrogen bubbles off. (Of course,
    there's no free lunch....the aluminum oxide has to
    be reclaimed afterwards, and that will require electricity.)

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