Motorhead Messiah

The November 2007 issue of Fast Company has an article entitled Motorhead Messiah by Clive Thompson about a Kansas whiz mechanic named Johnathan Goodwin who tricks out Hummers and other gas-guzzlers to get upwards of 100 miles per gallon of fuel and with radically increased horsepower. He does this by switching out the standard Hummer engine with various motors, turbines, and kits of parts to enable the car to burn a variety of different fuels – hydrogen, diesel, biodiesel, corn oil – and to do so with minimal emissions. Goodwin uses parts mostly made by General Motors. He says, “Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to.”

Not too long ago, I watched Who Killed the Electric Car, a documentary released to DVD in 2006. The film follows the history of the EV1, an all electric car developed by GM in the early 1990s and released under lease in Southern California following the passing of a state air quality mandate. Automobile manufacturers, oil companies, and the Republican administration fought the California mandate tooth and nail and the mandate was eventually reversed. Although the vehicles performed well and were popular, GM recalled every one of them and sent them all to the junkyard where they were crushed. Protests and offers to buy the vehicles were simply ignored. The film explores various explanations for this fiasco and provides food for thought that is particularly pertinent in light of today’s resurgence of interest in environmentalism. It’s worth seeing.

So what is wrong with Detroit? They lose market share to foreign companies year after year, yet they persist in cranking out gas hogs. If they can produce a fuel efficient car, why aren’t they doing it?

It can’t be because they’d lose money. So far as I know, Toyota hasn’t lost money on the Prius and other companies are realizing that good environmentalism can mean big gains to their bottom lines. The same issue of Fast Company has another article entitled 50 Ways to Green Your Business by Mark Borden, Jeff Chu, Charles Fishman, Michael Prospero, and Danielle Sacks, which lists 50 companies who are embracing sustainability in innovative, effective, and cost-saving ways, from conserving and recycling materials to coming up with clever means of saving energy.

I own a Prius and I won’t ever accept a car with lesser MPG ratings. I’m hoping enough people will insist that the cars and other products they consume have the best sustainability story possible. Maybe a little public pressure will encourage GM to pay attention to Johnathan Goodwin.

Comments are closed.