The Cost of Energy, Free and Otherwise

Popular Mechanics has an article comparing alternative fuels this month. They did a real, hands-on test driving cars coast to coast on gasoline, ethanol, methanol, biodiesal, compressed natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen fuel cell. Gasoline did better than you may think — it hovered in the middle of the pack at 33 mpg while electricity blew away the competition at 202 mpg.

It’s not a perfect comparison since they had to use different cars for each fuel, but it’s about as close you can get to seeing how these alternatives fare in the real world.

Surprisingly, PM didn’t test a car run on water, which I actually saw in the news a few weeks ago. Guess what station? They report, you decide whether they’re lying or confused (I’m guessing the latter in this case, since it’s an affiliate and not the evil empire’s home base.)

Once you’re finished laughing at the above linked video, head on over to see what James Randi has to say about that load of crap.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. "How, exactly, does one measure a gallon of electricity?"

    With a jug made of non-conducting material, of course.

  2. Reminds me of people who claim that Tesla made "death rays" and anti-gravity devices. My response to such claims are: if you could make them so easily, where are they?

    If water-burning man can do it, and he's obviously no physicist, where are the other people stumbling upon such technology?

    Thanks for the laugh.

  3. > Paul said,

    > How, exactly, does one measure a gallon of electricity?

    One converts 1 tonn of coal into 16.4 Gallon-of-gasoline equivalents. You'll have to ask the people at popular mechanics how one does this, cause they didn't put that in the article.

  4. A car running on water is pretty simple. The only problem is it takes a lot of engineering to get it to do more than 50 feet per gallon. The bright side is, none of the water is actually used up, you just collect it at the bottom.

  5. Yeah, good point, (different). If you really can run internal combustion engines on "just water", where are all the other gadgets and spinoff technologies that should be around?

    Such a "breakthrough" would radically change just about every modern industry, and FAST, given how interconnected the world is today. And I'm not willing to believe the conspiracy nuts who say it's "being suppressed"; if it could be reproduced reliably, someone out there would be using it to turn a buck.

    Wait, come to think of it, there are those using such technobabble snake-oil to turn a buck even when their claims CAN'T be reproduced reliably… if at all. Silly me.

  6. Re: the Tesla death ray claims.

    There's a Charles Addams cartoon where an inventor has taken a ray gun to a patent lawyer. The patent lawyer is pointing the gun downwards out the window of his office and saynig "Death ray? Fiddlesticks! It doesn't even slow them down."

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