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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2008

Napoleon man's low-profile auto aims for $10 million mileage prize

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The 1987 Ford Mustang now achieves 80 miles per gallon. The 1987 Ford Mustang now achieves 80 miles per gallon.
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NAPOLEON, Ohio - Doug Pelmear has lots of secrets beneath the hood of his black 1987 Ford Mustang on which the only outward hint of individuality is a series of stickers.

But looks can be deceiving. Mr. Pelmear's 21-year-old pony car has enough technological innovation to quadruple the classic Mustang's original gas mileage while almost doubling its available horsepower.

That's 80 miles per gallon and 400 horsepower, folks. And the 48-year-old electronics engineer and master mechanic is not done yet.

The third-generation automotive tinkerer hopes that next year his Mustang - more specifically its engine - will help him win the $10 million Progressive Automotive X Prize: a "race" to find an affordable, marketable automobile that gets at least 100 miles per gallon, or its equivalent.

"I'm an optimist, and I think people need to know there is hope out there," Mr. Pelmear said. "That's why I decided to enter the X Prize race. I could have sold this [technology] off, but then people might not have seen it.

"It's not about the money. Our country really needs this."

The Progressive Automotive X Prize is sponsored by the X Prize Foundation to focus attention on and improve technology for real-world fuel economy.

Private teams compete in two categories, mainstream and concept, and compete against one another in a staged race that will judge performance, fuel economy, and marketability. There are no official entrants yet, but scores of teams have signed letters of intent to participate in the races, scheduled for 2009.

What radical technology did Mr. Pelmear introduce? His patents are not fully in place, but he said it mostly is a matter of electronics and precision.

"We redesigned a lot of different things on the [engine] block," the engineer said.

"It's still a rod-and-piston engine; it just has a lot more electronics on it."

Mr. Pelmear said that traditional gas engines operate "at a very low efficiency, like 8 to 10 percent, and our engine is like at 38 percent efficiency."

He said he could greatly increase even that number if his car used traditional gasoline instead of a mix of gas and 85 percent ethanol, which burns hotter but releases fewer hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.

His engine also would be more efficient if he had sacrificed some of its 400 horsepower or 500 foot-pounds of torque, but Mr. Pelmear said his design is intended for "real-world" uses, not the laboratory.

"I'm not the highest-miles-per-gallon vehicle entered in the X Prize, but I think I'm the more consumer friendly, more down to earth, more conventional," he said.

Mr. Pelmear's Mustang is entered in the X Prize's "mainstream" competition against other modified pro-

duction cars.

According to the X Prize foundation, he will compete against several dozen other vehicles from around the world.

Mr. Pelmear, president of Horse Power Sales.net Inc. in Napoleon, already markets one of his fuel-saving, performance-enhancing inventions: a "girdle" that strengthens engine blocks by spanning the valley of V-configured engines.

After spending what he said is more than $1.4 million pursuing patents and his design work, he recently picked up a new partner: Rocket Ventures, a venture capital arm of the Regional Growth Partnership in Toledo.

Todd Davies, business development manager for the public-private Rocket Ventures, said the firm's involvement with Mr. Pelmear's firm fits in with the venture company's mission.

"He has a new technology, and what we help do is build the business around new technologies," Mr. Davies said. "This could be an American-built engine that could save the American auto industry."

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.



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