Autopsy: Quest for 200 MPH

by   August 06, 2009 at 11:26AM  |  Views: 1,767

In hydrogen-powered vehicles there are yet additional issues that add to the element of danger. Hydrogen burns very easily as it requires 1/10th the energy to ignite as gasoline. Even a slight bit of static electricity could cause a flame or explosion. Hydrogen flames are almost invisible so they are hard to see and hard to put out. Hydrogen gas, while not poisonous, can cause someone to suffocate to death as inhaled hydrogen prevents oxygen from getting into the lungs and blood. And lastly, although more improbable, hydrogen in a liquid form is extremely cold, so if any came in contact with skin, it would likely cause severe frostbite. Of course this makes it sound like hydrogen would be dangerous in regular cars. Most of the issues related to hydrogen as fuel are more hype than anything. The dangers really only come in to play when you are pushing the limits. Since Jesse is trying to break a land speed record, the limits are being pushed. And with the horsepower they are trying to make, explosions and problems are far more likely.

Jesse doesn’t want to take any more chances than he has to, so to prepare, we run a mock escape situation to ready Jesse in case anything should go wrong. Panic and fear can impair judgment, reduce reaction time, and become a serious issue when we are required to follow a strict set of procedures. Unfortunately, when driving a car designed specifically to break speed records, a simple turn of the ignition key to the off position is not enough to shut it down. An engine can explode and blow a car apart if shutdown is not done properly. Remember, to stop these cars, they must use a parachute. A parachute is only effective if a) it opens and b) it stays intact. If you eject your chute while the engine is firing, you will burn the chute up instantly and have no way to stop. While a flaming ball of fire moving at 150 MPH would look cool, the result would be bad...very bad. Can Jesse stay calm and learn to escape a cockpit on fire?

What is unique about breaking land-speed records is what is unique about Jesse James: the desire to make a seemingly impossible task a reality. Once again, Jesse’s skills are put to the test and with the combination of ingenuity, inspiration, mental resolve, and help from some of the best in the business, Jesse James becomes the world land-speed record holder for a Hydrogen-powered Internal Combustion Engine car, while keeping the planet green at the same time!

David Sandler is the Science Advisor for 'Jesse James is a Dead Man', and President and Co-Founder of StrengthPro, Inc. He can be reached at


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