Editor's Note: This is the third installment of an ongoing series.
By Keith Fitz-Gerald
Money Morning/The Money Map Report
I begin today with a startling number: 5.2.
That's the percentage my gas mileage improved when I added Pulstar Pulse Spark Plugs to my 1991 Mazda Miata.
Made by the Albuquerque, N.M.-based Enerpulse Inc., Pulstar Plugs are the latest in a series of innovative new products that I've employed as part of my stated goal of cutting my family's household energy and resources budget by 25%. These aren't actual endorsements, but are instead anecdotes aimed at telling you what my family and I have done, and the products and technologies we've employed in our attempt to hit our goal.
My research told me that Pulstar Plugs represent a new technology that increases a car's gas mileage, as well as its power and performance - all of which reduces greenhouse-gas emissions. In the context of my overall budget-reduction goal, a 5.2% increase in gas mileage doesn't seem like a major attention grabber, but when you realize that it's the equivalent of a few free gallons of gasoline every month, we're all over it.
If you've never heard of Pulstar Plugs, or Enerpulse, it's only because the company is just starting to really accelerate. According to the company, which was founded in 1996, the so-called "Pulsed Power Technology" (PPT) that's central to the spark plugs was developed by Enerpulse with the assistance of the nearby Sandia National Laboratories.
Originally, the plugs were developed for the high-performance after-market. But as fuel prices moved higher, Enerpulse increasingly viewed them as a potential replacement for the 1.5 billion spark plugs sold each year, Chief Executive Officer Daniel Parker said in an interview last summer.
To help with its shift toward the consumer market, Enerpulse last July raised $5.5 million in second-round venture financing (the company has raised $8 million overall, according to published reports). By December, Pulstar Plugs - which previously had only been sold online by the company from its Web site - were being sold at retail through The Pep Boys (PBY) auto-parts chain. According to some reports, the company is now growing at a rate of 20% a month.
According to my research, what makes Pulstar plugs different from traditional spark plugs is the capacitor-based circuit mounted inside each plug. It captures the energy that's normally wasted by traditional plugs and produces a spark that's 10 times "brighter" and more efficient.
The net gain is a huge jump in the fuel that's actually burned with each discharge - in two billionths of a second. Not only is the ignition process made more precise, but the higher energy pulse typically results in a cleaner, faster burn that translates into better fuel economy, more power, and lower emissions.
I noticed immediately that my car ran smoother and is faster when running through the gears, while my wife noticed that the garage didn't smell as much when I first fired up the Miata's motor.
In contrast to my simple anecdotal testing, Enerpulse has conducted very scientific, well-documented analysis on a variety of vehicles, with consistent results. And cars from Corvettes to Mercedes have shown improvements.
The company said it even made a Toyota Prius greener to the tune of 6% to 8% in additional miles per gallon.
I find that to be most impressive considering that the 2005 and 2007 "hybrids" Enerpulse tested already get more than 50 miles per gallon. So is the 5% increase in acceleration, particularly when you consider that hybrid owners typically give up performance in their quest for high mileage.
The other thing really worth noting here is that the three mile-per-gallon increase for each of the Prius models tested translates into 1,344 pounds of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions that won't foul the planet over the next four years (which is the projected life of a Pulstar plug).
At $24.95 per spark plug, Pulstar Plugs clearly aren't cheap - that's five to eight times the cost of a conventional plug, a ceramic-and-steel device that lacks any circuitry at all.
If you're a longtime "Gearhead" like I am (Here's a Money Morning secret...Executive Editor Bill Patalon is equally afflicted), there's another benefit worth noting: At $8 per horsepower gained, Pulstar Plugs are one of the cheapest ways to increase horsepower, costing even less than such traditional "bolt-on" horsepower boosters as nitrous oxide, exhaust headers, or low-restriction exhaust systems.
Best of all, Pulstar Plugs are perfect replacements for factory plugs, meaning you should be able to install them easily in just a few minutes - without having to make any modifications to your car's motor.
You can visit www.pulstar.com to learn more.
In closing, please allow me to thank you all for the many letters, e-mails, and comments we've received on this column. Please keep those comments coming. We've enjoyed learning about your personal conservation efforts and if our discoveries along the way seem to warrant it, we could end up publishing a guidebook of what we've learned along the way - including the best tips we've received.
[Editor's Note: Money Morning Investment Director Keith Fitz-Gerald is on a mission to reduce his household energy consumption by 25% through conservation - without altering or compromising his family's lifestyle. This is the third installment in a periodic series in which he'll update us on his progress.]
News and Related Story Links:
New Mexico Business Weekly:
Enerpulse launches 'pulse plugs' in PepBoys' L.A. stores.
New Mexico Business Weekly:
Spark plug maker lands $5.5 million investment.
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About the Author
Keith is a seasoned market analyst and professional trader with more than 37 years of global experience. He is one of very few experts to correctly see both the dot.bomb crisis and the ongoing financial crisis coming ahead of time - and one of even fewer to help millions of investors around the world successfully navigate them both. Forbes hailed him as a "Market Visionary." He is a regular on FOX Business News and Yahoo! Finance, and his observations have been featured in Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and MarketWatch. Keith previously led The Money Map Report, Money Map's flagship newsletter, as Chief Investment Strategist, from 20007 to 2020. Keith holds a BS in management and finance from Skidmore College and an MS in international finance (with a focus on Japanese business science) from Chaminade University. He regularly travels the world in search of investment opportunities others don't yet see or understand.