Inventor's electric engine could help fuel efficiency of buses

Saturday, November 30, 2002

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- A Lee's Summit man says he's ready to patent an idea that could greatly improve fuel economy for mass transit.

He just needs to find someone to build it.

Mike Blood, 44, doesn't have a college degree. But the welder holds a passion for figuring out how things work.

His work began with a fascination of how a forklift, with a small motor, could lift huge weights.

"Why can't a small engine move a car?" he wondered.

Blood befriended a mechanical engineer to acquire knowledge. He experimented, designed, filled notebooks with formulas and pondered.

Eighteen years later, in 1997, he unveiled an electric car.

Its power train included a small, high-speed motor, connected by belts to a flywheel, then connected by more belts to the transmission. That's the concept awaiting the patent office's approval.

Blood had been well on his way, building his electric car on a dragster frame running it forty miles per hour at Kansas City International Raceway.

He talked about breaking speed records with a bigger motor.

But he ran out of money. Friends argued that his ideas wouldn't be accepted. Now that machine is a skeleton, a chassis stripped of parts.

But three years ago Blood heard that the Environmental Protection Agency was preparing to enforce stricter emission rules on buses. So he revived his plans.

This month, Blood got word that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was close to issuing him a patent.

Blood said his idea, coupled with an on-board computer, would allow him to perfectly match the horsepower requirements needed to do a job.

Instead of big, dirty diesels to shove buses forward, they could be powered by more efficient engines and therefore be less polluting, Blood said.

"Now they stomp on the throttle, it shoots a big bunch of smoke out the back end and lumbers away," Blood said.

Michael Yakimo, Blood's patent attorney, said Blood was very near getting the patent because the office had asked for the fee to cover printing and issuance costs. At that point, 99 percent of applications are successful, Yakimo said, but there is a slight chance the federal examiner could withdraw the patent.

Blood said he was excited -- and a little nervous.

"I'm the most unlikely person to come up with this," Blood said. "But I've got enough evidence somebody should take a look at it."

He's hoping a patent will persuade someone to consider financing a prototype. Having spent $35,000 on early experiments with hydraulics, flywheels, his dragster and the patent application, Blood said, he's reached the limit.

"There's no money for Mike to go playing," Blood said. "Who's going to listen to this long-haired country boy?

"I just need a shot."

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