Monday, 5 October 2009

What's in a unit?

I didn't learn very much about Engineering during my 3 years studying it at University but I did learn enough to be quite critical of figures when they are presented to me. I learnt that, how you choose to measure something can have a huge effect on the facts you can back up using said measurements.

McLaren claim that their M838T is the most 'efficient' series-production internal combustion engine because it happens to produce less CO2 per horsepower than any other internal combustion road car engine.

They neglect to mention that there are literally over a thousand other ways to measure the efficiency of an IC engine. No doubt they chose that metric because it paints their M838T in the best light. They could have told us for example, a figure we all understand like its mpg figure.

The scenario reminds me of a few years ago when digital camera manufacturers were in the business of quoting the megapixels their cameras were capable of shooting as if it was the be-all and end-all of camera performance. Compare a photo from a 8.0MP phone camera to an old 3.2MP SLR for example and you can clearly see how megapixels only tell half the story.

I do admire the P11 project as I think you can gather from the post immediately preceeding this one, but I wish McLaren didn't resort to such shady tactics to promote their product. That they quoted statistics we're used to and let us make our own minds up rather than manipulate the facts.

Anyone else noticed they didn't publish a final mass for the MP4-12C but still found time to make a big song and dance about their 'amazingly light' 80kg CFRP tub?

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