Tag Archive | "new fuels"

Power To The People


Once the potential of oil was fully exploited as a fuel source the world started drilling for the black stuff as if there was an endless supply. Now it looks like there isn’t and whilst we search for an alternative to petrol we are, metaphorically speaking, holding the world like a nearly empty ketchup bottle and shaking it over the plate to eke out the last few drops.

In the meantime, in sheds around the planet, very clever people are reviewing and testing all the other options open to us to keep cars on the road. Electric cars are our first option but range anxiety seems insoluble just now and batteries will eventually fail. Thus hybrids came into being where electricity is assisted by or generated by an regular engine. Better, but still no cigar.

So we look at hydrogen. Fill pressurised bottles with gaseous hydrogen, feed it into a fuel cell and by the miracle that is science it will be converted into electricity that powers the car. Provided the infrastructure can be set up to ensure the gas is available where and when we need it they could well be a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine. Already working examples are appearing on our roads but there is a long way to go.

And it doesn’t stop there. Aston Martin recently successfully raced a Rapide at the Nürburgring 24 Hour event, the engine of which was set up to run directly from hydrogen, augmented by petrol when the gas ran out. In normal use it would be possible to replenish the gas before petrol would be needed.

And, again, it doesn’t stop there. What about liquid nitrogen? Forgotten that hadn’t you? Nitrogen is cooled to minus 196C then heated in the cylinder and fed into a regular engine which forces the piston down and off you go. Or how about compressed air? Tata Motors has built a weird looking vehicle that stores air compressed to 300 bar. As the air is released it powers an hydraulic motor. Clever, but a dubious choice as lots of power is needed to compress the free stuff.

Taking this a step further, a hybrid/air car has been made that recovers energy as it slows down and that energy is used to compress air into a  cylinder. At low speeds the air is released to drive the vehicle. Peugeot/Citroen will sell a version of this from 2016.

So a huge amount of work and effort is being expended in alternative sources of power to replace the petrol/diesel option. Some ideas are feasible, some are doubtful. One thing’s for sure though – one of them has simply got to work and possibly within the next twenty years.

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