Many automakers are incorporating new technologies into their current and future designs.
High efficiency automobiles including the
Smart Car are greatly improving fuel mileage. Gasoline-electric hybrid cars are already
available and the demand for them is growing. In addition to the new hybrid designs, other
technologies are being utilized which will utilize alternate energy sources. Some of the
technologies being incorporated into new automobile designs include
gas-electric hybrids, fuel cells and
biomass fuel sources including methane.
It is likely to be 10-15 years before alternative fuel and engine solutions become mature and
widely available, therefore improvements to the internal combustion engine still have an
important role to play in reducing transportaion energy needs. Currently a typical car
only uses only about 15% of the energy in the fuel to move the car down the road or run major
Although electric cars have been around since the inception of the automobile, a new breed of
gas-electric hybrid autos were introduced in the US several years ago. Most of the major
automobile manufacturers including GM, Honda, Toyota, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler have either introduced
or are planning to introduce new hybrid models during the next several years. Annual 2004 new car
sales on hybrids have increased by approximately 36 per cent in the US.
Commercially available hybrid cars available in the US currently boast of 40+ miles per gallon
of fuel. As this technology matures it is expected that fuel mileage will increase and some
optimistic proponents even speculate that these cars may be capable of 100+ miles per gallon
as hybrid automobile designs and technology improve. A comparison of several of the cars
available today can be found at
Hybrid car comparisons
Automobile fuel cell technology is under development and has not been marketed yet, however,
this innovative energy technology has the potential to revolutionize transportation. Fuel
cell car technology under development creates electricity through a chemical reaction between
hydrogen and oxygen (air). The reaction creates and heat which is stored in batteries to power
the car. The reaction creates only water and heat and may off a solution to our energy and
If you are interested in learning more about how fuel cell technology works, visit the
US D.O.E. site.
General Motors recently introduced a fuel cell stack that is 60 percent more powerful than
any competitor and has announced plans to try to market a fuel cell car to the public by
2010. Hydrogen fuel distribution is still developing and will need to be in-place before
fuel cell cars receive wide acceptance.
Biomass automotive fuels and lubricants have been gaining acceptance over the past several
years primarily as a result of environmental concerns. Biomass fuels are typically generated
through the decay of organic matter. For the past several years ethanol and di-methyl ether
produced from biomass have been added to oxygenate fuels and reduce emissions. Biomass fuel
can also produce hydrogen which can be used in fuel cell vehicles. Methane created from biomass is
also being explored as an transportation fuel alternative.
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