ENERGY

Automobile Innovations

solar powered car

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 accessories (air-conditioning).


Hybrids

hybrid car 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


Fuel Cells

fuel cell diagram 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 environmental situations.

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 Fuel

pile of corn 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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