Alternative Fuels Finale

So the other day I was talking to you about alternative fuels and basically giving you the low down on a little information and my personal views. I hope you guys enjoyed that article. I have a lot more information for you today.

It is surprising to me as I look back and realize how much talking there has been over the years in regards to using alternative fuels. I remember being a kid and hearing about the GM EV1 electric car project. It is still a wild mystery and too many opinions on why it never made it to the market. Either way, the car worked well and showed that the techology for electric cars was young, but could be used if needed.

There are a few drawbacks to an electric car that emits no bad exhaust. One of the biggest issues is the cost of the lead batteries is expensive. They cost roughly $2,000 dollars to replace these days. Even worse, if you would rather have a more powerful and longer lasting battery, you can always purchase the NiMH battery. That one only costs about $20,000 or more. Don’t forget that it takes about four hours to charge your car back up.

Something else I remember from when I was a teenager was my father and his best friend, our next door neighbor Bob, talking about the usage of fuel cells to power our houses together. I remember they had thought of this idea to build a shed in a near by location that would house all of these fuel cells to power our houses. We live in North Carolina, so we are a hot spot for Hurricanes. Where we used to live was a labeled a disaster area after Hurricane Fran came through when I was twelve if I remember correctly. Because of the horrible weather and bad power outages, they thought it would be more beneficial to use fuel cells.

Fuel cell technology has been around a long while, and it is a method used to help power race cars. It was originally developed back in 1839 by a scientist named Sir William Grove. Fuel cells are produced by charging Hydrogen and Oxygen with electricity, which in turn makes water. The United States government has already put around a billions dollars or more toward the “Hydrogen Fuel Initiative” that President Bush helped put into legislature in 2005.

Basically as long as you run a charge through the proper mixtures, you will never run out of electricity. There are a few problems with fuel cell technology though. One of the main problems is the price. It is more costly sell than gasoline, that is rough. Even rougher is the fact that the current air compressor’s that need to be used are not suitable for automotive use. There are a few other issues, but none as major as those two. Until cost and safety come more into reality.

Hybrid cars are obviously a popular thing now. It seems that people want to impress people with their uses of hybrid cars more than they actually care about the technology in them. One of the best things that a hybrid car can do is get good gas mileage, especially around town. They also help reduce the amount of CO2 that comes out of the exhaust system of the car. CO2 is something that some scientists, like Al Gore, claim to be the greatest cause of “global warming.” What most people don’t realize is how unsafe they can be, especially once they have had an accident. Hybrid’s are basically an electric motor that helps with low speed driving and then switches to the gas motor to provide longer drivability. So with this electric motor comes an issue. If you have an accident the car has an electric charge flowing through it. It can potentially kill the rescue worker(s) coming to save you from your incident. You can’t touch the car for a certain period of time, or else you will get electricuted. That kind of sucks for the people that are trying to save your life. Each and every rescue worker around the country has to be trained how to handle a hybrid car once it has been in an accident.

Biodiesel’s have been gaining a bit of attention these last few years. Formula 1 is about to switch to biodiesel within the next few years. Fuels like ethanol, made from corn, along with other biodiesels, have helped increase agriculture and the money made by it all over the world.

Ethanol is of course my favorite type of alternative fuel, kidding of course. ethanol is quite possibly the biggest waste of money and time to me for a fuel. Ethanol is good only because it decreases the need for the U.S. to be so dependent on oil, and the fact that it produces less harmful chemicals that go into the air since it’s made from corn, or most people are told. Ethanol is usually in the E85 form, which means that it is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. The 15% gasoline allows for the car to run properly during colder weather.

There are a few racing teams like Lotus and Corvette that are using E100 to drive their racing cars in competition.

The biggest issues that make ethanol essentially worthless is the rising costs of corn and some dairy products as a result of making the fuel with corn. I like corn a lot, I don’t like paying more for corn than I do for gas… Another issue is that only “flex-fuel” vehicles from companies like GM and Dodge can use ethanol. The engine has to be made to be able to handle the pressures of not having the extra combustion abilities of gasoline. It does cost a lot to produce ethanol and it can sometimes cost more than gas in certain areas. Even worse is the fact that you get worse gas mileage.

Now studies have come out showing that ethanol is more harmful to the environment. It was estimated that it would take hundreds of years for certain regions of the world, that have been and will be converted to corn fields, to recover from their larger carbon footprints.

One of the things that I actually think is the way of the future is Hydrogen fuel. BMW has already experimented with this quite a bit. In fact, BMW currently has a small fleet of 750Li’s that they lease to certain people around the world. Unfortunately hydrogen cars aren’t very cheap. The amount of technology that goes into making them is immense. Although, it is a great thing that hydrogen is a renewable resource. It is one of the most readily available things on this earth. It is also 100% clean when burned by an engine.

Hmm… Makes you think doesn’t it? Why is it that Toyota has exhausted so much time and money into hybrid cars when it is obviously just a temporary solution? BMW and Peugeot have both expressed their new cars in the works that use a hybrid-diesel system. The realization that those two automotive giants came up with is that a gasoline engine uses more gas to run it at higway type speeds than a diesel does. They also took the idea of an around town electric motor to help produce better gas mileage. Peugeot already has the 908 HDi that races in ALMS racing. The only main issue that remains is the situation of battery safety when an accident occurs.

For now I would stick with a diesel as the best car for your money. Sure you spend more on the type of fuel it uses, but it would technically either even out or be a tad less expensive since you are still filling up at the pump fewer times than any hybrid. I was talking to a friend at a wedding this weekend, and he was telling me that his diesel Volkswagen Jetta gets 44mpg in the city. He drives harder than I do. That should tell you something. Any way you look at it, our automotive society is pretty much going to be fooled around with for the next 50 years in order to find the right type of combinations of fuels to power our cars and still provide us with the level of performance that we have come accustom to.


“Happy Motoring!”

Information courtesy of: How Stuff Works and Federal Highway Administration

Photos courtesy of: Federal Highway Administration and Auto Cult