Fuel News 5
There has been a lot of alternative fuel news coming out lately and these should prove exciting for car owners who want to save money on their fuel costs while being earth-friendly. Alternative fuels are also set to be increasingly important as pump prices continue to skyrocket past the $4 per gallon level and price uncertainty for gas continues in the future. Here are some of the most promising fuel news reports about alternatives to conventional gas-fired cars.
E15. This gas mixture gets its name from the fact that it is blended with 15% ethanol, and the EPA has already certified the gas-ethanol blend as compatible with vehicles made in 2001 up to the present. According to alternative fuel news reports, E15 has many benefits, such as being a clean-burning fuel that will not produce pollutants as well as helping the US reduce its dependence on imported oil. Ethanol is produced using corn and fuels demand for the crop, which benefits farmers and the US farm economy in general.
However, some critics have warned that E15 may damage vital auto components since ethanol is somewhat corrosive to rubber and certain metals, which potentially puts at risk injectors, fuel lines and gaskets and seals, among others. In addition, since ethanol draws and bonds with water from the atmosphere, the moisture may separate and settle to the bottom of the fuel tank, which might clog in-tank filters and tanks. However, a Kettering University study reported by fuel news reports, found that E15 caused no noteworthy degradation in the fuel systems of cars examined all the way back to 1995 models.
Diesel. This alternative to gasoline is set to make a major splash among mainstream car owners in the coming years, according to alternative fuel news, as they continue to look for better mileage. Buyers rejected diesel in the eighties after major carmakers such as GM came out with diesel vehicles that were dirty and noisy. But with improved technology, diesel cars are cleaner and more powerful as well as being more fuel-efficient. Among the major carmakers that released diesel cars in 2013 include Chrysler (the Jeep Grand Cherokee, a mid-size SUV), Chevrolet (the Cruze, a compact car) and the Mazda6 (a big family car).
The benefits that you can enjoy from diesel cars include high fuel economy since diesel engines work at a high compression rate and diesel has a 15% higher energy density compared with conventional gasoline as well as a long cruising range that fits the driving style of the typical American driver. Diesel cars are also more durable than gas-fired ones as well as having lower maintenance costs since diesel engines do not use spark plugs, say fuel news stories.
However, the drawbacks of diesel cars include being sold at a premium and higher diesel prices compared with gasoline (between $0.10 to $0.70 more per gallon). Despite these cons, however, fuel news reports believe that diesel will become more popular in the long-term as more car owners appreciate their benefits.
Electric cars. The DOE’s ARPA-E allocated $36 million to fund research into alternatives to traditional lithium-ion batteries, according to fuel news reports. While lithium can produce electric batteries that can help cars accelerate quickly, the material must be heavily shielded to avoid explosions. This not only causes the cost of manufacturing to increase but also boosts its weight, adding an additional 500 pounds and reducing its mileage in between charges.
Some of these proposals, according to alternative fuel news, include:
- Nickel-metal hydride batteries. These NiMH batteries are already being used in hybrid-electric vehicles, but Michael Fetcenko, a chemical engineer associated with BASF, is doing research using an ARPA-E grant to determine if they can be used in purely electric vehicles as well. The problem is that NiMH batteries currently have an energy density of just one kilowatt-hour which is too low to make them a viable alternative to lithium-ion batteries. The ultimate aim of the research, according to fuel news reports, is to produce NiMH batteries that have energy densities of 30 to 50 kilowatt-hours by developing lower-cost metal hydride alloys which can be used in these batteries.
- Zinc-Air. These batteries are seen to achieve a higher energy density due to using air as its cathode rather than the carbon used by conventional lithium-ion batteries, which allows more zinc to be packed into the battery to serve as an anode. The main drawback of the zinc-air batteries being used today is that they are not rechargeable, but Michael Arpa and his company EnZinc is using its ARPA-E grant to develop a prototype that regenerates the zinc anode as the battery releases oxygen, say fuel news reports.
- Slimmer lithium-ion batteries. Researcher Gabriel Vieth is working to improve the lithium-ion battery by making it lighter, according to fuel news reports. In his ARPA-E grant proposal, he suggested using an electrolyte material that would also make the battery safer by turning into an impenetrable barrier in case of accidents, a process called a phase change. However, the phase change does not happen quick enough to prevent the battery from bursting into flames during a collision and Veith is looking for a way to make it instantaneous say fuel news sources.
Fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells have become the holy grail of alternative fuel since they hold the promise of cheap energy derived from water. The major limitation to making fuel cells an everyday reality is that it is difficult to extract hydrogen from water. Platinum is currently being used as the catalyst, which makes the process expensive since platinum is rare. However, alternative fuel news reports have recently revealed that a new type of fuel cell is being developed which uses the inexpensive mineral grapheme as its catalyst. This not only means cheaper fuel cells but more powerful ones as well since these cells were found to produce 33% more current than the present platinum-based ones. However, the process has yet to be tested with a full fuel cell, but the results are still encouraging say alternative fuel news sources.
Another problem with the widespread use of fuel cells is that hydrogen is highly flammable, making it dangerous to store in conventional tanks. Alternative fuel news stories have reported that researchers from Australia are currently working to solve this problem by using sodium borohydride to absorb escaped hydrogen.
It seems that fuel sources of the future are more in tune with nature with a little help from science. University of Georgia researchers claim to have engineered a microorganism from naturally-occurring bacteria found in the ocean that can harvest carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and turn it into industrially usable form.
According to a member of the UGA Bioenergy Systems Research Institute named Michael Adams, the said microorganisms will be doing what plants are able to do with carbon dioxide.
The discovery claims to eventually produce bio-fuels from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and may lead to the reduction of global temperatures. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps sunlight, and this process effectively increases global temperatures.
Plants use sunlight as fuel in order to convert carbon dioxide, water and other nutrients into sugars in a process called photosynthesis. The process produces sugar which is used by plants as food.
The researchers claim that the sugars produced can be extracted and fermented into ethanol. The problem however, is the extraction of the sugars in the plant cell wall has proven to be inefficient because of the number of processes that need to be done before it becomes biomass.
The microorganisms discovered aims to remove the plants in the process according to Adams who is the Georgia Power professor of biotechnology and Distinguished Research Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and co-author of the study that was published last March, 2013. “We can take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and turn it into useful products like fuels and chemicals without having to go through the inefficient process of growing plants and extracting sugars from biomass,” according to Adams.
Researchers used the microorganisms that were discovered near geothermal vents and thrived in the carbohydrate-rich but extremely-hot waters called Pyrococcus furiosis or “rushing fireball.” By genetically modifying the P. furiosis, the team was able to create a variant of the microorganism that can thrive in lower temperatures and feed on carbon dioxide.
Adams and his team used the bioengineered P. furiosis to combine hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce 3-hydroxypropionic acid, one of the common industrial chemical building blocks and are used to create acrylics. By varying the method of genetic manipulation, various strains of the P. Furiosis can be created and different strains of the microorganism can produce useful industrial products such as biofuel from carbon dioxide.
Adams and his team aim to refine the process of genetic modification and test the microorganisms in the large scale setting.
The carbon footprint in this process is effectively neutral since the fuel produced by the P. Furiosis will burn and release the same amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
This marks a significant step in the utilization of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So far, most of the methods developed for the harvesting of carbon dioxide and converting it into usable form has been energy intensive, costly, and is not ideal for large scale applications.
Fuel prices are jumping like crazy this spring. This leaves some people skeptical of going on vacations or scrambling to find the best rate on credit cards. However, there are many techniques motorists can employ to get the most fuel efficiency out of their vehicles, most of which are free or relatively inexpensive.
1. Check Tire Pressure
Having low tire pressure can reduce a car’s fuel efficiency significantly. Buy a digital air pressure gauge and keep it in the glove box or trunk. About once a month, check the tires’ pressure to make sure they are all even and and full. Check more often during the winter months just before leaving in the morning, just after the car has been idle overnight.
Not only will low tire pressure lower a car’s fuel efficiency, it is also a high risk for blowouts, which are both humiliating and time-consuming.
2. Park in the Shade
Nobody likes a hot car. Neither does a gas tank. Parking in the shade, or even a garage, will prevent evaporation of the liquids in the car, especially gasoline. Few people realize how much is truly drained from a car by simply parking in the shade.
Parking in the garage is perfect for all seasons, as the car will stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
3. Use the Right Gasoline
Unless a car requires premium fuel, paying extra for it does nothing for a car’s efficiency, or a driver’s wallet. Just use regular unleaded gasoline, unless the driver’s manual indicates otherwise.
In addition, don’t top off to the nearest dollar like a lot of drivers do. When the gas pump clicks off, it is an indication that the tank is fuel. Any additional gas is yet another waste of money, as all it will do is leak out or just move around inside the tank, providing no benefit to the car at all.
4. Also Use the Right Oil
A car’s efficiency can be easily improved by following the manufacturer’s preferred grade of motor oil for the car. Check the American Petroleum Institute (API) label on the oil; if it reads “energy conserving,” go with that, as it will reduce the friction in a car’s engine, and improve fuel efficiency even more. Simply using the right oil can improve a car’s mileage by one or two percent.
5. Stay Up to Date on Maintenance
Without staying consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations on car maintenance, it could not only reduce a car’s fuel efficiency, it may cause some damage and the need for a Houston auto repair specialist to fix the car. Keep the engine tuned–which could boost mileage by about four percent–and replace dirty or worn air filters.
Preserving fuel efficiency will not only save a car, it will also save a significant amount of money in the long haul. Always stay informed about a car’s performance and maintenance needs, and there will be no problems on the road.
I don’t know how to put it any other way, but this car is even uglier than a crashed, burning golf cart. Denmark’s ECOmove has released some details about their QBEAK electric vehicle concept. I’m usually happy when I hear brilliant news about an eco-friendly car but this time it’s all about the looks. This compact city car has sliding doors, plastic body panels that can be easily replaced and a panoramic glass roof. It measures around 3 meters in length, 1.75 in width and 1.63 meters in height and it looks like it has been designed in a hurry.
Under the (plastic) bonnet there are six “energy modules” that have a storage capacity of 4.7 kWh each. These energy modules power two electric motors which have a combined output of 95 HP – 71 kW. This is rather impressive taking into consideration the fact that this 425 kg “matchbox” has a 300 km range and a top speed of 120 Km/h.
There are no pictures of the interior yet, but officials say that the QBEAK can be equipped with up to six seats. The company is currently accepting deposits and later this year, the first customers will be receiveing their cars.
The numbers are impressive but the looks also have a saying in the car’s future.
Diesel engines aren’t too popular in the United States and except the biggest consumer grade pickup trucks most diesel engines offered in the US were pretty poor. Diesel was more expensive than gas and diesel engines had performances that couldn’t match the petrol versions but recently things changed and diesel started to win the battle with premium gas.
The most recent polls in the US show that the average gallon of diesel fuel costs just under that of premium gasoline: 218.6 pennies/gallon of diesel and 219.8/gallon of premium. These are good news for diesel car owners and since these cars have a lower fuel usage they will spend a lot less to get their tank full.