Road Ahead: Future Technologies
automotive technology will prevail in the future? The likely answer is
a mix of technologies.
- continued improvements in fuel economy and reduced
emissions are likely to keep the gas engine in the running for many years
- Green Diesels - Ultra-clean burning diesels have
been on European highways for years. The Lupo, produced by Volkswagon,
gets 90 mpg. Diesel powered cars represent 25% of the European car market.
(There has been very little press coverage on this technology in North
America.) Improvements in 'green' diesel cars are expected: Volkswagon
has announced that they expect to produce a four-passenger diesel powered
car which can get 190 mpg. Scheduled for release in late 2004, the
Jeep Liberty is the
first clean-diesel in DaimlerChrysler's US lineup.
Biodiesel - a
clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources.
Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but can be blended at any level with
petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition
(diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple
to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.
Supply sources are now available across North America; a current list
is available at www.biodiesel.org or by calling (800) 841-5849.
- small, battery-powered, zero-emission vehicles
are expected to become a popular alternative commuter vehicle, especially
in congested urban areas.
- may well become the dominant technology for all-purpose
road cars, having an advantage over the electrics for driving longer distances.
Plug-in hybrids - able to be plugged in when not in use, this design adds greater effeciency to the hybrid-electric models. Plug-in hybrids are now available on the market and are likely to be a long-time leader in new technologies.
Plug-in electrics - General Motors hopes to have its plug-in Chevrolet Volt on the market by 2010. The Volt concept car that GM has shown at auto shows around the world can travel up to 40 miles on electricity from its rechargeable battery, but also has a three-cylinder gasoline engine to recharge the lithium-ion battery pack that would extend its range.
Hybrid - Ford Motor Co. and the
U.S. EPA are working together to develop a unique hybrid, high-efficiency
vehicle that uses hydraulic fluid
to store and provide energy to power the car. The
technology could be used to dramatically improve the fuel economy of sport
utility vehicles and light trucks. The hybrid system uses hydraulic pumps
and hydraulic storage tanks to store energy in the place of electric motors
and batteries used in electric hybrid vehicles. This hydraulic power system
could have cost and power advantages over electric hybrid systems, the
- promising long-term outlook, but some obstacles
yet to overcome, such as cost, improved performance, reducing the size
and weight of the fuel cell systems and setting up a hydrogen fuel supply
infrastructure. The current refining process for hydrogen fuel is a dirty
process, and will need improvement. DaimlerChrysler has invested US$1
billion in fuel cell research and has built ten fuel cell vehicles either
as concept cars or test vehicles, each one powered by Ballard fuel cells.
Honda's fuel-cell car, the FCX, is currently being road tested.
Chevy has launched a test fleet of hydrogen-powered fuel cell Equinox SUVs.
Hydrogen hybrids - combine
the high fuel economy attributes of today's gasoline- electric hybrids
with the near-zero emissions of internal combustion engines running on
hydrogen. The result is an extremely clean-running vehicle, using the
same environmentally positive fuel as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, but
at a lower cost. A recently developed solid storage medium for hydrogen
vehicles is key to this promising technology. Still, there’s a lot
of work ahead to make this vision workable – costs must come down,
fuel cell durability must improve, and challenges that go beyond the vehicles
themselves must be met. Creating hydrogen economically is one of them,
as is developing a widespread refueling infrastructure.
Feedback on the technical aspects of hybrid cars and future technologies.
"It's clear fuel cells have much more promise
than any other propulsion option, especially if renewable energy is used
in the production of hydrogen as a suitable infrastructure becomes available.
That is why we intend to do everything we can to produce a fuel cell car
that is both affordable for the customer and economically viable for us
by the end of this decade." - GM Vice
President Larry Burns, responsible for research and development and planning.
"I note the importance of the emergence of
fuel cells for car propulsion as pointed out by Larry Burns. However,
my understanding is that fuel cell technology and the fueling systems
are still several years away and we can not wait for it to arrive before
reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
believe that Toyota have already combined their technology for hybrids
and fuel cells in a research vehicle. My point is that the some of these
technologies would lead to a better solution than having them competing.
great steps forward in internal engine combustion must be applauded as
methods to reduce the impact of motor vehicles in the final years of this
has been a great step forward in PV cell manufacturing that should lead
to much cheaper PV cell production in future. The technology is called
Sliver and is produced by Ergon Energy in Australia. The cells use a fraction
of the high cost pure silicon of current PV cells, it is bi-directional
and can be incorporated into vehicle glass as the tinting media (in future).
It is so thin that it can be produced in very thin strips and have colour
show through it.
fuel cells, this is still currently too expensive for mass use and the
production capacity does not exist yet, but working towards such solutions
must surely be what we need to be doing."
Henderson, Manager Process Technology, JWP
strikes me that significant gains could be made by combining the latest
technology on fuel efficiency. I don't think you can get away from the
obvious efficiency gains by recovering the kinetic energy lost during
braking, whether as hydraulic or electrical energy. If this technology
is then combined with advances in conventional propulsion such as advanced
diesels or FSI petrol / gasoline engines, surely we will have far better
vehicles and a lower reliance on fossil fuels.
note from the advances in electric hybrid vehicles that it is now sensible
to consider solar cells in composite materials in the bonnet and boot
lids as well as the roof to supplement the electrical power production
and help minimise the use of the petrol / gasoline engine. This would
of the battery or allow continuous use of air-conditioning when stuck
in heavy traffic during the day time or when the vehicle is parked in
the sun during the day.
all adds to extra cost of course, initially. But we all know the power
of mass production. As the existing hybrids gain in popularity and components
become common to several manufacturers (similar to braking systems and
fuel systems), the costs of production will continue to fall,
allowing the addition of such refinements as PV solar cells in the panels."
- Garry Henderson,
Principal Process Engineer, Earth Tech Engineering
in the USA. Europe and the rest of the world are Green by burning less.
We in the US are regulated by the EPA which is driven by California's
unique problem of smog. A huge effort is directed to get low Parts Per
Million exhaust at the expense of efficiency. The cleanup of the exhaust
has come at a decrease in mileage. Diesels are penalized in the US even
more than gas because of their production of N0x and its effects of smog.
World cars at 60mpg are not certifiable in the US.
gallon of diesel has a higher specific heat content than gas. (More energy
per gallon). Diesel is also burned at a higher peak temperature producing
even more output per gallon. Also, diesels have no throttle plate for
partial load operation thus have little pumping loss compared to the gas
engine. Lastly, combustion products of the diesel are lubricants whereas
particulate of gas combustion are very abrasive and accelerate engine
techniques exist to extract far more miles out of a gallon. Continuous
Variable transmissions, regenerative breaking and Valve controlled cylinder
shutdown would work wonders. Operate an engine on just enough cylinders
to produce situational power at the most efficient throttle
setting, vary the transmission to keep the engine at a minimum RPM and
computer control all systems to produce a seamless orchestration of all
of the variables. Add regenerative breaking for energy recovery.
on the accessories. Electrically powered or variable displacement hydraulic
steering could save wasted horsepower. Variable displacement continuous
operation AC compressors could have a lower overall system power drain.
LED lighting could save 30A of battery drain for headlamps alone. Energy
used on accessories does not go to movement. Regards,
Good article. I am a typical power hungry male.
I buy big powerful cars. I commute in a Ford SHO. It does great on gas.
It is approaching 250,000 miles and I am looking for another car. The
hybrids are neat, but are too small. I have owned 3 small cars and never
was comfortable in one in close traffic. One crunch and I am gone. I am
interested in the hydraulic hybrid. A hybrid accumulator could provide
huge amounts of power for getting going. They never wear out. A diesel
engine would only need enough power for maximum speed. A truck manufacturer
years ago had a rig with two engines. When they got up to speed one engine
would shut off. The same system would work here. Maybe
two small turbo diesels. Food for thought. I am building a hybrid prototype
yard tractor to test some ideas. I plan to use a 5 horse gas engine and
a 5 gallon accumulator . The engine will be started with fluid from the
accumulator. It can go short distances without the engine running. Keep
up the interesting articles. Gary Peck
I like these debates. In my opinion the hybrid will fight very soon to
survive with (or against) BEV's (battery electric vehicles). The only
reason why we are talking about thermic engines is because we still are
deeply tight to the classical already (obsolete) working systems, which
for me seems normal, but let's go a little further. The future in transportation
for me is the BEV and this could happen in few years from now, based on
few facts also, like:
- the battery capacities improvements, based on the innovative conceptions
and different by the classical already known approaches;
- the electric motors performances drastic improvements, as the power
ratio over (own electric motor's) weight, from where a 350 HP/24 Kg pancake
DC-AC electric motor-generator is not anymore a dream for the car manufacturers
if they are looking for something like this ( just ask
- to feed with electricity the car's battery system from a wireless external
power plant also could be taken in account; and many other innovative
crazy solutions, etc..
Dumitru - VP - R&D Manager
I thought I’d give you some feedback on the Hydrogen solution. I’ve been looking at hydrogen fuel cells to be used on motorized industrial equipment (forklifts and tow motors used to pull wheeled containers) for the US Postal Service. We also have a hydrogen delivery vehicle, but I am not involved. The hydrogen technology in my perspective is a dead end. There are too many technical and economic issues. Hydrogen while the most abundant element in the Universe is not found in a pure form on Earth and therefore must be generated, this requires a lot of energy making hydrogen expensive. It must be contained and transported under great pressures, 2,000 to 3,000 psig. These kinds of pressures make storage and transport dangerous and maintenance intensive since pressure vessels need to be hydrostatic tested every 5-years. I think a better technology, spelled out in the book “Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy” by George A. Olah, Alain Goeppert and G.K. Surya Prakash is the way to go.
Program Manager, USPS Engineering Material Handling Deployment