Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Environmental demand for cleaner air has put a heavy burden on the automobile, much improved by stringent exhaust stands but still a significant source of pollution. High cost, technological obstacles and the resistance of the public to abandon gasoline have deterred the discovery of new cleaner alternative fuels to help 5the environment. Electric Vehicles are the cleanest burning of the alternative fuel vehicles now available. They are an efficient way to utilize fossil fuels (oil and natural gas) and convert them straight into automotive power.

The fossil fuels are burnt at a power plant to produce energy to make electricity to recharge batteries rather than being used in air polluting internal combustion engines. ” (Encarta)3 “Substances that pollute the air can be controlled more easily at a power plant than at the tailpipes of millions of gasoline-burning cars. ” (Encarta) Electric cars are a simple and effective way to harness existing energy because any energy source can be turned into electricity. Electric cars have many advantages: ·”Less dependence on foreign oil because of a reduction of petroleum requirements ·Reduction in maintenance costs

·Reliability ·Simplicity of operation ·Improvement in air quality because of elimination of vehicle exhaust emissions ·Low energy cost” (Barbara Whitener 9) Despite these advantages electric cars have not been widely adapted yet because they are not able to compete with gasoline powered cars. They have many limitations including power, acceleration, reliability and range. All of this however is about to change when the next line of EV’s are released. GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Daimler-Chrysler and Even the U. S. Army are in on the race because electric will be one of the leading alternative fuels in the near future.

Electric vehicles may have appeared as early as 1830. Historians generally credit J. K. Starley, an English inventor and Fred M. Kimball of Boston, Massachusetts with building the first practical electric car in 1888. Woods Motor Vehicle Company located in Chicago become the first American Producer in 1896. At one time, around 1904 one third of all the cars in New York City, Chicago and Boston were electrically powered. By 1912 thirty thousand electric vehicles roamed the United States. These cars are starting to surface again in anticipation of regulations designed to reduce air pollution emission in some states.

Many breakthroughs have been made in this field but some designs have stayed similar. An electric car has a battery, a charger for replenishing the battery’s power and a controller, which directs the flow of electricity between the battery and the motor. Lead Acid batteries are the most commonly used battery in the new fleet of EV’s arriving, but there are new types of batteries including nickel-metal hydride, zinc-chlorine and sodium-sulfur. Today’s electric cars come standard with regenerative breaking. Regenerative breaking is where the braking system recharges the battery.

The motor acts as a generator when stopping and converts the energy caused by the movement of the vehicle back into electricity and stores it in the battery. “Converting the kinetic energy into electric energy slows the car. ” (Encarta, 1999) GM has come through with a breakthrough design. The second generation of their EV?. It has no engine because it doesn’t need one. No tailpipe because it has no exhaust. It has no valves, no pistons, no timing belts or crankshaft. The EV? is a zero emission vehicle. Therefore it requires no emissions testing.

It requires no tune-ups; no gasoline or oil changes either. The EV? seems childish because it is so simplistic; but in actually it is one of the most complex pieces of machinery on the road today. The GM EV? uses a 26 valve- regulated high capacity lead-acid (PbA) battery. The EV? has an estimated real world driving range of 55 to 95 miles. GM is now making a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batter pack as another option. With this new option the EV? ‘s estimated real world driving range is increased to 75-130 miles on a full charge. Charging can be done in any weather for the GM EV?

uses a 220-volt charger that has to be installed in your home. Charging from 0 to 100% for the lead-acid battery pack takes up to 6 hours. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack can take up to 8 hours to fully recharge due to it is able to store more energy. A common energy saving feature of electric cars is regenerative braking. GM however has developed it’s own distinctive braking system, blended regenerative breaking. It is a combination of front hydraulic disks, rear electrically applied drum brakes and the electric propulsion motor. That is not all that is unique about the EV?. The EV?

is one of the only electric vehicles that have taken style into consideration along with competence against gasoline-powered vehicles. The EV? is the most aerodynamic production vehicle on the road today. Its shape when viewed from above resembles a teardrop. GM’s EV? generation II with the lead-acid battery pack costs $33,955. The same car but installed with the optional higher performance nickel-metal hydride pack is $43,955. They are already in production and on the market. Daimler-Chrysler has introduced their electrically powered vehicle that is probably the most distinctive of the new fleet of EV’s.

It is called the EPIC (electric powered interurban commuter) EV and they have chosen to apply it to the minivan platform. None of the other carmakers building EV’s chose to adapt their minivan, which gives DC a clear marketing field. The EPIC if using a nickel-metal hydride batter gets approximately 90 to 100 mile range between charges. This is a 50% improvement over the older lead-acid batteries. The EPIC EV is the first NiMH batter to offer “Fast Charge Capability”. The standard 220-volt off board charger is capable of a 0 to 100% recharge in 4 to 5 hours.

The EPIC is now able to use a breakthrough 440-volt charger, which makes the recharge time an astonishing 30 minutes. Nissan has thrown its towel into the ring of alternative fuel vehicles as well. They have developed the Nissan Altra EV. It is a blend of sedan, minivan and SUV characteristics. What sets the Altra apart from the other electric vehicles is that it uses a lithium-ion battery pack. Altra is the only EV using that source at the moment. Lithium-ion packs are high power and compact in size. Price is a predominant reason that these batteries are not capitalized upon more.

Nissan is confident the cost of the battery will decline. They also believe that this sort of battery is a “third generation” battery. The Nissan Altra EV’s range is comfortably 70 to 80 miles on a full charge; an experienced driver is supposedly able to push 120 miles out of a full charge. The Nissan Altra EV is stylish and responsive, “Acceleration is there when needed, hills are not a problem. Braking and handling are crisp and responsive. ” (Robert Oberland 1) Fords contribution to the Electric frontier is producing a product similar to GM’s EV?

in everyway except that the body of the vehicle is Americas best selling pickup, the Ford Ranger. The estimated range of the Ranger is 77 miles using the lead-acid battery pack which is comparable to GM’s version. Also like GM Ford is offering the optional nickel-metal hydride battery pack. In turn increasing the range of the Ranger to approximately 90 miles with a full recharge. The Ranger EV thus far is not developed enough to be competitive with its gasoline-powered counterpart. The last vehicle in the race for electric power is the practical and advanced Honda EV Plus.

At the moment Honda only leases the car. A number of reasons caused this decision. The most important being reliability. Electric cars are still untested; by only leasing them the drivers are more like “guinea pigs” to Honda. The nickel-metal hydride battery pack is Honda’s primary feature instead of a secondary option as in most car producer’s electric line. It takes the EV Plus 6 to 8 hours to fully recharge from 0%. It’s estimated range is about 100 miles. “The company reports that the vehicles “fuel” cost could be as low as less than 2 cents a mile if recharged at off peak rates.

” (Sirius 1) Hondas goal in designing this car was price and reliability not style. One EV enthusiast reports, ” If forced to choose between Honda’s admittedly utilitarian toaster-on-wheels and GM’s stylishly sculpted work of electric art, I’d have to go with the toaster! The Honda EV Plus is a 4 passenger vehicle, the EV? only a two. The plus has a rear hatch and a fold down rear seat. The Honda also sits higher off the ground more like a minivan, making it easier for me to climb in and out of than the low slung EV?. So call me Mr. Practical but I gotta go with the Plus for now. ” (Bill Moore 1)

These major car companies are in the same race, but on different levels. Every possible market has been exposed to a part of an EV that appeals to them. The EPIC with fast charge and being an economy vehicle. The reliability of an EV Plus. Maybe the stylish body and responsiveness of GM’s EV? appeals to you. The size and technological superiority of the Nissan Altra EV. Does the Rangers advantage of being a pickup truck alone do it for you? The EV selection is becoming as diverse as the gasoline powered market and is slowly replacing it. I believe Daimler-Chryslers EPIC is at the forefront of the electric market.

Their innovative “Fast Charge” sets them ahead of the game. The minivan body style can be replaced with something comparable to GM’s EV? if desired. The range, the reliability and the recharge time are the primary concerns. The rest can be adapted to the market and how it shifts. GM’s EV? will most certainly be a runner up. I have personally had the experience of driving one of these miraculous machines. The curvy appeal and luxurious interior accompanied by its responsiveness and handling almost block the impracticality of them out of your mind. Electric is not the only answer for the future.

Many other possibilities include Ethanol (an alcohol made from corn), which is also called a bio-fuel. Bio-fuels are high octane, clean combusting liquid fuels all made from renewable biomass such as trees or plants. “Fords interest in using Ethanol as an alternative fuel source goes back to the days of Henry Ford. Ford planned to use ethanol as the primary fuel for his Model T. However, the less expensive gasoline emerged as the dominant fuel. ” (Ford 4) Ford has now developed the Taurus into an Ethanol vehicle. IT has an 18-gallon tank and maintains approximately 22 miles to the gallon.

Estimated range is 250-350 miles. Propane more correctly called liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is one of the worlds leading alternative fuels. It emits one third less reactive gases than gasoline and is comparable in fuel range as well as miles per gallon. Often Propane is less expensive than gasoline as well. The downside of this gas is that, like oil propane is in short supply domestically. Natural Gas is abundant in the United States and emits fewer pollutants than gasoline and cost 10 to 40% less. The Crown Victoria is a popular natural gas vehicle. Estimated range is 18 miles per gallon with a 9.

4-gallon tank. But cars using natural gas have bulky tanks and relatively short ranges between refills because the range of an NGU depends on how much natural gas is stored in the vehicle. A frequent way to judge the mileage of a NGU is half the distance of its gasoline version. Gas-electric hybrids are a very popular and efficient choice of automobiles while the transition to purely electric vehicle technology is made and further developed. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are pioneers in this field they will help to “wean” the consumer public off of gasoline.

The Honda Insight is an ultra low emissions vehicle. It squeezes out an impressive 70 milers per gallon using a gas-electric hybrid setup. A gas saving feature that contributes to the Insights miraculous range is the “Idle-stop feature. When the car slows to a stop, and the clutch is disengaged and the transmission is put in neutral, the gasoline engine shuts off completely. The car becomes dead quiet except for the vent fans. When you put the car in gear and step on the gas the engine restarts before you notice. The transition from Idle-stop to start feels seamless.

” (Will Ryu 3) The Honda Insight utilizes the popular nickel-metal hydride battery. Estimated real world range is approximately 600 miles on a full tank. It is able to do this because, “The insight uses a “parallel” hybrid propulsion system instead of the “series” hybrid. The benefit of parallel is that you can take advantage of the electric and gas motors for what they do well. With proper interaction between the two motors they can work synergistically, becoming greater than the sum of their parts. ” (Will Ryu 2) Toyotas Prius is also a hybrid electric vehicle with a parallel setup.

The most interesting fact about the Prius is not any of its features, but it’s price. Toyota is selling the Prius for $20,000 each. But interestingly enough it costs between $35,000 and $40,000 to build. So for each Prius Toyota produces it is losing on average $16,000. Why is that? Maybe to get them out there for real world test and results. Maybe to get consumers hooked on the cheaper Prius other than alternative EV’s so they will stay loyal. That is not important to the consumer, what is relative is that the Prius is cheap and efficient.

It is estimated to get 50-66 miles per gallon. Its range is predicted to be about 800 miles on a single tank. Prius’ most predominant feature besides cost is that it reduces carbon dioxide emissions almost 50%. Even the army realizes the need for electric vehicles. Their reasons are different but the result is the same. The US army has developed a hybrid as well. A hybrid Hummer. The national defenses “Corvette in Camouflage”. (Bill Moore 1) It appears like the standard Humvee on the exterior, olive green and black camouflage. But underneath the hood is where the surprise is. This

Humvee is capable of accelerating to speeds up to 80 miles per hour (a solid 10mph faster than the standard issue HMMWV). It performs 0 to 70 mph in 7 seconds flat. Which is literally twice as fast as the stock diesel model. Both versions have the same 300-mile range but the new stealth Humvee gets 18miles per gallon while the standard issue Humvee only gets 9 miles per gallon. The Intent of this version of the Humvee is it’s stealth mode, by flipping a switch on the console the turbo diesel engine is shut off and the vehicle draws solely from the battery giving it 20 miles in “silent mode”.

“Silent mode” also makes the vehicle invisible to infrared signature because the battery does not create heat as the turbo diesel engine does. The “Holy Grail”(Bill Moore, Ford. com) of new alternative fuels is by far however the Fuel Cell. William Grove, an English scientist, invented the fuel cell in 1839. Fuel cell technology was surprisingly simple, at least in theory. “There are several types of fuel cells, but all consist of two electrodes surrounding an electrolyte. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen passes over the other, generating electricity, water and heat.

” (Economist 66) The only waste product of a fuel cell is merely water. Fuel cell technology has been used in such projects as the Gemini and Apollo space shuttles. But until recently the technology has been either too bulky or too expensive for the average family car. GM is the first in most likely many to come to produce a vehicle powered by a fuel cell. This simple technology has been a long time coming, and in GM’s description you can see where the simple technology of fuel cell gets complicated, “Fuel cells generate electricity by the chemical combination of Hydrogen and Oxygen in what amounts to a kind of modern-day alchemy.

The hydrogen rich fuel like methanol is stripped of its hydrogen atoms by the fuel-processing unit. Then it is feed into the stack. Only the hydrogen ions (protons) are able to migrate across the membrane creating water vapor. The electrons remain behind. In the progress an electrical potential of about one volt per cell is generated. Individual cells are then “stacked” together like a layer cake to provide higher voltages. ” (Bill Moore 1) These fuel cells suffer no limitations like a battery on range other than the amount of hydrogen it can carry.

GM’s entry in the fuel cell category is they’re new electric EV? this time equipped with a fuel cell system. In addition the car has 44 nickel-metal hydride batteries. The electricity generated by the fuel cell powers the batteries by recharging them and runs the 137 horsepower induction drive train placed in the EV?. The recharge time on this version of the EV? is approximately 2 hours since it is not solely a fuel cell powered car. The fuel cell EV? has also been lengthened 19 inches to accommodate the fuel cell stack and 2 more passengers making it a 4 seater.

The fuel cell has been equipped to derive the hydrogen it needs from Methanol. The fuel commonly used in high-powered racecars. The fuel cell EV? will get about 80 miles per gallon and has an estimated real world driving range of about 300 miles. There are This technology seems like science fiction but in actuality it’s just within our grasp. In the year 2000 we do not have flying cars like some expected but in conclusion, we are getting the next best thing.