How ethanol could change the future of fuels

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : How ethanol could change the future of fuels

blimp filled with helium Unlike hydrogen, with its explosive properties, ethanol is usually just as easy to handle as today’s liquid fuels


When the experimental Airlander airship – the planet’s largest aircraft – took a nosedive at Cardington on a test flight the additional week, there’s a reason why the item didn’t do so in a fiery ball.

the item’s filled with helium, an inert, lighter-than-air gas whose most sinister effect is usually creating your voice squeaky, as opposed to hydrogen, the lightest element whose sometimes troublesome characteristic is usually its explosiveness when exposed to a naked flame. Or perhaps some sunshine. Or sometimes just for the fun of the item.

The excellent thing about hydrogen, mind, is usually in which when the item’s combusted the item gives off water, which is usually not, unlike conventional fuels, a greenhouse gas. Otherwise, hydrogen – a hugely tempting source of automotive power though the item is usually, because of its tremendous potential – can be a right pain.

the item has to be handled safely. in which’s no big deal, yet doing so isn’t cheap. Hydrogen can make some metals brittle, limiting what you can store the item in, yet you can put a pressurised carbonfibre tank in a car along with also the item won’t let go even in an extreme crash. Neither do they leak, like those in some early hydrogen-powered cars, which couldn’t be parked inside; a slow seep could fill the upper part of your garage with highly explosive gas. Then you could stroll in along with also switch on the lights…

These are problems past, along with also the gradual emergence of hydrogen fuel cell cars is usually proof in which the item can be safe. at This specific point, for the oft-mooted fuel of the future to become the fuel of the present, you’ve just got to make the item available in more than just eight places within the UK. Which, given the safe storage requirements, isn’t exactly the work of a moment.

All of which, the item seems to me, has been rather holding back the fuel cell vehicle. Until, in which is usually, I met one the additional week in which doesn’t use raw hydrogen within the cell yet creates the item through onboard bio-ethanol instead. A remarkably not bad idea. Perhaps.

The Nissan e-Bio fuel cell concept, currently being tested in a van, is usually being developed for South America, where ethanol is usually sold in most filling stations. creating sure in which’s the first hurdle cleared: you can refill the item anywhere. the item’s no more difficult to handle than additional liquid fuels, so there’s no hugely expensive carbonfibre tank under massive pressure, just a 30-litre fuel tank not bad for a 250-mile range.

Problems? Hell, yes. Using ethanol in a fuel cell isn’t greenhouse gas-free. yet people in labs say in which’s offset by growing the crops through which the ethanol is usually made; you’re not releasing the item through fossil fuels. along with also because those crops are food ones (like sugar cane) along with also the ethanol is usually a by-product, the item’s not stealing land for food production, unlike early biofuels.

along with also the item doesn’t make much power. For at This specific point, the cell in Nissan’s development van gets by with 5kW – just under 7bhp, or about as much as a rental kart. Instead of fuelling on demand, then, the item’d tick over at 7bhp all the time to charge a battery, which provides peak power when you need the item. the item’s more range extender than drive provider.

yet, still: a more powerful cell, an extra pump at the filling station. These things seem trifles compared to the alternatives. the item seems to me in which future fuels just got another option – one with tremendous potential. 

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