Archive for algae-based petrol

Where the hell is it?

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , on 26/05/2011 by Alexander

Two years ago, Popular Science and Autoblog Green ran pieces on a former IBM engineer, Dr. Charles Perry, that won an award and subsequent funding for an idea that would make it feasible for everyone to drive a hybrid. I wrote about it on my other blog (before I created this one specifically for cars, because I was droning on far too much about them there), and again here in the series on alternative fuels.

It’s been two years, and nothing more has surfaced. The PopSci article said there’d be an experimental phase involving fleets of government vehicles, and the system would be commercially available by next year. Shouldn’t some sort of inkling on progress have come out by now? Have they hit a massive snag? What’s going on? The hybrid retrofitting concept, along with the algal fuel production idea, were my two favourite alt-fuel short/mid-term solutions for the fuel crisis. The long-term solutions will probably involve the shockwave generator and/or the split-cycle engine, but as I kept insisting in the alt-fuel series, intermediate solutions are needed, so that we don’t mass-trash our current vehicles and create unnecessary problems in the process.

And another thing that makes new breakthroughs urgent is the current madness that surrounds electric cars. Read this carefully, people: EV’s are not the future. I don’t care what a stupid German who did 100,000km in a Tesla Roadster says (if he can sit around and wait for his car to recharge various times on a 800km-trip, he has far too much spare time on his hands), autonomy is shit and makes the things impractical. They attract spiders and rats, and you have to have a garage with your own private mains to recharge one. Plus, too many electric cars recharging will overtax the electricity grid, driving up fossil fuel consumption at the power station, throwing any environmental advantages EV’s might have had to shit.

So if EV’s continue to cement an undeserved reputation as eco and green, practical, and the next conventional type of automotive propulsion, we are in some deep shit. This’ll mean that research and development of other alternatives, such as the ones I’ve mentioned, will wind down and perhaps eventually peter out. And let’s face it, it was the lack of alternatives to fossil fuel-driven vehicles that led to our current situation, where people fight wars over oil, that then gets turned into exaggeratedly-priced fuel.

And this is when I wish I was a so-called A-list blogger, with a gazillion daily views. No-one’s going to read this swill, and it’s a shame because even though I can’t write silken prose to save my life, I wish I could help diffuse these pro-alt-fuel, don’t-get-too-carried-away-with-EV’s ideas properly.


Split cycle is back and could be here to stay

Posted in Green Tech with tags , , , on 24/01/2011 by Alexander

Split cycle engines are a bit different from our beloved, everyday, four-cylinder ICEs (in my case, beloved five-cylinders). Instead of having all the cylinders working in tandem, there’s two cylinders on either side, a bit like a V4 were there such a thing, but were the “suck-squeeze-bang-blow” four-step cycle is repeated by each pair of cylinders. The Scuderi engine was unveiled nearly two years ago, and was little more than a promise back then, with some haughty claims with nothing but Scuderi’s word to back it up.

But these crafty guys at Massachusetts-based Scuderi Group haven’t been sitting on their backsides all this time. They’ve been testing their engine in some American car, and have backed up their original claims, such as getting 135bhp from a single litre of displacement, high fuel mileage and drastically lower emissions.

This technology has been explored before without any meaningful success.

Other split cycle engines were hampered by low volumetric and thermal efficiencies that made them inferior to conventional engines. This new engine has pneumatic valves that open outward, pushing 100 percent of the compressed air out of the cylinder. This rectifies the problems of previous designs.

What does this mean for efficiency? Scuderi tested the engine in a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier and claims the engine reduces NOx emissions by up to 80 percent and CO2 emissions by up to 50 percent. It also claims an increase in fuel efficiency of up to 36 percent over the Cavalier’s standard engine. (According to the feds, a 2004 Cavalier with a 2.2-liter four-banger and a slushbox was good for 21 mpg city, 31 highway.) You may be skeptical, and you may wonder how real this is. Scuderi says it had the Southwest Research Institute verify its findings.

The fuel economy is brilliant but what’s superb are the figures for the emissions. I imagine that as soon as they start mucking around with bigger engines, these could be an even more exciting figures!

Scuderi says the engine is built from conventional engine components and automakers could easily adopt it to suit their vehicles. It claims it could have the technology licensed and on the road within three years if all goes well.

How more fantastic could this news be? No big industrial shift, since current manufacturing processes and equipment can be used, no long wait… I can just imagine the future: driving along in a split-cycle, petrol-hybrid car, sipping tiny amounts of algae-derived fuel… aaah….

Alt Fuel #4 – Carbon-neutral petrol derived from algae

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , on 25/07/2009 by Alexander

This one’s a very interesting option, and one of my personal favourites. This is a way of deriving petroleum from algae, though it’s still in its early stages.

– The carbon released from burning petrol made from algae is the same carbon the algae absorbed while growing. Thus, it’s carbon neutral.
– No big change is needed for this. No need for big overhauls or cullings of old cars, you still pump in petrol or diesel the same way.
– Less or no dependency on fossil oil. Adios, oil.

– Very limited in potential success as it’s so new. To be fair, it’s just taken off as an idea, and we’re still far from it being a viable alternative for conventional petroleum. Though when I first wrote about this solution, it was a whimsical notion, and has actually advanced, so that’s promising.
– The amount of algae needed to compete with fossil oil is staggering, and would imply a huge industrial shift. Let’s assume we do move into an age of algae-based petrol. Unless existing oil refineries ans infrastructures can be adapted, we’re looking at a lot of scrapping, waste and expensive investments.
Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids
Plug-In Electric Vehicles
Biodiesel, bioethanol and such
Carbon-neutral Algae-based fuels
Hydrogen fuel cells
Hybrid Retrofitting