Archive for fuel efficiency


Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , on 17/01/2012 by Alexander

I love alternative fuels. I’m on my third LPG car, which is the perhaps the most widespread and cheapest alternative fuel in Europe, and I thank my stars every day for having converted my Volvo to run on it. Currently, fuel prices are so staggeringly high that I’d have to consider staying at home a lot more than I do. When I first started driving my first LPG-burning Citroen, diesel was around €0,88, while LPG was around €0.5. Money-wise, it was cheaper to run a diesel, since it got mileage that was good enough to offset the price difference between the two types of fuel. However, the considerable difference in price when buying the cars to start with made LPG the far more sensible choice, since the cost of buying a petrol car and pay for the conversion was far, far less than buying an equivalent diesel. For example, my S60 (2.3-litre five cylinder turbo, with 130,000km/80,000 miles on the odometer) cost €11,000 plus nearly €2,000 to get it converted, while an equivalent D5 version (2.4-litre five cylinder turbo, same mileage), would set me back €15,500+. And I’d have to drive a lot to compensate for those extra €2,500 price difference. In fact, I’d have to have driven round the clock as soon as I got it because not long after, diesel prices rose so steeply that since then diesel is no longer the less expensive way to get around. Especially in 2012.

Let’s crunch some quick numbers to you can get the idea. Diesel now costs around €1.49 a litre. LPG costs €0.75 (I’m rounding the numbers in favour of diesel, to drive the point home). Now, I get around 8.8l/100km (32.1mpg) on an average journey with a car full of people, luggage and air-conditioning. An equivalent diesel will do around 5l/100km (56.5mpg). LPG saves €0.90 per 100km, and though that might not sound like much, over the lifetime of a car that’s a lot of lolly.

Anyway, this might not hold true tomorrow since LPG prices are set to go up in the near future, but either way, I stand by my logic. However, if you already own a diesel, you might be interested in something I found out yesterday (though it’s been around for yonks): dual-fuel LPG/diesel cars. In a nutshell, cars that inject 66% diesel and 34% LPG into the cylinder. From what I’ve read, the result is smoother running, more power and torque, and significant fuel economy (20-30%). The bottom line is a 5l/100km car now drinks some 2.5l of diesel plus a litre or so of LPG. That’s half the amount of normal fuel plus some half price fuel. Personally, I think it sounds great and I’d jump at the chance, if I had a diesel, except for one small snag. The cost of fitting an LPG kit to a diesel can be around €2000, and offsetting that value can take a jolly long time. Even if you save €1.50 per 100km, you’d have to do around 130,000km (80,000 mile)s to compensate the investment, and considering you’ll probably be converting a used car that’s clocked 150,000km (as most converted cars – no-one wants to tinker with a relatively new car), it might not even last that long. Compare that to LPG cars, where even an expensive conversion like mine paid off after 30,000km.

Either way, it’s an interesting alternative, and might be worth it given the right set of circumstances.

Alt Fuel #7 – Hybrid Retrofitting

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , on 02/08/2009 by Alexander

For those who have no idea of what retrofitting means, this consists of adapting current cars to have electric motors in two or four of the wheels of their car. I wrote about it in my other blog, but I won’t go further into the introduction of this technology otherwise we’ll delve too far into the pros and cons.

– Should this catch on, we’re looking at a pretty quick solution to cut car-emissions drastically. An inventor of one such recent solution, Dr. Charles Perry, estimates this technology can save “120 million gallons (around 450 million litres) of fuel per day” in the United States alone, if fitted to all cars.
– Will make running a car much, much cheaper for the individual driver.
– Like LPG, a fantastic way of avoiding mass-trashing of current petrol and diesel cars.
– Unlike LPG, it doesn’t depend on fossil fuel.
– All of the above makes it the most likely candidate for the next widespread eco-solution for cars.
– Makes factory-made hybrids even sillier to look at.

– A tad expensive. Dr. Perry estimates it’ll cost from $3000 to $5000 (€2100-€3500) to convert a car. This isn’t like buying a new hybrid car over a petrol one. This is a large investment. And if you take into account an expensive LPG conversion costs around €2000, this can be money that will take a long time get back in fuel savings.
– This won’t be applicable to every car. If their too heavy, the electric motors may very well lack the oomph to get the car going. Also won’t be applicable to cars with adjustable suspension or special brakes.
Poulsen Hybrids is a currently converting cars using this solution. Pity the conversion, is expensive, US-only, and makes the car look like it’s handicapped.
– Dr. Perry’s solution is due to become available only in three years. This is bad. We need this technology either today, or next week, tops.
– Battery packs will fill the boot. Not good, as pointed out in the entry on LPG.
– Doesn’t dispense the need for fossil fuels, it only diminishes it. This can be solved by the other solutions for ICE fuel.

Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids
Plug-In Electric Vehicles
Biodiesel, bioethanol and such
Carbon-neutral Algae-based fuels
Hydrogen fuel cells
Hybrid Retrofitting

Lasers, baby!

Posted in Green Tech, News with tags , , , , , on 17/07/2009 by Alexander

The internal combustion engine depends on many things: liquid fuel, pistons, exhaust systems, and of course sparkplugs. Invented in the 19th century, sparkplugs have been the what makes petrol engines go bang since Mr. Benz decided to sack his horse from its carriage-pulling duties. Now, Ford and the University of Liverpool have teamed up to replace the said plugs with laser beams

The laser beam is delivered by a thin, fiber-optic cable to a focusing lens that would take up much less space than a spark plug, allowing engineers greater flexibility in designing valves and cylinders. The laser beam can be split to ignite the fuel mixture from multiple points deep in the cylinder, making for a more efficient burn than a spark plug can achieve, reducing emissions and getting better fuel economy. Another advantage to the laser system is that part of the beam can be reflected to a receiver and used to gather data on the fuel mixture and the quality of the burn.

And this isn’t merely a research project, as there are working prototypes of the system at the University of Liverpool laboratory. Ford, which has eagerly been adopting fuel efficiency technology such as electric-power steering and six-speed transmissions, reportedly will use the laser ignition system in some of its cars over the next couple of years, then spread the technology to the full range.

(via Cnet)